Singer, dancer, and actress Madonna is a sensational self-promoter who drove herself to stardom on the pop music charts, in concert halls, on film, and in music videos.
The release of Madonna's album Like A Prayer (1989) came at the same time as the breakup of her marriage. The video of the title song, showing Madonna confessing to a priest and then engaging in suggestive behavior with him, caused a stir in the Catholic Church. The controversy (dispute) resulted in a disagreement over a five million dollar endorsement (paid public support of a company's products) contract with the Pepsi company. Controversy again surrounded Madonna in 1990 when the music video channel MTV refused to play the racy video for "Justify My Love," a new track from her greatest hits album The Immaculate Collection, before 11:00 P.M.
Other films featuring Madonna include Shanghai Surprise (1986), in which she co-starred with then-husband Sean Penn; Dick Tracy (1989), which was accompanied by a soundtrack of Madonna songs; and Truth or Dare, a feature-length collection of footage from her Blonde Ambition Tour of 1990–91. Madonna also appeared in A League of Their Own (1992) and Body of Evidence (1993). Each work kept the press and critics focused on her.
By 1992 Madonna's popularity stretched across the world, and she had established herself as a sharp, confident businesswoman. She signed a sixty-million-dollar contract with Time-Warner, which included her own record company (under the Maverick label) and called for her to make videos, films, books, merchandise, and more than six albums. The announcement of the deal was timed with the release of the album Erotica, an extended video, and an adults-only picture book called Sex, featuring black-and-white photographs in which Madonna appears mostly without clothes with everything from men and women (in all combinations, positions, and numbers) to chairs, dogs, and slices of pizza. She was even shown hitchhiking wearing nothing but high heels. The book was a best-seller across the country.
The 1994 release of Bedtime Stories, written mainly by Madonna, showed her with a softer image and more soulful sound. In the mid-1990s she set her sights on playing the leading role in Andrew Lloyd Webber's (1948–) movie musical Evita, and after repeated tryouts, she convinced producers that she would bring a unique understanding to the lead role of Argentine leader Eva Peron (1919–1952). In her personal life, Madonna settled into a relationship with Carlos Leon, a personal trainer. In 1995 she released her second greatest hits album, Something to Remember.
In 1996 Madonna gave birth to a girl named Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon (Lola for short). Madonna described the event to People magazine as "the greatest miracle of my life." She even traded in her pink Hollywood mansion for a home in a low-key suburb of Los Angeles, California. Meanwhile, her determination to play the starring role in Evita paid off, although her performance received mixed reviews. In 1997 the song "You Must Love Me" from the film's soundtrack won the Academy Award for best song.
Madonna most scandalous moments
MTV Video Music Awards 1984: Like A Virgin
On the evening of September 14, 1984, the MTV television channel, born about three years earlier, broadcasts the first edition of the MTV Video Music Awards. Among the guest-stars on the stage of the Radio City Music Hall in New York, there is a 26-year-old named Madonna who has just released her first album. The girl sings Like a Virgin, a single teaser of her second work, in a performance bound to enter history. Madonna, wearing an alternative version of a wedding dress, made of a white bustier, tutu, veil, lace gloves, and a belt buckle with the words "Toy Boy", gets down from a giant wedding cake and begins rolling around on stage.
It is the beginning of Madonna as we know her: an icon of provocation. The singer replies the look and part of the performance in the video of Like a Virgin directed by Mary Lambert and shoot between Venice and New York.
Like A Prayer
In 1989 Pepsi signed a $ 5 million contract with Madonna to use her new single in one of its commercials, even before it was available in stores or broadcast on the radio. In that advertising, the pop star traveled back to her 8th birthday when she was dancing on the street, happy; a story completely different from that told in the official video of Like A Prayer. In the short film directed by Mary Lambert, Madge is witness to the murder of a girl for whom a black man is wrongly arrested and takes refuge in the church in search of the strength to testify.
Result: the American Association of Families and the Vatican are on the warpath and Pepsi dumps Madonna and deletes the spot.
In 2006 a poll of MTV Italy elects the video of Like A Prayer as "the most revolutionary video in the history of music".
Blond Ambition Tour
Once again sex, Catholicism, and many criticisms. The Blond Ambition Tour inaugurates a long series of controversial tours for Madonna, continued with the disguises as dominatrix of The Girlie Show, the crucifixion of the Confessions Tour, the Tarantino styled performance with guns of the tour for the album MDNA or the political messages of The Rebel Heart. In the 90s (perhaps the wildest period of the pop star) she sang on a bed with red silk sheets, dressed in a gold corset, she performed with two dancers simulating masturbation.
In Italy, the Catholic Church calls for the cancellation of the shows in Rome and Turin and, at the end, one of the three scheduled dates is canceled; while in Canada the police arrives at the beginning of the concert and threatens to arrest Madonna if she brings on stage the masturbation scene during the performance of Like a Virgin.
Honorable mention for the costumes of the tour created by Jean-Paul Gaultier... remember the cone bra?
Truth Or Dare
1991. After four albums (Madonna, Like a Virgin, True Blue e Like a Prayer) and three tours, for Miss Ciccone it's time for a documentary. The director Alek Keshishian follows the pop star during the Blond Ambition Tour, between live and backstage moments, showing Madonna talking with Warren Beatty (the boyfriend of the time), meeting the family, going to the doctor, eating alone in the hotel, joking with the crew of dancers or miming fellatio on a bottle.
In 2016 comes out the docu-film Strike a Pose which brings to the limelight the crew of dancers seen in Truth Or Dare: the six guys, together again, tell and remember the days of great success next to the star and all that happened to them after, from economic difficulties to illness.1991.
Justify My Love
One million copies sold only in the United States, two consecutive weeks at the number one in the American singles ranking, compiled by Billboard, and top 10 positions achieved in a dozen other countries. These are some of the numbers of Justify My Love, a single co-written by Lenny Kravitz on November 6, 1990, as anticipation of Ciccone's first anthology of hits, The Immaculate Collection. In the black and white video of the song, directed by the French photographer Jean-Baptiste Mondino, Madonna wanders through the corridors of the Royal Monceau and catches a glimpse of what happens in the several half-closed rooms, then letting herself be involved in a love triangle. Bisexuality, androgyny, voyeurism. Too much for MTV that refuses to broadcast the world premiere of video and announces the tv boycott. Madge's solution? Distribute 500 promo copies of the full-length clip in the most popular clubs in the States and publish it in VHS format through Warner Bros. Records.
Fun facts: the visual transposition of Justify My Love is a tribute to La Caduta Degli Dei by Luchino Visconti and to Il Portiere Di Notte by Liliana Cavani.
The scandal book
Simultaneously with the album Erotica, Madonna publishes the Sex coffee table book. With the help of photographer Steven Meisel and the artistic direction of Fabien Baron, The Queen of Pop stages her erotic fantasies played by her alter ego, Dita Parlo (like the famous movie star of the '30s): gets undressed and wears leather; does bondage; becomes dominatrix; she pays homage to Pasolini and his movie Salò, leading around men on a leash; she hitches naked with only her heels and handbag; she is surrounded by naked and beautiful men and women; between breasts, nipples, buttocks, and tonic, perfect bodies.
With her in the images appear Isabella Rossellini, Naomi Campbell, Ingrid Casares, Tony Ward, Vanilla Ice, Udo Kier.
The book was made of silver-like mylar, similar to a condom wrapper, and sold 150,000 copies on the first day of release in the United States.
#Madonna vs David Letterman
1994. Madonna is a guest on the David Letterman show. In introducing the artist, the presenter calls her "One of the most famous pop stars who has slept with some of the most influential names in the music industry".
Result? In response, she pronounces the word "fuck" 13 times, lights a cigar, and invites Letterman to sniff her underwear. After Madonna disappears behind the scenes, the anchorman, joking, says, "Ok, they'll probably cancel us from the schedule!"
2003. MTV Video Music Awards. Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera dressed as brides pay homage to the historic performance of Madonna in 1984, which, at one point, reaches them on stage and kisses them on the mouth, one after the other.
Only the kiss between Madonna and Britney enters the collective memory, thanks to the incredulous expression of Justin Timberlake, Spears's former boyfriend, who attended the show in the audience.
During the 2006 Confessions Tour, Madonna sings Live to Tell nailed to a glittering mirrored cross. The Church does not like it and threatens boycotts and ex-communications. Common routine for the star, which explains the choice of that image:
There seems to be many misinterpretations about my appearance on the cross and I wanted to explain it myself once and for all. There is a segment in my show where three of my dancers "confess" or share harrowing experiences from their childhood that they ultimately overcame. My "confession" follows and takes place on a Crucifix that I ultimately come down from. This is not a mocking of the church. […] My performance is neither anti-Christian, sacrilegious or blasphemous. Rather, it is my plea to the audience to encourage mankind to help one another and to see the world as a unified whole. I believe in my heart that if Jesus were alive today he would be doing the same thing. My specific intent is to bring attention to the millions of children in Africa who are dying every day, and are living without care, without medicine and without hope. I am asking people to open their hearts and minds to get involved in whatever way they can.
Madonna’s butt on the red carpet of the Grammys 2015
The singer walks the Grammys' red carpet in a sexy matador version, with a pink and black bustier and a skirt by Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy. Provocative and ironic as always, Madonna raised her dress and showed her butt, veiled by a thong and fishnet stockings, to all the paparazzi lined up on the sides of the red carpet. A gesture that has raised much criticism, especially regarding the age of the star (in 2015 56 years).
Time later, in an interview for Rolling Stone, she responded to the controversy with these words:
No one would dare to say a degrading remark about being black or dare to say a degrading remark on Instagram about someone being gay. But my age – anybody and everybody would say something degrading to me. And I always think to myself, why is that accepted? What's the difference between that and racism, or any discrimination? They're judging me by my age. I don't understand. I'm trying to get my head around it. Because women, generally, when they reach a certain age, have accepted that they're not allowed to behave a certain way. But I don't follow the rules. I never did, and I'm not going to start.
That's why we love Madonna, need we say more.