Madddo-nnnna!! Maddddo-nnnna!! Maddddo-nnnnna!!Maddddo-nnnnna!!
The name reverberated through the entire stadium. The screaming fans and numerous reporters were going berserk to get a glimpse of the ‘Queen of Pop’.
The stadium was darkened; suddenly a ‘ray of light’ gleamed, and the crowd saw a glimpse of the ‘Material Girl’, the irresistible creature, Madonna.
I’m like, hey, ey, ey, ey,
Like a girl gone wild,
A good girl gone wild...
She sang; the stage burned up with music the moment she entered. The ‘Lucky star’ who looked so charismatic, so alluring, was still performing at the age of 54 as a singer, songwriter, actress and dancer…She definitely must have had some concealed mysteries behind the thick layer of smoke that she hides herself in, which has brought her to where she is today. The myriad faces behind the mysterious mirrors of her life prompt us to discern the woman behind them. Let us go backstage and unveil her ‘secret’; whether this girl’s actually gone wild or is she someone who’s ‘frozen’ within.
A perturbed childhood
In the midst of Michigan Bay City, Silvio (nickname-Tony) lived happily with his beautiful French Canadian wife Madonna Fortin whom he had married in 1955. Silvio was the only child amongst his siblings who graduated; most intellectual, head-strong and aggressive who wished to carve his life in his own way. He was an engineer in Chrysler Automotive Corporation and could afford a content middle class life. Soon their contentment piled on when they were blessed with their first child Anthony on May 4, 1956 followed by their second child Martin a year later. The jubilant family had everything they wished for except for a princess girl child who was awaited desperately. Finally on 16th August, 1958 Madonna Fortin’s third child opened her eyes for the first time in the cruel world; and there began the journey of the most unpredictable woman who has ever walked on this earth –‘Madonna’.
The infant was named Madonna Louise Chiccone and nicknamed ‘Nonnie’ by her parents. Over the next three years Madonna Fortin gave birth to three more children to accompany Madonna-Paula, Christopher and Melanie. As Nonnie grew up, she learnt that her home was not less than a zoo; screaming was the only way to be heard in a house where she shared her bedroom with five siblings. She once said, “I was like a she-devil. I would hurt myself, like burn my fingers deliberately to get attention.” She was extremely aggressive and wanted everything her way; the best part was that she always got it, being the favourite child of her parents. The little Nonnie would not leave a single chance of evoking a drama since childhood; it seemed the toddler had mastered the art of being the centre of attraction since then. At times, the need for attention would heighten to the extent of standing on the table and dancing; which would gather appraisal for her from young and old alike.
She always remained a spoilt kid and wouldn’t like anybody ordering her what to do and what not to do. She was the master of her own mind and disliked people bossing over her, be it anybody.
The bossy kid had an abysmal connection with only one person- her mother. Her angelic mother was a children oriented woman who was affectionate and very amorous towards her kids. Madonna was so attached to her mother that she would feel dreary without her. In spite of being accompanied by her siblings in her bedroom she would always run to her parent’s room and sleep beside her mother. She once said, “To me that was heaven, to sleep in between my parents.”
But Madonna’s heaven was lost when at the age of five she lost her mother, on 1st December,1963,who was just thirty years old. The sudden tragic death of her mother left Madonna perturbed and she was lost in the caves of loneliness where she never found another mate who would love her again without expectations. She once said, “We all are wounded in one way or the other and then we spend our whole lives reacting to it or dealing with it or trying to turn it into something else.” Truly she spent her whole life dealing with this pain trying to fill the empty space that her mother had left. The anger and agony of losing her mother at such a tender age hammered her to be driven and be independent. Life had taught her the first lesson; she had to make her way on her own.
After losing her beloved mother, her father was the only ray of light which gleamed in Madonna’s life but this flame also diminished when he married Joan Gustafson after three years of her mother’s death. This added salt to her wounds and sowed the poisonous seed of hatred in Madonna’s heart towards her father which lasted for decades. Though her father had not committed any sin by remarrying, yet, the little adolescent could not accept his act. She felt that her father had replaced her mother with another woman and for Madonna her mother’s place could never be taken by anybody in this world. Madonna hated Joan, not just because she had replaced her mother but because she was killing Madonna’s individuality which was the only wealth she was left with. Joan would make Madonna and her sisters wear the same outfit which would kill her desire to stand out in the crowd. But Madonna knew how to sustain her individuality; she would experiment with her hair by putting pins and by wearing the clothes in a different way.
Not only did she face the complication of being similar to her siblings but also another hardship of physical violence by Joan. Her story was like the typical Cinderella who was made to do all the household chores and was treated in a way which she never appreciated. Though a lonely child at home, she was the centre of attraction in school and was emphatic with everything she did, be it academics, dance, sports anything.
The dance mania
Madonna followed the age old family tradition of learning classical piano but it could not soothe her mind. A number of fantasies evolved in her mind out of which there was a strange one –that of being black-skinned so that she could listen to and learn black music (music produced or inspired by black people) like her friends. In the 20th century, this term had come to usually refer to the many music genres of African American music, especially in the United States and Brazil. Madonna’s inner voice evoked within her a strong feeling to follow her desire and somehow she soon convinced Tony to let her join classes for Jazz and tap dance. Delighted with joy she soon joined the Christopher Flynn dance school at the Rochester school of ballet .Though she was always good at dancing, her talent started budding during this period of her life. Flynn, who was Madonna’s dance instructor during those days found a unique charm in her persona and he was the first one to notice the star in Madonna. Once after the gruelling session, he looked at her while she was sweating and told her:
“You have an ancient looking face, a face like a roman statue.”
“Why would you say that to me?” she asked him,
“Because it’s true,” he answered. “It’s not physical beauty I’m talking about. It’s something deeper. Know it.”
“I already know it,” she said confidently, “I just wasn’t sure anyone else did.”
Later, Flynn would say,“Madonna was a blank page, and she wanted to be filled in. She had a thirst for learning that was insatiable.” Madonna learnt to appreciate the beauty of the spirit after she met Flynn. She had found a friend in Flynn and would accompany him to gay bars where she would get lost in her own world and dance all by herself; she never needed a partner. It seemed as if she had a different kind of connection with dance; a connection which took her to a world where she was the queen of every heart.
Apart from dancing there was one more talent which was a part of her personality -the melodramatic acting which she possessed since her childhood. Madonna was awarded a number of times for her skills of drama in school days.
When Madonna graduated from Rochester Adams high school in 1976 she desperately wanted to join the University of Ann Arbour where she could accompany Christopher Flynn, who had by then become the dance professor there. Her wish was granted and she enrolled in the University where she advanced into a free spirited artist.
Her first roommate in the university, Whitley Setrakian moved on to become one of her close friends. She remembers how Madonna taught her to shoplift ample of cosmetics and food during those times. She would always say, “Who needs it more than we do; when we get famous we’ll give a lot of money to charity to make up for settling this stuff. It will all balance out with God in the bigger picture, don’t worry.”
Though her involvement in dance made her blissful, the animosity towards her father was something that Madonna could never flush out of her mind .There was always a split between Madonna and her father; she could never digest the rules that he would set for her, whereas, he could never understand the reason behind her breaking them.
After five years of deep indulgence in dancing, Madonna longed to pursue her career in it. Though since childhood, she envisioned to be a drama queen, she thought that being a dancer would draw an entrance for her into her dream world. To follow her heart, she dropped out from school and decided to set off to New York to be a dancer.
Since Madonna’s father was a complete orthodox who carried his beliefs with him, he wanted his daughter to do the same; to complete her education and live an ordinary life. For him, dance was a sheer waste of time and would not serve her in the long run. But Madonna was a stubborn father’s rebellious daughter and there was nobody who could stop her once she had made up her mind; not even the man who bought her in this world. One night, there prompted a heated argument between Madonna and her father:
“You drop out of school; you’ll no longer be my daughter,” he said annoyed.
“Fine,” she said fuming, “But when I’m famous will it be your daughter again? Is that how it works?”
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, if we ever come to it.”
“Oh we will come to it alright,” she exclaimed.
The argument led them nowhere. In fact, many such similar scenes followed where Madonna would quarrel with her father and accuse him of trying to run her life. Once during an argument, Tony became so furious that his face became red, his blood pressure rose and it seemed as if he had a stroke. Madonna got petrified and ran towards him to see if he was alright. Though she pretended to hate him, within her heart she still had a place for him which could not be replaced by anyone else. Maybe Madonna instigated such fights to create a drama and validate her love for him.
In spite of Tony’s hard held oppression, there was an instinct within Madonna which forced her to become famous, to draw her own identity and to rule the world. Following her instincts, she set off to New York for a journey that led her to the place where she stands today. She knew she wasn’t born to live a mediocre life; she was born to do something great, something which would keep her alive even after she’s dead.
19 year old Madonna stepped in New York City airport in July 1978. All that accompanied her was 35 dollars in her pocket, a winter coat on her back, a duffel bag full of ballet tights slung over her shoulder and an urge to do something big out of life.
When the five foot four inch Madonna entered New York she first dropped at Times Square- heart of the New York theatre district. Around that time, the play Evita and its heroine were the talk of the town. Madonna was delighted to walk through the lanes of her dreamland; her excitement urged her to peep in the shows going on in Times Square. Suddenly she stopped and just gazed at the placards placed in front of the theatre featuring Evita. She might have never thought that after a couple of years she would play the great Argentinean role model-Evita.
Madonna kept wandering for the entire day around the corners of the city, when she suddenly noticed a man who was following her since long. Someone else in her place would have been frightened in such a situation, but Madonna greeted him and narrated to him her story of being homeless in the unforgiving city of New York. Finally, she was sheltered in his house and found home at last. But being young and innocent, she failed to realize that spending a night in a stranger’s house could be dangerous. Madonna, later during one of her tours, mentioned that she was sexually abused when she entered New York. Maybe it was during the first night she spent in New York with that stranger.
Madonna never wanted to discuss the incident; it seemed she was deeply traumatized by it. She never wanted to make an issue of it. She once said, “I’ve had what a lot of people consider to be horrific experiences in my life. But I don’t want people to feel sorry for me because I don’t.” The girl who envisioned a new beginning when she entered New York was hammered with a dreadful nightmare on her first step itself. A girl who was alone in one of the toughest city, was expected to lose hope in life after facing such a misery, but rather she chose to mould herself into being a tough and courageous person who denied failing.
Gathering her strength Madonna later moved into a dilapidated fourth floor walk- up at 232 East South Street between avenues A and B, barely fit for human occupation. During this period, problems kept arising in her life. Out of the various sufferings that she faced, one was the issue of being usually broke, sometimes to the extent of eating from garbage cans. She was never concerned about what she ate and it did not matter to her even if she stayed hungry for long hours. After all, she thought she was in New York to dance and not eat. She felt that any hardship she faced during this part of her journey was merely a stone in her way which should not stop her from achieving her destination.
In November 1978, Madonna auditioned for the highly reputed Pearl Lang Dance Company. The moment Pearl saw her she recognized a different intensity in Madonna’s dance which was far beyond physical performance. Soon, Madonna was given the opportunity to be Pearl’s assistant. Though Madonna admired Pearl and her teachings, it would leave her annoyed when she was pushed beyond her limits. Once in an incident, after Madonna completed a complex dance routine, Pearl seemed unsatisfied and she ordered her to dance again and again for around five to six times. Madonna was on the verge of crying and blew on Pearl saying,“I can’t do it again. Stop pushing me. Why are you being so mean?” That was the moment when there was a little spark of trouble between the reputed Pearl Lang and her rebellious assistant Madonna. Following this incident, there was another hot encounter between them where Madonna made a comment on Pearl, “Why thank you ever so, lady hateful.” That was the last time Madonna assisted Pearl Lang.
After a troubled experience with Pearl Lang, Madonna was accepted by the renowned Alvin Alley Dance Company. Gradually, the competitiveness of the New York dance industry made her realise that although she was deeply immersing her mind, body and soul into her work, it was difficult to achieve her long awaited goal so soon. Hence in order to earn a livelihood she started working in a local doughnut shop and later in a Russian tea restaurant. After several months, Madonna’s father came to visit her. When he entered her decrepit apartment it smelt like stale beer and there were cockroaches crawling all over the house. Looking at his daughter’s dreadful condition he was intensely wounded and took Madonna to a restaurant. The way she gobbled the food he could make out that she hadn’t eaten proper food since days. He asked her to return back home saying,
“Please come back home. I miss you so much Nonnie. Like a bum, you’re living.”
She answered, “No, like a dancer Daddy, Like a dancer I’m living.”
Madonna’s father pleaded with her to return back and promised that he would never quarrel with her again but she was iron-jawed. Disappointed with his daughter’s rigidness he went back to Michigan. On his return he said annoyed, “Either she will be the greatest dancer who lived or she will be the biggest fool.” But she turned out to be neither of them; instead, a new desire was erupting in her heart by then.
In the year 1979, Madonna realized that it would take a long time for her to be a part of a major dance company. But during those days she was short of time and also money. She thought that instead of solely focussing on dance it would be better to diversify her horizons. She was so desperate and broke that she would have done almost anything to serve herself at that point of time; she actually could and she did. While searching for opportunities to earn a handsome amount in less time she finally came across one. She found an opening for models who were supposed to pose nude for art classes; a good amount of money was being paid for a few hours of shoot. As she was already a package of boldness and beauty, she decided to go ahead with it.
Meanwhile, she got involved with Norris Boroughs, a graffiti artist during a party. Her ‘not so serious’ relationship with Boroughs lasted only for three years. She entered a new chapter of her life when Boroughs introduced Madonna to his friend Dan Gilroy at a party. It straightaway hit off between her and Dan and they moved on to be in a relation. She learnt a lot of things from Dan but the essential ones were guitar and organ. Eventually, the scene was changing in her mind, and a new desire was making a place in her head; she wanted to sing.
As she had always been a follower of her heart, this time too she chose to do the same. She was now a member of the ‘Breakfast club’. She enjoyed being a singer and entertainer more than she enjoyed doing anything during this phase of her life.
Her new residence was a rundown and boarded up synagogue in Corona, Queens with Dan which they would also use as a rehearsal hall. The confident and more determined Madonna’s focus was now set up on just one thing-her own rock band. Though Dan and Madonna were finding out ways to form a band, she was also looking out for opportunities to enter the music industry.
the pursuit of fame
Columbia Records was striving to put together an act to go on a world tour for a French singing star Patrick Hernandez and they required girls who could dance and sing back-up vocals. As soon as Madonna found out she went running and auditioned for it. Surprisingly, she wasn’t selected for the same and instead, the company wanted her to accompany them to Paris where they would mould her into a disco star. Though she never had a penchant for disco, yet, Madonna decided to go as at this phase the only thing that she craved for was fame.
Dan did not seem very happy with her decision because firstly, he knew disco was not her forte, secondly, he was afraid she would fall in trouble in a new city and the third and the biggest fear was that he would lose her. Though he had never imagined that Madonna would leave him and walk off but the bitter truth was that she did. Everything was temporary for the headstrong blonde, except the quest to be famous.
In May 1979, accompanying producers Jean Venloo and Jean Claude Pallerin, a 20 year old Madonna set off to Paris with the dream to be famous. But soon she realised that they expected her to convert into Donna Summer, the great American singer. Maybe they had forgotten that she wasn’t here to be Donna Summer but just ‘Madonna’. Another thorn which was pricking her was that the producers were engrossed in Patrick Hernandez’s rehearsals for the world tour and wanted Madonna to wait until its completion. But Madonna and patience...were miles apart!! She was not a person who would sit and wait for the right time; rather, she was a free bird who would keep flying unless she would find something worth waiting for. She decided to go back, but before she left she ran into Patrick Hernandez at the rehearsal hall where he was putting together his disco act. She told him, “Success is yours today honey, but it will be mine tomorrow.” None of them knew who was ‘Madonna’ then, but she definitely knew who she was.
Though she came back home empty handed, Madonna bought a new ray of confidence with herself. After returning back in August 1979, she auditioned for the movie Footloose and the television series Fame, but unfortunately, did not get selected in any of them. One day while going through a newspaper ‘Backstage’ Madonna saw an advertisement which said, “Wanted: Woman for low budget movie: Dominatrix type.” She found out that Stephen John Lewicki, an amateur filmmaker was looking for a fiery sexy dominant girl in her early twenties who could act. She thought this to be the right opportunity and sent him an envelope with some of her photos and a handwritten resume.
After going through around 300 envelopes and almost losing hope Lewicki opened the last one and saw the name MADONNA. The very moment he saw her pictures, there emerged an insuppressible urge within him to meet her. “There was something seductive about it, yet it had a certain fragility, an innocence that really fascinated me,” he later recalls. He finally set up a meeting with her to see whether the girl who appeared so beautiful in pictures actually possessed the aura of sensuality. He got his answer the moment he set eyes on her; it was indubitable there could be no one worthier than her who would fit in that role. Finally, he hired Madonna for his low budget movie ‘A Certain Sacrifice’. Sadly, the movie neither gathered the recognition that Lewicki expected nor the fame which Madonna craved for.
By the beginning of 1980, Madonna realized that her future was neither dancing nor being an actress. She didn’t know what it was, but it was definitely not this. By this time, she regressed in Dan Gilroy’s life and also in Breakfast club. Though according to Gilroy, Madonna was a part of the band, she considered herself as the lead. The arguments between them began heating up on this issue and soon she was done with Gilroy and his club. She decided to contrive her band with her music and use her advertising skills to promote it. Soon she moved from Gilroy’s synagogue, living quarters, studio and partnered up with drummer Steve Bray whom she had now again met in New York. They had initially met at the University of Michigan in 1976 four years back, when Bray was a waiter and a part of the R & B band. Their romance blossomed as the couple travelled across Michigan giving performances in various small clubs during those days. Madonna used to say of the dashing African American Bray, “The first guy I ever allowed to buy me a drink. He was irresistibly handsome.” But soon it was over between them when Bray moved to New York, leaving Madonna in Michigan. However, they remained friends and now this ex-boyfriend was the only support which Madonna had by her side.
Madonna who had made up her mind to make a career in music wanted to be immersed in that business 24X7.She spent the next year writing songs and performing locally around New York with a miniscule back- up band which included her former boyfriend Steve Bray on drums. Since the beginning, there were a lot of disagreements regarding the name of their group; first it was Emmy, then Millionaires and then Modern Dance. But Madonna wasn’t content with any of them and wanted it to be named ‘Madonna’. This annoyed Bray to a great extent because for him she was never the lead of the band and everyone who was a part of it deserved equal credit for their work. Despite the uncertainty of the name, Madonna’s confidence was unshakable. She already exhibited the ego of a super star. They once again travelled across New York to perform and mint money but the denouement was not the way Madonna thought it would be.
Frustrated, Madonna realised that the restrictions of being in a band had begun to erode her individuality which she never wanted to relinquish since childhood. She decided to leave Bray’s band and be on her own. Finally, it was time to do something based on her beliefs, thoughts and expressions.
In early 1981, Camille Barbone, a musical talent agent, entered Madonna’s life who went on to become her mentor, and in many ways her saviour too. Their first meeting was a coincidence that took place in the elevator of Music building which was Madonna’s residence during those days. As Camille’s hands were full, Madonna opened the door for her and when Camille thanked her, she said smiling, “Oh, don’t worry. Someday you’ll be opening doors for me.”Her words turned into a reality when Camille, fascinated with Madonna’s charisma signed a management contract between the latter and herself. It seemed as if Madonna always knew what was going to follow in the future or maybe she was too determined to shape her destiny the way she wanted it to be. Another coincidence was, the same birthday that 29 year old Barbone and 22 year old Madonna shared. It certainly seemed as if the stars, the karma, the universe or maybe the lady luck were always supporting Madonna during her formative years.
For the next twenty months, Camille and her business partner Adam Atler exhausted most of their company funds in promoting the ‘nobody who was about to be a somebody’. Camille was providing her with food, money and perhaps the most important thing-a sense of security. Apart from these basic necessities, she also made accommodation arrangements for Madonna and sent her to an acting coach, a Russian émigré named Mira Rostova who had taught notable actors like Roddy McDowell and Montgomery Clift. After her first session with Madonna, Mira Rostova completely refused to work with her again. Annoyed, she told Camille, “First of all, she’s vulgar. Secondly, you can’t tell her anything because she’s already decided that she knows all there is to know, about everything. Thirdly, she doesn’t listen, and if she doesn’t listen now, she never will. If I were you I would reconsider representing her.” But Camille was totally besotted with Madonna and though in the corner of her heart she knew that Madonna was using her, yet, she continued to support the latter. It seemed as if Camille had fallen for the charming blonde; she was blindly investing her mind, heart, money and everything in Madonna. In other words, it was nothing but faith which Camille had in Madonna. She knew that Madonna had a vision, and she possessed a magnetic aura that no one else had.
In August 1981, Madonna recorded a demo tape consisting four songs (later known as Gotham tapes by Madonna’s fans) under Camille’s guidance at media sound (master sound).But it could not create a lot of difference in lifting Madonna’s career. Meanwhile, Camille was trying to convince her friend Bill Lumuscio, a brand manager to give Madonna a break and book her in some local clubs for exposure. Though Lumuscio was not interested before, he agreed later and made Madonna a part of the opening act for a band which he managed. When Madonna got up on stage she was incredible; her energy, drive, talent and her need to be the centre of attention set the stage on fire. During those days, Lumuscio’s band was pretty popular but Madonna’s enthusiasm would blow off his band on stage and soon they started having such a hard time that the band could not even go on stage. Deeply impressed with Madonna’s performances, Lumuscio asked Camille if she’d like a partner in handling Madonna, and the two began working as a team.
Madonna faced a lot of criticism initially but such comments could never pull her down. Once her voice was also compared to a Minnie mouse on helium; whoever might have made that comment would have surely known today that the Minnie mouse on helium is now the ‘Queen of Pop’!
Over the next year, as she continued to grow in her New York stage act Madonna began attracting a cult not only for her music but also her funky image. Camille had a huge contribution in nurturing her talent; and Madonna completely accepted it, though she would never say it. Once over a cup of coffee to thank Camille, Madonna removed a turquoise rosary out of her pocket and handed it over to Camille. Tears welling in her eyes she said, “It’s my grandmothers.” They shared a stirring moment and Madonna narrated touching stories about her mother to Camille for about half an hour.
Camille, filled with emotions said, “I could never take that from you. It’s too precious.”
Madonna insisted, “But I want you to have it. I don’t want you to think I’m just an ungrateful little bitch. I don’t have anything else to give you.”
Camille embraced her saying, “Keep your grandmother’s rosary. You’ve just given me the best present in the world and you don’t even know it.”
But there was no place for emotions in the career oriented Madonna’s life. Soon the cards turned as the record companies who had ridiculed her voice initially, were now lining up with business cards outside her dressing room. Storm clouds were brewing although Camille was still ignorant about them. Madonna began working with another set of people in the record business without Camille having a hint about the same. She wasn’t happy with the music she recorded while under contract to Camille’s Gotham agency and so she called it off with Camille and signed up with Columbia records.
In a heated argument between the two, Camille told her, “I invested everything in you. I’m flat broke. I spent it all on you Madonna.”
“Oh Camille, That was your choice, now wasn’t it?” Madonna replied in an icy tone. In rage, Camille who could hardly speak at that moment banged her hand into a wall, fracturing it.
But Madonna walked away muttering, “What a drama queen!”
Madonna later recalls Camille and says, “Sometimes I feel guilty because I travel through people. That’s true of a lot of ambitious people. You can take what you can and if someone can’t go with me I feel sad about that. But that’s part of the tragedy of love.”
After Madonna moved on, she hardly felt any malice towards the woman who helped her reach where she was today. She never wanted to connect to her emotions. She left people before they could leave her, just like her mother.
Soon Madonna and Steve Bray moved back into the music building where they slept on cots and sustained on popcorn. After trying her hands on a lot of odd jobs in the music industry, Madonna was left with no choice but to promote herself. Along with her multi- talented boyfriend Steve Bray, she recorded four new songs “Everybody”, “Stay”, “Burning up” and “Ain’t no big deal”.
Evolution of a ‘star’
In the 1980s, the DJs had a tremendous power in the night clubs. The songs they would play would turn into making an artist. Madonna knew this was a good opportunity to promote herself. She began taking her records to the hottest nightclubs in the city, with a goal to play them in the clubs which would ultimately turn her songs into club hits. In 1981, Madonna was a regular patron of one of the hottest clubs of Manhattan, Danceteria. The DJ, Mark Kamins, was a trendsetter there and Madonna with her magnetic aura had already pulled him towards her. One night while she was dancing, she went upto him and handed him her demo of ‘Everybody’ and asked him to play the song.
Kamins shook his head negatively “What if it’s not good?”he said.
She moved closer to him and said, “Would I just give it to you like this if it wasn’t good stuff.”
Mark Kamins who was already driven with Madonna’s charm was all hers when she kissed him then.
However, Kamins still wanted to listen to the record before playing it. He heard it overnight and found it unique and just the kind of ‘thing’ which caught attention. Though Mark Kamins was a DJ, he longed to be a record producer. He proposed a partnership to Madonna; he would do the leg work to secure a record contract for her and when the deal was set, she would allow him to produce her first album. He thought this would lead him to achieve his desires and Madonna’s too. Along with being partners they were also in a relationship now.
During those days, Michael Rosenblatt, a young, aggressive executive at Warner Bros was in search of young new talent. As soon as Madonna’s new lover and partner Kamins got the news he took her records to Rosenblatt. Although, after listening to the songs Michael liked them, still, he did not find anything outstanding about them. But the moment he looked at Madonna he felt a certain spark; he felt as if she was radiating something unique which she didn’t actually show. He knew there was a star sitting out there.
Much to Madonna’s contentment, after years of struggling, planning, plotting, striving and suffering, here was the long awaited record deal. Michael Rosenblatt decided to offer her a record deal but before it could be finalized, he required the signature of Seymour Stein- the president of Warner Bros. Unfortunately, Stein was hospitalised during that time, recovering from his heart surgery. But as usual, Madonna was not willing to wait after such hard work and she pressed Rosenblatt to take the demo of “Everybody” to the hospital. Rosenblatt was well aware of the connection between Madonna and patience, he knew Madonna was not a person who would sit and wait for him. Finally, he spoke to Stein over the phone about the young talented girl Madonna and how desperate she was to sign the record. Eventually, Stein agreed to meet her in the hospital. Like everyone else, Stein was taken aback by Madonna’s star quality and her persona and without a doubt in his mind he signed the record.
Stein would later say about Madonna, “If the shortest way home was through a cemetery, she would take it even at midnight on Friday the 13th.She had a ruthless edge to her. You could just tell that this woman would go far.”
After she was assigned to Warner Bros Record’s dance division at Sire, Madonna’s first contract was for two12 inch ‘dance singles’ [The 12-inch single (often simply called 12″) is a type of gramophone record that has wider groove spacing compared to other types of records. This record type is commonly used in disco and dance music genres, where DJs use them to play in discos or clubs.] It was decided that the first release would be “Ain’t no big deal”, backed by “Everybody.” However, when the time came to decide who would produce the songs, Madonna wanted her former boyfriend Steve Bray to do it, forgetting the deal she had made with Kamins that he would produce her songs. Madonna was in a dilemma as she shared a good relationship with both of them; finally, it was Mark Kamins who convinced her. Steve Bray thought he had become the latest casualty in Madonna’s quest for fame and he became so furious that he did not speak to Madonna for the next two years. Finally, the song ‘Everybody’, charted on Billboards’ dance chart on November 6, 1981. It was a prelude to Madonna’s new life.
The old Madonna was broke, she had no place to dwell, she was someone her father was never proud of, and she was Madonna Louise Chiccone. The new Madonna was famous, prosperous and most of all she was the “Madonna.”
Now it was time for Madonna to start expanding her knowledge in the music business. She learnt the on- going trends in music industry and the ways of publicizing and polishing her art, which she learnt from Bobby Shaw, a key dance music promotion man of Sire’s Records. This was the time when Madonna also met John Jellybean Benitez, a disc jockey at the Funhouse in Manhattan. Very soon they became lovers and Madonna started attending various industry record functions in his company. She used him to network into the business and he also did the same; just being associated with Madonna’s name was publicity during those days. Her position could help anybody advance their career and Benitez was well aware of this fact. But as there was no factor of love between them, their relationship lasted only for one and a half years.
Warner Bros was very well cognizant that they had a money minting machine in their hands in the form of Madonna. They soon decided to sign Madonna for her first album before anybody else could propose her an offer for the same. Finally, Madonna had accomplished her mission, she was famous. But this was not all that she longed for, there were a lot more wishes which were engraved in her heart. As she said, “I want to be as famous as God.” All that she desired now was to ascend on the top and she decided to excel ahead with her debut album ‘Madonna’. Getting involved in work 24X7, she now needed a manager desperately, and she required a person who was best in this business. She came to a conclusion and appointed Freddy De Mann, a well-respected entertainment manager who had represented the biggest music star of the world-Michael Jackson.
Madonna’s debut album “Madonna”, released in July 1983. Sadly, it could not offer her even a glimpse of the superstardom which she yearned. The album failed to showcase her uniqueness as a star and the reason why Camille Barbone and Steve Bray promoted her so much. Though the album did not receive much recognition, nobody could deny the fact that the songs were terrific. The album, comprising of 8 songs, was successful on the charts, reaching number 8 on the Billboard 200.
In the 80s, many artists came up with their iconic image; perhaps the most perfect time of Madonna’s career was when her recording career coincided with the growing popularity of music art form. Teenagers at this time were seeking icons. Nobody took advantage of this medium the way Madonna did. It was like the perfect timing for her. She added an element of simple sexiness to her own brand and created an image for herself which was simply unforgettable. Her look fuelled ample controversy when she co-mingled sexuality with Christianity; she used crucifixes along with exposing t shirts and rosary beads.
Many observers found her act sacrilegious, but it had become a part of Madonna’s fashion craze.
While Madonna and Benitez enjoyed the success of their debut album, the romantic relationship between both explosive creatures started getting cold. The bitterness reached to such an extent that Madonna began dating Steve Newman behind Benitez’s back. Newman was the editor of a small time magazine Fresh 14; they were in a relationship after he featured Madonna on the front page. Once when Benitez walked to Newman’s house he found Madonna there. Though, it wasn’t shocking for him as he already had a clue of what was cooking between them but still, he was furious to a huge extent. He was boiling with rage and at that very moment it was all over between Benitez and Madonna. Though she was involved with Newman, she never desired to marry him. Her idea of prince charming was a man who would be financially stable and who could take care of her. Newman was obviously not the man. Soon, she parted ways with Newman while she continued her search for a man who could make her feel like a princess.
Madonna’s prince charming
As her musical career continued to flourish, Madonna turned to one of her earliest ambitions of being an actress. She was soon cast in producer Susan Seidelman’s movie, Desperately Seeking Susan which was hyped by the media as the ‘Madonna movie’. The film became one of the top 5 grossing movies of 1985. Back on the pop music scene, Madonna came up with her second album ‘Like A Virgin’, which topped the U.S dance charts. It became Madonna’s first No.1 album which was further fuelled by the success of her heavily promoted tour by Warner Bros. The tour broke all the records at radio city music hall when all the tickets were sold out in a breathtaking 24 minutes. People were willing to exploit her and sell her in order to make as much money as possible and she too was ready to get exploited, if it meant money and fame in her pocket. At the beginning of her career Madonna always made sure that the media was covering her; she would be seen on every magazine, newspaper, and show.
Marilyn Monroe had a vast influence on Madonna’s life; Madonna could relate to her and was attracted to her vulnerability. This was first noticed by people when one of her most popular video, “Material girl” was inspired by Marilyn Monroe’s “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”
On the first day of shooting ‘Material Girl’ when Madonna was all set to go ahead with creating the Monroe image an incident took place which fiercely stirred her emotions. While Madonna was standing at the staircase, her eyes got stuck on a man in a leather jacket and sunglasses intently looking at her. The man was none other than Sean Penn, 24 year old, young and brooding Hollywood actor who was considered to be sometimes violent, private and an extremely jealous man. As soon as Madonna realised the man was Sean Penn, her heart skipped a beat. She was always fond of the young actor; finally, she met him at the bottom of the stairs. The first thing that Sean told her was, “You think you’re Marilyn Monroe. Don’t you?”
Though he was joking, Madonna did not really like his comment. Annoyed, she replied, “You don’t even say a hello? You just go straight for the insult? Is that what you do?”
“Oh I’m sorry Marilyn” he said, his voice dripping with a phony sarcasm. “It’s nice to meet you” he said extending his hand to shake hers. She couldn’t hold her smile and replied, “Nice to meet you too”.
In that moment itself Madonna fantasized a family with Sean; she had a foreboding that he was the man of her dreams. Soon, the chemistry between them grew and they began dating. During those days, Madonna was already dating the music superstar Prince, whom she had met backstage at an American Awards earlier in January 1985. However, the brief affair of two months was over as soon as Sean entered her life. Though Madonna was successful, yet, she was a classic victim of stardom. When she went home her nights were lonely and filled with tears.
It was arduous to get close to Madonna and know her temperament. She truly needed a sense of emotional intimacy in her life with a person who would truly love her. Tommy Quinn, a New York studio musician who dated her shortly before Sean Penn, describes one of the incidents which reveal the loneliness in Madonna’s life:
Once Madonna walked upto him with a bottle of wine and while she was drunk, she thoughtfully said, “It’s all a fiction; you know that, don’t you Tommy? I’m just a character in a novel. None of this is real. None of it.”
“What’s the novel called?” Quinn asked intrigued.
“It’s called Madonna” then after a thoughtful beat she added, “A Lonely Life”.
No different from a normal woman, Madonna also wanted to be loved, taken care of and wanted someone to hold on to. But the thought of being left alone scared her to get into any serious relationship. Fortunately for Madonna, Sean Penn was an intelligent and handsome man. She could share her deepest feelings with Sean the way she never shared with anybody else. Soon, she felt Sean was the only one who could remove the loneliness out of her life and be her better half. She was so much in love with Sean that without giving it a second thought she announced her engagement with him. During this point of her career, Madonna really did not go out of the way to seek publicity because she never had to – legions of it came to her. Though she loved the attention that she was getting, she pretended to hate it. She would use even the most negative thing to her advantage; she wanted to be in the news howsoever and did not bother, whether the media praised her or called her a drama queen.
Madonna ties the knot
Finally, on 16th August, 1985, the 30 year old Madonna tied the knot with Sean Penn. Though the wedding was supposed to be a secret, it became the headline of every magazine and newspaper. It seemed Madonna was delighted with her marriage to Sean but as usual, it was difficult to deal with Madonna and moreover understand her. After the wedding, Madonna tried her hands at married life; Sean would be amazed to come home with friends and see the Queen of Pop washing dishes. During those days, Sean wanted to come up with a movie which would star him and Madonna. Their wish was soon granted when the couple settled on Beatle George Harrison’s movie Shanghai Surprise. In spite of having the element of the newly wedded couples’s chemistry, the movie was bad mouthed and was declared a big flop by the critics.
Madonna came up with her third album ‘True Blue’ in 1986 which was built on the musical theme she had already established in two of her former albums. True Blue went on to become Madonna’s most successful album across the globe. By mid-1986, after True Blue’s success, Madonna’s musical career was nothing if not monumentally successful but her personal life however seemed to be rotten; her marriage had fallen into despair.
Their relationship seemed on the edge after a few incidents where Sean humiliated her. One of them happened at a dinner party at Sean’s home when he was drunk. Suddenly Sean’s anger knew no bounds when he found Madonna talking to the guy who was eyeing her all night. Enraged he walked over to them and bitterly said
“What’s this all about?”
“Oh get lost Sean” she told him. “We’re just talking.”
Without a second’s hesitation, Sean picked up his wife and threw her in the pool. Everybody seemed stricken at his actions and a passive Madonna quietly walked inside the house without uttering a word. The woman who was the ‘word of every mouth’ during those days was treated with such disrespect.
Though her marriage seemed to be falling apart, Madonna was a busy woman thriving for her career. She was considering several scripts for herself and finally it was the movie “Who’s that girl?” which was her pick. Although Madonna publicized the movie and tried her best to promote it, the movie turned out to be a rattling failure. But the title track of the movie wasted no time in going on to become No.1 on Billboard charts. Though her career as an actress did not seem to blossom, Madonna still had an amazing career as a popular music artist in which nobody could catch her hand. Followed by the success of the songs, she went on the “Who’s that girl?” musical tour which was musically and technically superior to her first concert. Many female stars start to behave like a diva after they reach their superstardom status, and this tour marked the beginning of same for Madonna too.
Remix albums, which are common today, were a revolutionary concept in the 1980s. Many artists were being remixed with disco dance music. Madonna, the most important dance artist of the period, led the change with “You can dance”, a compilation of remixes of six of her songs. She may not have initiated a trend with “You can dance” but she certainly played her part in jump-starting the movement. On one hand she was rejoicing with her rise to stardom but on the other hand she had nobody with whom she could celebrate her triumph. At the time of the release of “You can dance” in November 1987 Sean disappeared from her life for a few days.
As she was still distressed about how awful her marriage had turned out to be, she tried finding a reason to be serene. The reason was none other than John Kennedy junior. Madonna always fancied about being Marilyn Monroe whereas John Kennedy- son of the President of U.S was also fascinated by the affair between his father and Monroe. The best way for them to actually live this particular fantasy was to be in a relationship. On one side Madonna was fascinated with the handsome, meritorious John Kennedy whereas, on the other side she was still Sean’s wife. Though she loved Sean and knew he was the only one who knew the real Madonna, for her, it was over between them. Her relationship with Sean was in such a grave mess that the thoughts of parting ways with him were already lingering on her mind.
Madonna and John got lost in each other’s dreams, but Jackie Kennedy, John’s mother, a royal and sophisticated lady had set up exemplary standards for her daughter-in-law. Though she had already heard whisperings about her son and Madonna, she was sure she never wanted the material girl to be John’s wife. She strongly detested Madonna; to such an extent that she completely refused to meet her. Jackie’s opposition soon made Kennedy and Madonna realise that they were not meant to be together and the brief affair came to an end.
Already in the news for her affair with Kennedy, Madonna was also in gossip regarding her affair with Sandra Bernhard, a friend of Sean Penn whom he had introduced to her during a party before. When asked by reporters she would giggle, blink and encourage it while denying it half- heartedly. When Sean learnt about his wife’s latest scandal he was furious, he hated Bernhard as much as Bernhard disliked him.
the quest to be a heroine
Despite her phenomenal success as a recording artist, Madonna still dreamed of critical respect as a film actress. In the fall of 1988, she came across a film she knew she couldn’t resist, ‘Dick Tracy’, a new Warren Beatty movie. The first time the American actor-director met Madonna, he was struck by her charm. Soon, Madonna got involved into an extra marital affair with Beatty. When Sean became aware of it, he became frantic; there was a fury building within him, which was bound to explode any moment.
In the late afternoon of 28th December, 1988, Sean burst into Madonna’s Malibu house and the two began to quarrel over Madonna’s decision to divorce. Crazy with anger, Sean tied her to an easy chair with twine and smacked her and roughed her up with physical and emotional abuse. He was completely drunk and it was a night of torture for Madonna. Finally, she somehow managed to escape and headed to the police station. She was bleeding, crying profusely and her make-up had smeared all over her face. She was a woman in immense trouble and nobody could recognize if she was the singer Madonna. Though she had deceived Sean she did not deserve to be treated like an animal. This terrifying incident eventually made her realise how thorny it was to deal with the hot-headed Sean and it led to their three year old marriage come to an end on 25th January, 1989.
In March 1989, Madonna, who was perturbed due to her poignant divorce, confusing relationship and lonely life openly expressed her emotional side for the first time in front of the world with the album ‘Like a Prayer’. The album was close to Madonna’s heart and it expressed her innermost feelings and thoughts. Every artist has that one moment where his expression through his art turns into critical acclaim and commercial success. This was that one defining moment for Madonna. The success of ‘Like a Prayer’ led to Pepsi signing an ad contract with Madonna for its commercials associated with the album. Madonna was bounded by another controversy when she made use of racism by kissing a black saint in the commercial. The Christians offended with the ad, banned Pepsi products and its subsidiaries which led to a ban on the Madonna commercial. Though the world pictured her ad as brazen, vulgar and psychotic, for her it was ‘art’- the freedom of her expression.
Madonna’s strive to proceed after her shattering divorce with Sean, led her to get romantically involved with 52 year old Warren Beatty, the producer of ‘Dick Tracy’. Warren was a man who had dated the most alluring and well-known heroines of his era, and now he was with Madonna, the young, thrilling and adventurous Queen of Pop. He once said in an interview, “Man, I’m with Madonna, She makes me young.” Where Warren was fascinated with her youth and charm, she was fascinated with his experience and credibility.
While Warren was busy editing ‘Dick Tracy’, Madonna was busy with the preparations of her Blonde Ambition Tour. She set off for her tour in Tokyo on 13th May, 1990, and began shooting a documentary of her own during the tour entitled ‘In Bed with Madonna or Truth or Dare’. Madonna also recorded her album ‘I’m Breathless’ after the tour. It was one of the remarkable moments in her prolific recording career. The album was No. 1 on Billboard charts; this was the momentous time when Madonna’s career was touching the skies.
Though Madonna’s album was at peak, her movie ‘Dick Tracy’ could not grant her the recognition she desired. With the fall of the movie there was a fall in her relationship with Warren too. Without a qualm, Warren and Madonna were no match. He wasn’t serious regarding her and Madonna too did not look at him as a soul mate as her energy levels were too high compared to him.
On 16th August, 1990, Madonna’s thirty second birthday she got her birthday gift as Tony Ward. After Warren Beatty, she certainly craved for a friend, a person to look on to. Tony was a handsome 26 year old man who had appeared as an extra in Madonna’s hit videos. Though Tony was not filthy rich and sophisticated like her previous boyfriends, he was amusing to be with, he was willing to do whatever she would say and the most important thing was he could cheer her up. But Tony had a tormenting secret which he had kept hidden from Madonna; he was already married. When the truth was revealed Madonna berated him, she could swallow anything but not betrayal. Tony was shown an exit after a melodramatic incident which took place one night during a Christmas party in December. A sixteen year old girl threw herself in Tony’s arms in the party; jealous with the scenario, Madonna went on the dance floor and began dancing and cuddling with a young man. Tony could not digest her act so he went up to her and said, “You’re my woman.” She angrily retorted, “I’m my own woman.” And it led to a disgusting scenario where they threw lamps and plates on the floor breaking things. Filled with anger, Madonna called off the party. Though their relationship ended in a bitter way, their last goodbye was on good terms. The last time they met, she hugged Tony and told him, “I’m exhausted with my life, I need some peace.”
Tony replied, “Madonna if people knew the real you they’d be surprised.”
She smiled and said, “Well, let’s just hope they never do. I have an image to protect.”
By the end of 1990, Madonna came up with her new album, ‘The Immaculate Collection’ which was a compilation of her best-selling and most popular numbers. It climbed on to No. 2 position on Billboard dance charts and it comprised of her eight blockbusters as a part of the album. Along with the feat of the album, Madonna’s documentary was on the verge of its release; now she required all the attention to be gathered for herself. She knew, ‘shock’ was a major element which she could use to gain the publicity that she yearned for. She used it with the video of her song “Justify my love.” She exceeded all limits by including explicit content in the video to an extent of it getting banned. Though in a negative way, Madonna was again in media’s limelight. The news spiced up for Madonna when she was suspected to be dating the King of Pop- Michael Jackson.
The news of the King and Queen of Pop being together was a shock for all and people expected the high profile couple to go on with their love story but Jackson was enclosed in his own closet and Madonna was a free bird. She could do the wildest and the most bizarre things without caring what people would think about her if she wished to. To everyone’s surprise the hard-held chemistry between the couple could not last long.
Finally, in May 1991, the movie ‘In Bed With Madonna’ was released. It was a good watch, not because it was a good movie, but because it could unfold perhaps a little bit of what Madonna was all about. She was sometimes motherly, sometimes rude, and sometimes she would push the envelope too much.
A ‘shocking’ publicity stunt
The element of shocking people which Madonna used numerous times in her career was used once again when Time Warner published her book ‘Sex’ followed by her album ‘Erotica’. This time she not only pushed the envelope, but went beyond the limits of society to shock people. Madonna’s book ‘Sex’ comprised of sexual images and essays of Madonna’s views on sex and her album Erotica comprised of lyrics which required parental advisory. Everybody knew exactly what Madonna was or what maybe she made people believe; these books were merely an expression of a part of herself which she wanted to portray in front of the world. During the 1990s, the issues of homosexuality and AIDS were a matter of discussion across the globe and Madonna wanted to convey it to people through these works that eroticism was a natural phenomenon and homo sexuality was not an evil act as portrayed by the society.
Though she was labelling her acts as sexual liberation, people close to her knew the ‘real thing’ that was going on in her mind; it was to create a barrier between her and the world. She had started feeling hunted in the midst of the iconic image which she had created for herself. Though she was the one who always wished to keep flashing in the media, craved all the attention in the world and could not resist being the “Madonna”; now when she had it all, she had lost something precious-the real Madonna Louise Chiccone. She had suffered all the poignant relationships, had strived with everything and had lost the sense of emotional existence. All that she seeked now was isolation from her fans, her relationships and maybe her Madonna image. That was the reason she came up with a new imagery which was trashy, vulgar and hateful. Her identity was so clouded with sensationalism and scandal that it was extremely difficult to understand her. Another surprising move was when she became a part of the movie ‘Body of Evidence’, a thriller in which she again crossed all her limits. The critics literally murdered her with bad reviews after the release of this so called third- rate thriller in which she gets killed in the end.
In 1993, Madonna forged ahead with her tour, ‘A Girlie Show’ which was not to shock people but to entertain her fans. The fans regarded this as one of her best shows till date and with it, she somehow managed to douse the fire that she herself had set with her raunchy image. During these days, Madonna had become extremely sensitive to criticism. In the past, Madonna never cared what people spoke about her but now she had started getting touchy with their comments. After this period, she came up with her album ‘Bedtime Stories’ to soften her image. It was an attempt to break the wall that she had built, and connect with the audience in an artistic way which was always how she wanted it to be. Meanwhile, she came up with her album ‘Something to ‘Remember’, which was a collection of love songs.
Two Perfect Gifts
During this time, Madonna needed nothing more than the desire to be acclaimed. Finally, it was the perfect timing for her as her long awaited dream to be Evita Peron was transforming into a reality. Madonna seemed the perfect casting for Evita’s role as their lives were quite similar. She had tremendous hopes and dedication for her film Evita; she also composed the title track for the movie to add another flavour which could popularize it. Madonna knew, playing the Argentinean revolutionary meant great expectations for her as well as her audience and this was the time to prove herself as an actress. There were umpteen numbers of controversies regarding her playing the role of Evita. During those days, people found Madonna’s image trashy and Eva Peron, their beloved political leader, was held in high respect by the people of Argentina. But Madonna had decided to be Evita and she thrived hard to earn critical acclaim for it.
Meanwhile, she met Carlos Leon, a gym trainer in 1994. She liked the well-built Carlos and they were soon suspected to be in a relationship. Though Carlos’ company was making her serene for the moment, she craved for someone who could be her emotional support forever and she thought it could be nobody other than her own child. She always wished that Sean and she would have a baby, but due to their animosities and bitter relationship, she never took a step ahead to have one. She desperately wanted her own child at this stage of her life, but she decided to have it after a year when she would finish the shooting of Evita. However, destiny had other plans for her. At 37, Madonna found out that she was pregnant with Carlos Leon’s child. Though it was good news for her, she did not want Evita to get affected because of it; she was afraid of losing the movie she had worked so hard for. So, she along with Alan Parker, the producer of the film, decided to keep this news a secret from the media before the release of the film. Madonna knew that if the media got a hint of her being an unmarried mother, they would flood her life with negative publicity. But this was not the only problem; another issue was the shooting of Evita which was left due and the changes that were occurring in her body. During those days of shooting she faced painful experiences. Out of the various incidents one was when she was supposed to fall off the stairs for a scene; after a hard day and lot of re takes, she was left with a lot of bruises but she decided to complete the scene. However tough the situation, Madonna always found ways to tackle it and move ahead.
During those days, when Madonna was dying to seek peace in her life, she was surrounded by problems one after the other. First was her anxiety for Evita, second the news of her pregnancy spreading like fire across the globe and third, the famous basketball player Dennis Rodman’s chapter about intimate relationships between him and Madonna in his autobiography. Though it was true that Madonna had dated Rodman for a brief time in 1994, she definitely wasn’t aware that he would go to the extent of being so despicable after the relationship ended. Though the outside world was busy gossiping about her personal life, she was seeking solace within herself. Meanwhile, she had also forgiven her father; maybe she understood that he was not the culprit of her mother’s absence in her life.
Eventually on 14th October, 1996, the 38 year old Madonna gave birth to a 6 pound 9 ounce baby girl- Lourdes Maria Chiccone. Madonna wanted to cherish this moment with her family but the media as usual did not leave her alone. The publicity she once coveted was bothering her now to a great extent. Once, when highly irritated, she said, “Everything I do is scrutinized so I shouldn’t be surprised that it continued when I was pregnant. I try to have a sense of humour about it, but it does irritate me. My child is not for public consumption. It’s not a career move. It’s not a performance to be judged or rated. Nor is my role as a mother.”
After Lourdes’ birth, Madonna transformed into a more mature, calm and pleasant person. She got deeply involved in eastern mysticism, Kabbalah and Yoga as well. Where on one end she was rejoicing being a mother and awaiting Evita desperately, on the other end, the media was busy questioning her when she would marry Carlos Leon, Lourdes’ father. Though Carlos was apt to be Lourdes’ father, he was definitely not the man of her dreams.
Already blessed with the biggest gift of her life- Lourdes, Madonna was now desperately awaiting the success of Evita. Madonna regarded Evita as her proudest achievement besides her daughter. Finally, Evita was premiered in December 1996 and turned out to be a commercial success.
‘Time’ magazine’s editor Richard Corliss wrote, “Love or hate Madonna- Eva, she is a magnet for all eyes... You must watch her.” After the release of Evita, Madonna became the talk of the town. Though she had always been in the news before, this time the publicity that she gained was for her amazing performance and acting. Every party that she attended, every occasion that took place, it was all about Evita. After a while, Carlos was sick of her Evita fever as his personality and identity was diminishing because of staying with Madonna. Soon, they both parted ways on good terms and it was decided that Lourdes would stay with Madonna; Carlos being her father was granted the authority to meet her whenever he wished to.
Eventually, Madonna was stable with her daughter and career and there was just one thing that was missing in her life- a perfect man. Though, over the years Madonna could never find her Mr Right; she still did not lose hope. Her search for a true mate stopped on Andy Bird who was an aspiring British actor and screenplay writer. Her choice of men had been good most of the times in the past, but this time with Andy bird, it didn’t seem so. Where Madonna was a multi-millionaire, he was laid back with no money. She was driven and popular, and he was just the opposite. But he could be a shoulder for her at that time of her life when she really needed someone to share her happiness and sorrows with.
In 1998, Madonna was trying to build an image of a new age thinker and was busy deteriorating her self-created image of a sexual revolutionary. She came up with her new album during this time in March 1998, ‘Ray of Light’ which was valued by her audiences and presented a more mature side of Madonna. The well received album was followed by her movie ‘The Next Big Thing’ which released on 3rd March, 2000. The movie was criticised as ‘smug and cheesy’ and the critics went on to say, “Madonna can’t act.” It is a kind of societal norm to neglect the goodness and gossip about the mistake; same was the case with Madonna. Though she had given a number of well- acclaimed albums and had proved herself in Evita, she was still criticized for her acting and her persona.
Madonna’s Mr Right- Guy Ritchie
Madonna, whose life had changed completely after Lourdes’ birth wanted to experience the contentment of another child; she was sure she wanted a companion for Lourdes but she did not know who could be a good father to her child. During this period, she got involved with filmmaker, Guy Ritchie, who was ten years her junior. The best thing about him was that he treated her like a normal person and not like an icon. It seemed she had found her soul mate in Ritchie; she felt nobody could be a better father except him. Finally, she was pregnant with Ritchie’s baby and delivered a baby boy Rocco on 11th August, 2000.
While jubilation surrounded Madonna, she came up with her single ‘Music’ in 2000 which topped the charts as No.1 once again. For over more than two decades, she was the ‘Queen of Pop’ ruling the popular music industry. There were speculations once again about her marriage, whether Ritchie who was her son’s father will also be her husband or even this chapter will close like the one with Carlos Leon. People were eager to know if Ritchie was her “Knight in shining armour” or she would again shift to a new man. But she was definitely sure this time. As a result, Madonna and Ritchie secretly married on 22nd December, 2000, in an exclusive ceremony in Scotland. It seemed as if Madonna had everything a woman could ever wish for, a successful career, a loving husband, two sweet kids and a perfect home.
As she prevailed with her success Madonna came up with her fifth concert tour in April 2001 entitled ‘Drowning World Tour’ which turned out to be the highest grossing tour of the year by a solo artist. Meanwhile, Guy Ritchie and Madonna’s relationship was flourishing and their life was surrounded with those perfect moments. Soon, they thought of accompanying each other in their professional lives as well. Madonna became a part of ‘Swept Away’, a movie directed by Ritchie. Though their off screen chemistry seemed great, on screen the pair could not create any magic.
In 2003, Madonna came up with her ninth studio album, ‘American life’. On the release of this album Madonna said, “American life was like a trip down memory lane, looking back at everything I’ve accomplished and all the things I once valued and all the things that were important to me.”But her memories and the things that were important to her could not appeal to the critics or the audiences and the album ended up being the lowest selling album of her career.
Madonna was famous as a performer, a dancer and as an actress but there was another art within her which unveiled when she thought of trying her hands at writing books. Her first book ‘The English Roses’ was published in September 2003 and it debuted at the top of the New York Times best seller list and became the fastest selling children’s book of all time. In mid-2004, she was back to the dance floor with her Reinvention tour; the highest grossing tour of 2004, then followed by a documentary about the tour named ‘I’m going to tell you a secret’. In 2005, she entered the Guinness book of World Records with the success of her tour ‘Confessions on a Dance Floor’; it was the highest grossing tour of her lifetime.
During this tour, people saw another side of Madonna. Though this woman was always considered to be cruel, malicious and obscene, her inner self reflected the signs of a good human being. During those days, the raising Malawi campaign was in charge. Malawi, a small city in the midst of Africa, was the least developed area in the world and was suffering from poverty and AIDS during those days. Madonna was deeply wounded with their condition and took an initiative to succour them by travelling in that country and partially funding an orphanage in Malawi. During her visit she also came across a little boy David Banda Mwale in the orphanage who was suffering from pneumonia, malaria and tuberculosis. After meeting him she felt restless and wanted to do something that would comfort the child; finally, she decided to adopt him from the orphanage. Though Madonna’s agenda was to do a good deed, she faced obstacles in her way. According to the Malawian law, she had to reside in Malawi for a year to adopt the child from there. The law, the society, everybody opposed Madonna, but she had made up her mind. As she always got what she desired, the same happened this time too; she won the case and adopted David on May 28, 2008.
In the same year, she tried her hands on direction with her first film ‘Filth and Wisdom’ which received mixed reviews. In 2008, her album ‘Hard Candy’ was released. The album was complimented as “an impressive taste of her upcoming tour.” To further promote the album, she embarked on the ‘Sticky and Sweet Tour’, becoming the highest grossing tour by a solo artist, a record which broke her previous record set with ‘Confessions on the dance floor’.
The Queen of pop loses her King
In the year 2008, a very predictable divorce took place between Madonna and Guy Ritchie. Everyone was cognizant that they were on the verge of a divorce. Ritchie who never addressed Madonna as an icon would insult her in public without realising the impact of his acts on her image. Madonna could no more see the love which he had in his heart for her, whereas, for him she was the biggest drama queen. After a shattering divorce with Ritchie she adopted a second Malawian child Mercy James on June 12, 2009.
Meanwhile, in 2011, Madonna directed her second feature film ‘W.E’ which received mixed reviews, followed by her twelfth album MDNA released in March 2012. With MDNA, she surpassed the records that were set by The King of Rock & Roll, the cultural icon, Elvis Presley.
Apart from her career, in her personal life Madonna is currently dating dancer Brahim Zaibat who is 29 years her junior. Though she has achieved a benchmark in the pop music industry, in her personal life she still seems to be lonely, lost and waiting- waiting for the day when her prince charming will come and take her away forever.
Though life has given up on Madonna, she is yet holding it strong. She has decided to keep running in this race, with the determination to win, win and only win. We do not know when her enigmatic tale will come to an end, but until she’s alive she’s definitely going to rock. After all ‘never giving up’ is what Madonna is all about. She once said, “People think they will wake up one day and I’ll be gone. But I’m never going away.”
A shining star
The night sky is always filled with darkness, but the sparkling stars in it make it a blissful and serene scene to look at. Similarly, the world is filled with melancholy, misery and grief but great entertainers like Madonna make this strenuous ride a heart-warming one spreading smiles on our faces. Though Madonna is neither a politician nor a revolutionary or a scientist whose contributions are of high remarks but she definitely is an icon, an image which will summon in our minds even after generations. She is certainly a star in its true sense who has influenced the society, especially the youth, in a remarkable way. Madonna is a prime element of pop culture; for almost each major fashion, culture or social trend that has developed over the years, she has either been a step ahead of the trend or at least made a great augmentation to it. Being the highest paid woman performer she has set a benchmark which is unattainable in a single life.
Though she is criticised for her actions, she has definitely thrived hard to achieve what she has today. The journey of a petite girl Madonna Louise Chiccone to MADONNA-The icon, is a hard-earned, resolute and struggling one. The rebellious little adolescent breaking all walls of society went on to become ‘The Queen Of Pop’ and after being the Queen for three long decades she is still reigning the pop music world with her talent. She did not get everything on a silver platter but she slogged and strived hard, eating from dustbins to eat the ‘morsel of gold’ which she deserves today. When we look at Madonna’s moves we feel that all she desired throughout her life was fame but behind the numerous masks that she wears there is a girl who craved for only one thing- Love.
Once Madonna lay on the couch while conversing with her closest friend Erica,
“What do you want most in life now?”Erica asked her.
Madonna quickly replied, “I want to be famous, I want attention.”
Erica snuggling said, “But you get so much attention now.”
Madonna replied dreamily, “It’s not enough, I want everybody in the world to not only know me, but to love me, love me, love me.”