A hit-making icon and feminist force of nature, Madonna has created a legacy of shimmering dance-pop since getting her start in New York. Here’s an insight to the Queen of Pop beyond her unwavering drive and famous reinventions.
1. Contrary to her rebellious persona, Madonna was a straight-A student and cheerleader as a teenager at high school in Bay City, Michigan. Her first aspiration was to be a nun, viewing the ones who taught her at school as “superstars”. She remembered them as “superhuman, beautiful, fantastic people”.
2. Madonna has referred to arriving in New York at nineteen-years-old with only thirty-five dollars in her pocket as the “bravest thing I’ve ever done”. However, she would get robbed in her dodgy Corona neighbourhood and worked many tedious jobs, including at Dunkin’ Donuts where she was sacked “for squirting jelly over all of the customers”.
3. Her first band was dance-rock act The Breakfast Club in 1979, where she began playing drums. When they started getting gigs at legendary rock club CBGB’s, she would beg to get up and sing one song. After convincing them to do so, she got “a standing ovation” and soon became the lead singer.
4. Madonna was paid five million dollars (two and a half million pounds) for a sentimental Pepsi advert featuring ‘Like A Prayer’ which only aired twice because of the music video’s religious overtones. She explained to Interview magazine in 1989 before the controversy: “It’s probably going to touch a lot of nerves.”
5. Her former record label Warner Bros. only gave her permission to release her provocative Sex book on the basis that there were no photographs depicting bestiality, religion or children. However, Madonna “broke two rules” to prove her power over the executives, with “tongue-in-cheek” photographs of her straddling a dog and tied to a cross-shaped table.
6. Madonna famously called David Letterman “a sick fuck” on his chat show in 1994 for constantly talking about her “sex life”. While it gave Letterman his highest ratings, she later explained that she was “extremely angry” and “lashed out” in response to negative press attention. She has said since: “I’m not particularly proud of it.”
7. Although known for her liaisons with directors and musicians like Warren Beatty, Lenny Kravitz and Ingrid Casares, her most intriguing one was with John F Kennedy Jr in 1988. He later asked her to appear as his mother, Jackie O, for the cover of his magazine George in 1996.
8. When she was five-years-old, her mother, also called Madonna, died from breast cancer. Finding it hard to grasp at the time, Madonna has blamed her self-disciplined, uptight persona on her childhood pain and referred to it as “one of the hardest things I've faced in my life”.
9. A New Yorker at heart, Madonna found it difficult to adapt to British life after marrying Guy Ritchie in 2000. However, she became fascinated with English history, coming up with the subject matter of transatlantic love for her screenwriting and directing venture W.E. (2011). She admitted to The Advocate in 2012: “Like Wallis Simpson, I felt like an outsider.”
10. Controversy has always played a part in Madonna’s tours. During the Paris show of last year’s MDNA tour, Madonna superimposed a swastika onto the image of French far-right Front National leader, Marine Le Pen’s forehead. After the political party threatened to sue, Madonna changed the swastika to a question mark.
Words: James Evans