Lady Gaga: Why I'm No Longer Stefani Germanotta

09/12/2013 at 11:45 AM EDT

Lady Gaga Explains Why She's No Longer Stefani Germanotta
Lady Gaga
Ruth Hogben/ELLE

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga isn't who she used to be. And for good reason.

"I am – Stefani is – a perpetually tortured artist. That's why I changed my name. I can't be her in public. She would be a mess!" the former Stefani Germanotta explains to Elle in its October issue, on newsstands Sept. 24.

The 27-year-old's past is always a topic of much discussion, not all of it friendly. But the pop star, who has battled eating disorders and drug problems, dismisses those who question how much she really struggled when she was younger.

"Everyone is so cynical – that I can't purely love my fans, or share an honest story about my past, without someone asking me if I really, truly struggled," she says. "Do you know how much dirt I ate? Do you know the men I had to crawl through, the people that disrespected my body, my mind, my heart?"

But don't worry, she says. She can take the criticism – because she's a fighter.

"I'm great under pressure," she says. "I'm a warrior. I'm Rocky, round 12."

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