We’re diving into the captivating world of Madonna, her past achievements, and her vision for the future with these interesting facts that you may not know. Whether you’re a devoted fan or simply intrigued by pop culture history, join us as we unravel the layers of Madonna’s multifaceted legacy.
Yes, That’s Actually Her Name
We’re coming in hot with this fun fact. Believe it or not, Madonna’s name is ACTUALLY Madonna. The iconic singer was born Madonna Louise Ciccone on August 16, 1958. We know. It’s almost too good to be true. A lot of musicians and performers often change their names in order to make it in Hollywood, but Madonna had to do no such thing.
It’s almost as if she was born to be a star. With a name like Madonna, that’s a lot to live up to. The truly wild part is that Madonna’s siblings all have pretty standard names. There’s Martin, Anthony, and Paula, just to name a few. For whatever reason, her parents just knew she had to have a unique name.
She Comes From a Big Family
Madonna’s parents were strict Catholics. They got married in 1955 and soon began building a family together in Bay City, Michigan. As a result, Madonna ended up being the third of six kids. She was born in 1958 after her siblings Martin and Anthony. Her three younger siblings, Christopher, Paula, and Melanie, were born shortly after Madonna.
Although Madonna enjoyed growing up in such a big family, she does acknowledge some drawbacks. In a 1987 "MSNBC" interview, Madonna admitted that growing up with five other siblings made her competitive for her parent’s attention. Her siblings cultivated her drive to grow up and stand out.
Although many of us consider Madonna’s name to be quite unique, she was actually named after someone very close to her: her mom. Her mother’s name was Madonna Louise Ciccone, too. That’s right, Madonna’s mom pulled a “Lorelei Gilmore” before it was cool. Madonna was her mother’s first-born daughter, so she naturally wanted to pass down her name.
Madonna’s mom was French-Canadian and worked as a dancer in early adulthood. After she settled down with Madonna’s father, Tony, she began working as an X-ray technician to support their growing family. Madonna has many fond memories of her mother, but their relationship was unfortunately cut short.
Madonna’s Many Nicknames
Throughout her career, Madonna has had many nicknames attached to her. From the “Queen of Pop” to the original “Material Girl,” Madonna is known by many different monikers that other people, often the media, have given her. However, her very first nickname was given to her when she was just a toddler.
Because she had the same exact name as her mother, her family began calling her “Little Nonnie.” This adorable nickname undoubtedly prevented a lot of confusion, especially considering that Madonna grew up in such a big family. Her “Little Nonnie” nickname wouldn’t last for very long because she lost her mother when she was just five years old.
A Traumatizing Childhood Event
When Madonna was only five years old, her mother passed away. She lost her battle with breast cancer on December 1, 1963. It was a huge loss for the whole family, especially because Madonna and her siblings were still very young. The loss of her mother hit Madonna hard, and it changed her outlook on life forever.
She told “Time,” that she thinks that made her grow up fast. Naturally, her mother’s death also deeply hurt her father. Even though Madonna was very young, she still noticed his grief. She saw her father going through changes also. He was obviously devastated and Madonna recalls how awful it was to see her father cry.
She Resented Her Stepmother
Madonna’s dad remarried pretty shortly after her mother died. Madonna and her siblings were not huge fans of their new stepmom, Joan. She worked for the family as a housekeeper before tying the knot with Tony Ciccone. In reality, this marriage was more likely one of convenience than “true love.”
Tony had a hard time taking care of his kids without his first wife by his side, so Madonna spent a few years shuffling back and forth between the homes of other family members. Tony was probably partially motivated to marry Joan as a way to help him out with raising his six kids, which is no easy feat.
Joan Ciccone, Evil Stepmother?
Madonna and her siblings missed their mother terribly. However, it seems that Madonna developed a particular distaste for their dad’s new wife, Joan. According to Madonna, she bore the brunt of the housekeeping after her mother passed away. She and Joan did not get along.
She told “Time” in 1985 that she often felt like a real-life Cinderella because of the amount of work she had to do around the house. To this day, Madonna doesn’t really like to speak about her stepmother. When she does, though, she’s pretty vocal about how much she hated her as a kid and teenager. We guess there’s no love lost in that relationship.
She’s Always Been Vocal
When Madonna burst onto the music scene, she drew attention for her brazen sexuality and outspoken soundbites. As it turns out, Madonna has always been outgoing and unafraid to speak her mind. As a kid, she was always being told to “be quiet” by her parents, her teachers, and other adults in her life.
“Mouthing off comes naturally,” she proudly told “Time” back in the 80s. On top of her natural extroverted personality, Madonna always loved to be the center of attention. She was in every single performance and talent show held by her school. She loved being on stage from an early age.
Taking After Her Mom
Like her mother before her, Madonna was naturally drawn to dance as an extracurricular activity. As a kid, she begged her dad to enroll her in dance lessons instead of boring piano lessons that she had no interest in. Her dad gave in, and Madonna soon dove head-first into learning all she could.
In high school, one of her friends introduced her to a ballet dancer named Christopher Flynn, who owned his own ballet studio in Michigan. Christopher quickly became Madonna’s first mentor and serious teacher. To this day, Madonna holds Christopher dear to her heart, saying that he was the first person who told her that she was beautiful and that she had something to offer the world. Plus, he encouraged her to believe in her dreams.
Anthony’s Complicated Life
Out of all the Ciccone kids, Madonna is definitely the most famous. However, the public and tabloids have kept up with her siblings throughout the years, for better or for worse. Madonna’s eldest sibling, Anthony, had quite a different path in life than his younger sister. Unfortunately, Anthony struggled with alcoholism for much of his life.
Throughout his life, Anthony experienced homelessness and entered rehab to treat his illness several times. Although Madonna and Anthony would exchange some bitter words over the years, she tried to financially help him whenever and however she could. Family isn’t always easy, that's for sure.
Madonna Didn’t Fit In
You’d think that the “Queen of Pop” would have always been popular, even in high school. Oh, how wrong that assumption is. In reality, Madonna’s high school years were pretty tough. Like many of us, Madonna was an outcast and felt different from many of her classmates. Even though she was a cheerleader, her free-thinking and artistic tendencies set her apart from the herd.
Madonna told “Interview Magazine” that she always felt like a freak or like there was something wrong with her when she was growing up because she couldn’t fit in anywhere. It’s wild to think that one of the most popular pop artists of the century felt ostracized and out of place when she was younger. It just goes to show that things do, in fact, get better if you keep going.
Madonna’s Family Grows
After her dad, Tony, married the family housekeeper, Joan, the two went on to have two kids together. So, on top of Madonna’s five siblings, she has two younger half-siblings. That’s a pretty big family! Her half-sister Jennifer was born in 1968, and her half-brother Mario was born a year later.
Both Jennifer and Mario like to stay out of the limelight, so not much is known about their relationship with Madonna. The singer doesn’t bring them up too much in interviews, so there’s no telling if they have a close relationship today. We do know that Madonna felt like, as a 10-year-old, she took care of them instead of her stepmom Joan.
No Love Lost
Any Madonna fan knows that she’s never been afraid to voice her distaste for her stepmother, Joan Ciccone. Growing up, she hated Joan for replacing her mother after she passed away, and the animosity continued to grow. Unfortunately, those hard feelings never faded even as Madonna grew into an adult.
As recently as the early 2000s, Joan has taken to the tabloids to bad-mouth Madonna. She accused the pop star of “refusing” to help out her dad even though she knew he was in financial straits. There’s no way to know how true Joan’s accusations are, but it’s pretty obvious that Madonna and Joan have never gotten along.
Madonna isn’t the only savvy business person in her family. Her father, Tony, worked as an engineer for Chrysler for many years, but he’s since pivoted his career path. In 1995, Madonna’s dad opened up his very own winery in Suttons Bay, Michigan. Who knew that Madonna came from a wine family?
Madonna’s dad and stepmother still own Ciccone Vineyard and Winery to this day. In fact, it’s a family business. Madonna’s siblings, Mario and Paula, are heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of the winery and continue the family tradition of making wine in Michigan. Mario is the winery’s manager, while Paula is a top winemaker.
It seems that Madonna has a pretty complicated relationship with her whole family. Her second-oldest brother, Martin, is no different. Martin has struggled with addiction for most of his life. Although the two are now on good terms, Martin hasn’t been afraid to call out his little sister for what he views as major offenses.
When Martin was arrested in 1994, she allegedly refused to pay for his bail. We don’t know Madonna’s reasoning behind this decision, but Martin wasn’t afraid to voice his opinion. He released his own rap album under the moniker MC Ciccone in which he spits jabs at Madonna and talks about his time in jail.
She Was Affected by the AIDS Epidemic
Madonna was working as a dancer in New York City when the AIDS epidemic started to gain prominence. Madonna was running in circles full of artists and visionaries, and she felt a deep connection with the queer community throughout the city. Because of her close ties, she inevitably experienced loss during the 1980s.
“Nobody knew what it was. And then suddenly, all these beautiful men around me, people who I loved so dearly, were dying-just one after the next,” Madonna recounted in a 2010 “Interview Magazine” feature. She even lost her longtime ballet mentor, Christopher Flynn, to AIDS in 1990.
Madonna’s Model Sibling
Madonna isn’t the only Ciccone kid to try their luck in the world of show business. Her younger sister Paula also attempted to make it big in New York City when she was younger. During her time in New York, Paula tried to break into the modeling industry, and she found some success.
She posed for magazine covers with “Vogue” and “Rolling Stone,” but she never reached the same height of fame as her older sister. Eventually, Paula decided to move on from her modeling dreams. She moved back to Michigan, where she now works at the family winery as a winemaker.
Madonna Is Close With Only One Brother
Despite the years of Ciccone family drama, Madonna has maintained a close relationship with at least one of her siblings. Ever since the beginning of her successful career, Madonna has had her younger brother Christopher at her side. Like Madonna and their mother, Christopher studied dance and eventually worked as a backup dancer on one of Madonna’s tours.
The two remained close as Madonna’s career took off, and the two began to collaborate. Christopher has directed a few of Madonna’s world tours and has gone on to find success independently of his sister. He’s also worked with other big names, such as Dolly Parton and Tony Bennett.
The Artistic Ciccones
It seems that a penchant for the artistic runs in the Ciccone family tree. Madonna’s younger sister, Melanie, is also an accomplished artist in her own right. After graduating from Michigan State University, Melanie enjoyed a successful career as a top-performing businesswoman. However, her career path changed in the second half of her life.
Like Madonna, Melanie got in touch with her creative side. She is now a working artist who creates mixed-media textile pieces. Much of her work involves embroidery, quilting, and turning vintage textiles into something new. She’s exhibited her works in galleries throughout Los Angeles and Pasadena, California.
Like many of us, Madonna had a rebellious era when she was a teenager. One of her most memorable acts of rebellion was sneaking out of the house to attend a David Bowie concert when she was fifteen. She recounted this experience when she accepted David Bowie’s “Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Award” in 1996 on his behalf.
Her dad forbade her from attending the David Bowie concert at Cobo Arena in Detroit, so she naturally snuck out when everyone was asleep. She said seeing David Bowie perform live changed and inspired her. She was grounded for the rest of the summer that year, but it was worth it.
An Almost Alum
Madonna had a short stint at the University of Michigan after high school. She attended the college with a full-ride dance scholarship. However, this incredible opportunity wasn’t Madonna’s true path. While in college, she received another scholarship opportunity to study at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City.
The scholarship opportunity was only supposed to be for six weeks, but Madonna fell in love with New York. In classic Madonna fashion, she went against the grain and dropped out of the University of Michigan. She wanted to move to New York and pursue her dancing career through different channels other than higher education.
She Was Broke
It’s hard to believe now, but Madonna was broke when she first moved to New York City in 1978. Whenever asked about how she got her start in the city, Madonna often reminisces about how she only had 35 dollars in her pocket when she first arrived. She once said in an interview that it was the bravest thing she'd ever done.
She got an apartment in the East Village and struggled to make ends meet. She worked at Dunkin’ Donuts to make extra cash while performing with various dance troupes around the city. Where she got her start was a far cry from the heights she would eventually reach in her career.
A Budding Dance Career
Madonna was grinding day and night to make something of her dance career. She got some traction, dancing with the Pearl Lang Dance Theater and Martha Graham, a renowned choreographer in New York. Eventually, she got work as a backup dancer for mildly successful artists in the late 70s and early 80s.
For example, she got a gig as a backup dancer for disco artist Patrick Hernandez. It was the chance of a lifetime because she got to live in Paris for three months while touring with Patrick. She also provided backup vocals during the tour. These early performances were the first inklings of what Madonna would become.
She Tried in Paris
Madonna spent some time in her early 20s living in Paris. She decided to take a backup dancer gig with the musician Patrick Hernandez, which required her to move to the City of Love. While there, Madonna made her first attempt at recording an album. At the time, she was only known as a dancer who did occasional backup vocals.
However, she knew that singing was something she wanted to try her hand at. Even though she wasn’t professionally trained as a vocalist, people were always commenting on her amazing singing voice. Dance music was hot at the time, so Madonna thought, “Why not?” However, Paris didn’t agree with her, and the potential album never came to fruition. Thankfully, time had other plans for her.
The Breakfast Club
Madonna was an original member of “The Breakfast Club.” No, not the movie. She was a founding member of a New Wave band called the Breakfast Club in the late 70s. She started the band with her then-boyfriend, Dan Gilroy. Ever the Renaissance woman, Madonna played drums and occasionally provided vocals and backup on the guitar.
Madonna would eventually leave the Breakfast Club to form another band. However, that wasn’t the end of the Breakfast Club. They went on to have a Top 10 song and many other band members. Interestingly, Randy Jackson of “American Idol” fame was also a member of the band, but in the late 80s.
A Traumatic Experience
Like many of us, Madonna has had her fair share of traumatic experiences. Many years after becoming the world’s most famous pop star, Madonna revealed that she was attacked by a stranger when she first moved to New York City. As Madonna told Howard Stern in 2015, she was only 19 and had just moved to the city from her small town in Michigan.
As we all know, various kinds of violent acts are extremely under-reported for various reasons. Just like many other victims, Madonna did not report her attacker to the police and tried her best to move on from the traumatic experience.
Frida Kahlo Is a Personal Hero
Many people have looked up to Madonna over the decades, but who does the “Queen of Pop” look up to? Well, another artist, of course. In a 2013 essay she wrote for “Harper’s Bazaar,” Madonna revealed that she would often think of artist Frida Kahlo during those early, tough days in New York.
She had a tiny postcard portrait of the artist taped up in her apartment, and she would look at it when she needed strength or felt like giving up on her dreams. Frida Kahlo made history by walking to the beat of her own drum despite what other people had to say, and Madonna admired that.
Madonna’s First Acting Role
Madonna has made a name for herself as an actress as well as a musical artist. However, not many people know about her very first acting role. Between 1979 and 1981, Madonna filmed “A Certain Sacrifice,” an underground art film with a very scandalous plot that we cannot repeat here.
Interestingly, “A Certain Sacrifice” wasn’t released until 1985. Madonna’s career was well underway by then, making it pretty obvious that the film’s director only released it to capitalize on her fame. Madonna wasn’t happy about the film’s release and even tried to buy the rights from the director. Today, this cult film is next to impossible to find and watch. Reviewers panned the movie, so it’s probably for the best.
Her Big Break
It’s pretty amazing to think that Madonna rose from relative obscurity to massive fame in just a few short years. It all started in 1981 when Madonna got signed to Gotham Records after striking up a friendship with Camille Barbone. Camille took Madonna under her wing and helped get her signed with Gotham, her first big break into the music business.
Camille mentored Madonna and even acted as her manager for a year. Before signing with Gotham, people would sometimes comment on how great her singing voice was, but Madonna dismissed these compliments because she didn’t think she could sing. Although Madonna’s first demo under Camille was a flop, it was the first time she felt as if people were taking her seriously.
Madonna Meets Mark
Once Madonna recorded her first demo, she began working the dance and nightclub circuit to try and get her music played. This was how she met DJ Mark Kamins, who would change her life forever. The two struck up a romantic relationship, and Mark used his connections to get Madonna a meeting with Seymour Stein.
Any music buff will instantly recognize that name. Seymour Stein was the president of Sire Records at the time and was famous for launching the careers of the Ramones and the Talking Heads, to name a few. Stein signed Madonna for two singles to start, and the rest is history.
“Everybody” is the song that started it all for Madonna. An early version of the dance track served as Madonna’s demo that she would pitch to New York DJs and nightclubs. The demo version of the song was recorded before Madonna was signed to a record label, but it’s what got the attention of producer Seymour Stein.
After getting signed to Sire Records, a subsidiary of Warner Bros, “Everybody” became Madonna’s first official single. The song really started to take off because dance music was popular in the early 80s. The song peaked at #3 in the charts, which was quite an achievement for a debut. Madonna even made her TV debut with the song, performing it on “Dancin’ on Air” in 1983.
“Burning Up” the Charts
“Burning Up” is still one of Madonna’s most iconic songs. Every fan knows it, and it’s constantly played on the radio. It’s wild to think that the catchy chorus was part of one of Madonna’s earliest songs. In fact, it was her second official single after signing with Sire Records. “Burning Up” was an original demo that she had created with her ex Stephen Bray, and the song made it all the way to her debut album.
Many people like to discredit pop stars for simply lipsyncing and dancing, but that’s not the case with Madonna. She wrote the lyrics to both “Burning Up” and “Everybody,” both of which helped launch her career into the limelight.
“To Rule the World”
Madonna’s debut album came out in 1983, and her career immediately took off. Her fame was cemented with her performance on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” on January 14, 1984. Madonna performed her iconic hit “Holiday” in an all-black, totally 80s ensemble of leggings, a fishnet top, and perfectly teased hair.
Madonna wasn’t going to let this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity pass her by. She knew she had to make a big impression with Dick Clark and the hundreds of thousands of people watching at home. In her post-performance interview, Madonna was on fire, replying to Dick Clark’s questions with confidence. When he asked, “What are your dreams? What’s left?” Madonna simply replied, “To rule the world.”
A Fashion Icon
How many of us have dressed up as Madonna for Halloween? Her look from the 80s was truly iconic, and her signature off-the-shoulder tops and leggings have become synonymous with the era. It’s not just a nostalgia thing. Madonna was a fashion icon to teenagers across the country when she rose to fame in the 80s.
No one else was dressing in quite the same way, and Madonna quickly became known for her unique and bold style. In a rare 1984 interview with MTV, the interviewer asked Madonna if she was the one behind her signature look. You can practically see Madonna roll her eyes at the inane question. “You think someone else could come up with this?” she replied. Touché.
Maripol and Madonna
Madonna had a lot of autonomy over her edgy and hip look in the 80s. However, her style didn’t just appear fully formed out of nowhere. As with any great pop star, she had some help behind the scenes. Maripol was the designer and stylist responsible for Madonna’s signature look, which is still iconic and famous to this day.
Maripol was the one behind Madonna’s lace tops, fingerless gloves, fishnets, and controversial crucifix jewelry. Madonna embodied this style and made it her own, sparking fashion inspiration among women and girls of the 80s. So, next time you dress up as Madonna for Halloween, thank Maripol.
A Famous Pairing
Madonna has had many romantic relationships during the course of her life, but none are as infamous and mysterious as her relationship with artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. There’s very little public information out there, but the two dated briefly in 1982. Although their relationship was short-lived, they remained close, and several photos of them together still exist.
Basquiat tragically passed away in 1988, and Madonna has never revealed a whole lot about her relationship with the famous artist. We do know that the two used to go to art openings together, and Basquiat believed in Madonna’s musical talent. However, Basquiat’s substance use eventually drove them apart, and he took back all of the paintings he gave her after they broke up.
A Kahlo Collector
One of Madonna’s personal heroes is Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. When she first moved to New York, Madonna would often draw inspiration from Friday Kahlo for strength to keep pursuing her dreams. Now, as a successful and wealthy musician, Madonna can appreciate Frida’s artwork in a new way. She’s a big collector of the artist’s paintings. She even owns “My Birth” (1932), which was painted by Frida Kahlo when she lived in Detroit for a short time.
Madonna caused a bit of a controversy in 2015 when she and her team refused to lend “My Birth” to the Detroit Institute of Arts. The established museum organized a show featuring works by Frida Kahlo and her husband, Diego Rivera. However, after trying to procure a loan from Madonna for over a year, the museum was unable to convince her to lend it out.
An Expensive Wedding Dress
Wedding dresses can get pretty pricey, as anyone who’s planned a wedding can tell you. But Madonna’s vintage 1985 wedding dress? Now that’s a whole other level of expensive. Back in 2014, the oft-forgotten marriage between Sean Penn and Madonna was back in the headlines because her original wedding dress was going on sale.
The dress, which is quintessentially 80s and oh-so-Madonna, went up for auction through Julien’s. There was a ton of buzz around the piece of fashion history, and many predicted that it would sell for tens of thousands of dollars. No one could have guessed the actual selling price: a whopping $81,000.
Fiasco or Fierce?
The very first MTV Video Music Awards debuted on September 14, 1984. This up-and-coming music network channel decided to invite an up-and-coming singer to perform for their inaugural award show. Yes, that “up-and-coming” singer was Madonna. Her second studio album, “Like a Virgin,” was set to debut later that year, so she naturally decided to perform the title track at the VMAs.
And perform, she did. Madonna caused quite a stir with her titillating performance of “Like a Virgin.” Madonna rolled around the stage (literally) in a white wedding dress with a belt that read “Boy Toy” on it. While it’s pretty tame by today’s standards, people were clutching their pearls when they saw Madonna doing that suggestive thing with her veil. Supposedly, her furious manager swore that her performance would ruin her career. Oh, how wrong they were.
The Truth Behind the “Virginal” VMA Performance
Madonna has never been afraid to push the envelope and shock her audience. After her scandalous “Like a Virgin” performance at the first MTV VMAs, Madonna explained her behavior and defended herself. She famously went off-script during her wedding cake performance, but it was for a good reason.
Apparently, she decided to roll around on the floor because her stiletto heel had accidentally come loose or fallen off. Madonna didn’t want to make her performance look like a mistake, so she rolled around in order to surreptitiously grab her heel and put it back on. She showed her undergarments and stockings off to the whole audience as a result, which made “Like a Virgin” all the more memorable.
“Like a Virgin”
Up until the release of her second album, Madonna’s singles were doing pretty well. However, none of them, including “Borderline,” had hit number one in the charts. That all changed with “Like a Virgin,” the single off her second album by the same name. Thanks in part to her eye-popping MTV performance, the song reached number one in the charts and stayed put for a few weeks.
The single and “Like a Virgin” album shot Madonna to a new level of fame and success, which was a pleasant surprise. The album was such a success that it drove Madonna to break the first record of her career. She became the first female artist to sell more than five million copies of an album. Not bad for a small-town girl from Michigan.
A Controversial Single
Madonna’s widespread success didn’t come without controversy. Her number one hit, “Like a Virgin,” was pretty scandalous for the time. Although the single was at the top of the charts for six weeks, many conservative and religious organizations were outspoken about their distaste for the song.
There was a media outcry from these organizations about Madonna’s suggestive hit. Many thought it was setting a bad example for young people because it promoted premarital shenanigans and pushed against traditional “family values.” Despite attempts to ban the song and music video, “Like a Virgin” became and still remains one of Madonna’s greatest hits.
The Truth Behind the Swagger
If you watch early interviews with a young Madonna, you can see how self-assured she was of herself. Even though she was just starting out in her career as a pop icon, her answers to interview questions were always straightforward and confident. As it turns out, it was all a front. Well, kind of.
Madonna has always been a confident person, but she wasn’t as fearless as she let on in interviews in the early 80s. She looked back on that time in her life and told “The Guardian” that she may have been insecure or felt like a nobody, but she knew she had to do something. Her gamble in confidence definitely paid off.
The Ultimate “Material Girl”
One of Madonna’s nicknames is “Material Girl,” thanks to her hit song by the same name. The music video is truly iconic and is considered one of the reasons her pop career took off. The video features an almost frame-by-frame recreation of Marilyn Monroe’s famous “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” performance in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”
The music video’s obvious correlation between Marilyn and Madonna clued everyone into the fact that Madonna was here to stay. “Material Girl” was like an 80s version of “Diamonds,” mostly because the lyrics are cheeky and celebratory of materialism. Looking back, some fans can easily interpret both “Material Girl” and Marilyn’s song as an ironic jab at the objectification of women in our popular culture.
Like a “Rolling Stone”
Madonna rocked her very first cover of “Rolling Stone” magazine on November 22, 1984. The magazine cover coincided with the release of “Like a Virgin,” the sophomore album that would launch her career to the next level. “Madonna Goes All the Way,” the magazine cover reads, quite cheekily, we might add.
This magazine debut would mark the start of a record for both Madonna and “Rolling Stone” that still holds strong today. Madonna holds the record for gracing the cover of “Rolling Stone” more times than any other female artist in history. As of 2021, she has 23 “Rolling Stone” covers to her name. Pretty impressive.
A “Crazy” Debut
Many people credit “Desperately Seeking Susan” as Madonna’s motion picture debut. But that honor actually goes to “Vision Quest,” another major motion picture that Madonna acted in earlier that year. In “Vision Quest,” Madonna has a cameo appearance as a club singer. She even performs two of her own songs in the film.
“Crazy for You” and “Gambler” are featured in the movie, and both songs remain inherently tied to Madonna’s career. “Vision Quest” was even renamed to “Crazy for You” in some other countries in order to capitalize off Madonna’s fame, which had blown up by the time the movie was released internationally.
Overwhelmed by Fame
When Madonna kicked off “The Virgin Tour” in 1985, she had no idea what she was in for. By the time she went on her first large-scale tour, “Like a Virgin” was already a huge hit. Her fame had reached new heights. But none of that hit her until she walked out on stage for her first performance of the tour.
When she reflected on her first tour decades later, Madonna said she felt sort of an out-of-body experience. She recalls it as being an otherworldly feeling that nothing could prepare her for. Though as she walked on stage, she felt like something sucked the air out of her lungs, it was not a bad feeling.
Art Imitates Life
As Madonna’s star was rising, she was invited to audition for a little movie called “Desperately Seeking Susan.” She was cast in the role of Susan even though she had never starred in a mainstream movie before. The main reason she got the part was because the studio wanted to cast an “up-and-comer” as Susan.
Interestingly, art imitated life for Madonna’s first big-budget acting role. The movie takes place in New York City and is an homage to the club scene, which Madonna was heavily involved in before her career took off. Her real-life experience brought authenticity to the role. It’s a funny example of how life comes full circle sometimes.
The universe was smiling on Madonna in 1985. The release of her first major film, “Desperately Seeking Susan,” coincided perfectly with her skyrocketing fame. When studio execs cast Madonna as Susan, she was still a relatively unknown pop singer. During the course of filming, more and more people began recognizing her on the streets of New York City.
Her second album, “Like a Virgin,” came out around the time that filming was wrapping up, and she blew up. The studio that produced “Suddenly Seeking Susan” rushed post-production in order to release the movie in tandem with Madonna’s media attention. Apparently, they wanted to ride the high of her publicity as fast as possible because they were afraid it wouldn’t last. How wrong they were!
A Last-Minute Addition
Any Madonna fan knows “Into the Groove” by heart. It was originally released as a single when “Desperately Seeking Susan” was released in 1985. However, there’s an interesting backstory as to why and how it was included in the film. “Into the Groove” was originally a demo that Madonna had recorded with Stephen Bray. The song was intended for Cheyne, an up-and-coming singer at the time. But Madonna changed her mind.
While filming a scene at the Danceteria nightclub in New York, the film’s director, Susan Seidelman, needed a dance track. Madonna immediately thought of her “Into the Groove” demo and offered it for inclusion in the film. Although Madonna ruffled some feathers by taking the song for herself, she stood her ground. As we now know, it became one of her defining hit singles. Sorry, Cheyne.
A Beastie Boys Connection
The 80s certainly had some strange musical collaborations and pairings. Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” tour is a perfect example. A little rap group called the Beastie Boys opened for the megastar on a few tour stops. Ever heard of them? If you know their music, you know that this is a strange pairing.
Madonna and the Beastie Boys are completely different musical genres, so we can’t imagine that many of Madonna’s fans also listened to 80s hip-hop and rap. “I don't know why she thought it would be a good idea though. It was a terrible idea. But it was great for her in a way because we were so awful that by the time she came onstage, the audience had to be happy,” Ad-Rock recalled.
Lauper Vs. Madonna
Any 80s music fan knows that Cyndi Lauper was a big pop star around the same time as Madonna in the 80s. Cyndi’s hit “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” came out in 1983, around the same time that Madonna’s star was rising. As the music industry so often does, it immediately pitted the two female singers against each other.
Despite what the media said back then, the two didn’t actually have a rivalry. The two never became close friends, but they didn’t hate each other, either. In the early 80s, the two women would get mistaken for each other all the time, but it never bothered Cyndi. Eventually, the fake rivalry died down because their careers took different paths.
Madonna’s First Marriage
Madonna has had many rumored romances, but the most publicized has been her relationship with actor Sean Penn. The two met on the set of Madonna’s “Material Girl” music video and instantly felt a connection. They got married on Madonna’s birthday, six months after meeting each other.
Although the pair were married between 1985 and 1989, they had a tumultuous relationship. Sean Penn was allegedly very jealous and insecure in their relationship, repeatedly accusing Madonna of cheating. There was even an incident that resulted in Sean doing some time in jail. The two finally divorced in 1989, citing “irreconcilable differences.”
Sean and Madonna, BFFs?
Despite their very public and dramatic divorce, Sean Penn and Madonna still seem to be friends. In fact, they hold each other very dear and might even still be in love. The two have nothing but respect for each other all these years later. Madonna even came to Sean’s defense in 2017 by setting the record straight about domestic mistreatment rumors that have always swirled around their past relationship.
In Madonna’s 1991 documentary, “In Bed with Madonna,” the singer admitted that Sean was the “love of her life.” Many years later, Sean would confess in a “Late Show With Stephen Colbert” interview that he still had a lot of love for Madonna. He’s even been seen at several of Madonna’s concerts over the years. It seems their romantic relationship was a victim of bad timing.
The Reason Behind the Crosses
Madonna has been wearing crosses and utilizing Catholic imagery since the very beginning of her popstar career. Despite this causing a lot of controversy among religious groups, Madonna has never backed down. She openly admits to wearing crucifixes and crosses in order to be provocative. But she also drew inspiration from her strict Catholic upbringing.
Madonna’s own mother was a very strict Catholic, so her use of Catholic imagery in her provocative music videos and songs was a way for Madonna to reclaim a part of her past. She has a complicated relationship with religion, so leaning into the crucifix imagery was one way she chose to express her feelings about it.
“Vogue” Almost Wasn’t a Hit
“Vogue” is one of Madonna’s greatest songs in her entire discography. Now we know that this song brought voguing to the mainstream and changed the landscape of pop forever. But back when it was first recorded, Madonna didn’t think it was strong enough to be a single. Ironically, “Vogue” would become one of Madonna’s biggest hits ever.
In fact, Madonna originally wanted “Vogue” to be a B-side to “Keep It Together,” a song on her “Like a Prayer” album. However, after quickly recording the song in a small basement studio in New York, the Warner Brothers executives knew they had a hit on their hands.
The Origin of “Bedtime Story”
“Bedtime Story” was a song on Madonna’s 1994 album of a similar name. It’s not a popular song, and only hardcore Madonna fans can probably recall it off the top of their head. However, its origin story is pretty interesting. If you give it a listen, you’ll notice that it sounds a little different from Madonna’s usual repertoire.
That’s because it was written by none other than Icelandic singer Björk. The song is a hidden gem, with a mid-tempo electric beat and trance music influences. The story goes that Björk wasn’t a huge fan of Madonna’s music, but she couldn’t pass up the opportunity when the “Queen of Pop” invited her to collaborate. “Bedtime Story” is the only song that Björk ever wrote for Madonna.
The “Blonde Ambition” Tour
Madonna’s 1990 “Blonde Ambition World Tour” changed the world of pop music forever. No, we’re not just being dramatic. This world tour, with Madonna’s brother Christopher at the helm of art direction, broke barriers and flipped expectations on their heads. The aesthetics combined Catholic imagery, Art Deco, and German expressionism, to name just a few influences.
The concert’s set design, Madonna’s choreography, and the costumes designed by Jean Paul Gaultier were all considered extremely cutting-edge and racy at the time. With “Blonde Ambition,” Madonna set a new precedent for pop concerts. She shamelessly presented herself the way she wanted versus what record labels thought she should do. Avant-garde performers like Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus have Madonna to thank for pushing the envelope.
The Pope Was Not a Fan
Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” album was quite controversial for its use of Catholic imagery and sensual undertones. When Madonna launched her “Blonde Ambition” tour in conjunction with the album, many conservatives had major feelings about it. The Pope himself even had something to say about Madonna’s world tour.
Pope John Paul II discouraged members of the Catholic church from listening to Madonna’s album and attending her concerts. He came in hot by saying that her show was one of the most satanic in the history of humanity. Dang. It seems that the controversy over Madonna’s world tour helped instead of hindered sales, which is the opposite of what Pope John Paul II probably wanted.
The Pepsi Fiasco
Madonna and Pepsi have a tumultuous relationship. Back in 1989, the soda company paid her a whopping $5 million to star in a commercial featuring her new song “Like a Prayer.” If you’ve seen the music video for that song, you know what’s coming next in this story. The commercial is utterly wholesome, featuring Madonna dancing with groups of happy people. Yes, it’s weird.
It’s totally incongruous with the music video for “Like a Prayer,” which was very dramatic and featured scandalous religious imagery. Pepsi realized its misstep once the official music video aired the next day. They pulled the commercial and pulled their sponsorship of Madonna’s “Blonde Ambition” tour after being on the receiving end of the Vatican’s wrath.
Her One True Fear
Madonna is a pioneer in the music industry. Her brazen confidence makes it seem like she’s totally fearless. But there’s one thing that Madonna is deathly afraid of, and it may come as a surprise. Madonna suffers from brontophobia, which is a debilitating fear of thunder and lightning. This phobia is pretty common, which makes this untouchable superstar somehow way more human.
Her fear of thunder and lightning has the potential to interfere with her work, however. One time while touring in Dublin, Ireland, Madonna obsessively asked for weather reports in the days leading up to her outdoor concert. She was concerned about the humidity causing a thunderstorm because she knew she wouldn’t be able to perform under those terrifying conditions. Thankfully, she was in the clear.
Like Mother, Like Daughter
Madonna became a mother on October 14, 1996, when she gave birth to her daughter Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon. Lourdes’ father is Carlos Leon, Madonna’s partner at the time. Unfortunately, the pressures of Madonna’s fame proved too much for the couple and they split in 1997 when Lourdes was still a baby.
However, their split was amicable, and they worked together to co-parent Lourdes. Madonna was totally in love with her newborn daughter, writing “Little Star” for her on her 1998 album “Ray of Light.” Today, Lourdes is just as fierce as her mom, modeling for big names such as Stella McCartney and Savage X Fenty.
Madonna’s Acting Career
Madonna has starred in 19 films over the course of her career. Within those 19 starring roles are some of the best and worst acting, depending on who you ask. Madonna won a “Best Actress” Golden Globe for her role in “Evita,” which came out to much fanfare in 1996. On the flip side, she’s been in quite a few flops.
Next to her Golden Globe win, Madonna has won a grand total of nine Razzies (aka the parody version of the “Golden Globe Awards”). She’s won this prestigious prank award for her roles in flops like “Shangai Surprise.” Her crowning achievement, though, was being awarded “Worst Actress of the Century” in 2000. There’s no denying that Madonna is a versatile actress.
Madonna Married Twice
Madonna met director Guy Ritchie through their mutual friend Sting (no big deal), and the two hit it off right away. Madonna and Guy got married in 2000 and remained together for eight years. They finally filed for divorce in 2008, and it was allegedly not amicable.
Despite the breakdown of their relationship, Madonna and Guy spent some solid years together. They got married in a Scottish castle, where Stella McCartney served as Madonna’s maid of honor. The two share a biological son, Rocco, as well as their adopted son, David Banda. After her divorce from Guy, Madonna would go on to adopt Mercy, Stella, and Estere from Malawi.
A Unique Name Change
As we all probably remember, Madonna famously adopted a deep study of Kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism. Although it was a short-lived trend in the early 2000s among celebrities, Madonna became pretty serious about it. She even changed her name to Esther while she was entrenched in her studies.
According to “Showbiz CheatSheet,” the name Esther derives from the Persian name Satarah, which translates to “star.” Pretty fitting, right? She always defended her adoption of Kabbalah, telling “Harper’s Bazaar” that she was just going to class, taking notes in her notebook, and contemplating her future. She was just trying to become a better person.
Madonna the Author
Madonna’s spiritual journey with Kabbalah also inspired her to try her hand at something new. In 2003, she published her first of seven children’s picture books. The first book, titled “The English Roses,” was inspired by her daughter Lourdes and her own childhood experiences. The story follows a group of five friends as they navigate jealousy and friendship.
Although the picture books are not explicitly religious or spiritual, they each include life lessons about having a strong moral compass and dealing with negative feelings like greed and jealousy. The books got mixed reviews, but many of them debuted in the number-one slot on the “New York Times” bestseller list.
The 2003 VMAs
Let’s take it back to the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards, shall we? If you know Madonna, you already know what we’re going to talk about: the opening act where the “Queen of Pop” performed alongside Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. This iconic performance has a ton of Easter eggs, including the glaringly obvious one: the kiss between Madonna and the two singers who were at the helm of the next generation of pop music.
Next to Madonna’s inaugural 1984 performance of “Like a Virgin,” this performance caused just about the same amount of controversy. The audience at home and in Radio City Music Hall were baffled, delighted, shocked, and amused all at once. The kiss drew so much attention that another little Easter egg was totally lost in the mix: Madonna’s daughter Lourdes starred as one of the flower girls in the beginning!
She Has Beef with Goop
Although Madonna is quite outspoken, we don’t hear about her getting into fights with other celebrities very often. There is one celebrity that she seems to have beef with, and that celeb is none other than Gwyneth Paltrow. The two women became friends in the early 2000s.
Gwyneth attended Madonna’s wedding when she married Guy Ritchie, and she reportedly asked the “Queen of Pop” to be her maid of honor when she married Coldplay’s Chris Martin. So how did these two close friends break up? Well, no one knows for sure. They apparently had a falling out in 2010 and are no longer on speaking terms.
Super Bowl XLVI
Are you even a mega pop star if you’ve never performed at the “Super Bowl?” Who knows. What we do know for sure is that Madonna’s 2012 “Super Bowl” performance drew in over 114 million viewers, making it one of the most-watched halftime shows of all time.
Madonna performed a medley of her greatest hits during her halftime show, including “Vogue” and “Music.” Another thing that made this halftime performance so legendary was the special guests Madonna brought onstage. Top performers like Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., and Cee Lo Green joined in on the fun, creating a memorable performance that went down in “Super Bowl” history.
Madonna’s father is Italian, and her mother was French-Canadian. When you come from a big family like Madonna’s, it’s pretty common to find out you’re related to long-lost cousins, aunts, and uncles. However, Madonna is surprisingly related to some pretty notable women. Celine Dion, Angelina Jolie, and Queen Camilla Parker-Bowles, to be exact.
How exactly are these stars related? Well, very distantly. When Madonna looked into her genealogy, she discovered a distant relative on her mother’s side named Zacharie Cloutier, the patriarch of a prominent Quebec family. Through Zacharie, Madonna is eighth and ninth cousins with Celine Dion, Angelina Jolie, and Queen Camilla. Small world, huh?
Madonna Owns a Palace
This fun fact isn’t too hard to believe. Madonna owns a literal palace in Lisbon, Portugal. Pretty fitting for the “Queen of Pop.” Madonna moved to Lisbon in 2017 for the sake of her son David’s football career. He joined the Benfica youth academy team, which is very prestigious.
Although Madonna admits that she was “miserable” when she first moved to Portugal, she was at least miserable in style. Madonna owns an 18th-century Moorish Revival mansion in Lisbon. In 2020, she shared a ton of photos of her house’s interior on social media. The house is 16,146 square feet and is decorated to a tee in classic Madonna fashion.
She’s a Night Owl
Madonna spent her late teens and early 20s as a staple of the New York City club scene. It’s no surprise that the nocturnal schedule of club-hopping has stuck with her after all these years. In a 2021 “Rolling Stone” interview, Madonna admitted that she’s a night owl. She’s not joking. She allegedly stays up until 4 a.m. every night.
In the interview, which was a conversation between herself and musician Maluma, Madonna admitted that 8 p.m. is when her creative juices start flowing. She also revealed that her secret to staying up late is a mysterious combination of tequila and espresso. Don’t try that at home, kids.
Breaking Glass Ceilings and Records
It’s no surprise that Madonna holds quite a few world records when it comes to music. As of right now, she still holds a record for the highest-grossing concert tour by a female artist. Here’s the real kicker though: She broke this record twice. Both her “Confessions” and “Sticky & Sweet” tours raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in the early 2000s.
Although Madonna has held onto this record for quite some time, she might be unseated very soon. Taylor Swift’s “Eras Tour” has broken records left and right in 2023, and it’s set to break the record for highest-grossing tour in history. Madonna broke glass ceilings so that Taylor Swift could reach for the stars.
From Rags to Riches
Madonna has amassed a staggering amount of wealth over her decades-long career. Although she’s not the richest female musician at the moment, she’s still worth millions. Experts estimate that Madonna is worth around $850 million today. That staggering amount of wealth keeps her on all those “richest female celebrities” lists pretty consistently.
Even if she’s not ranked number one on these lists, she’s almost always up there in the rankings. She’s worth more than even Dolly Parton, who has an estimated $650 million in the bank. Much of Madonna’s net worth comes from record sales, real estate, and her private art collection. We can’t help but wonder what her teenage self would think of all her modern-day wealth.
Madonna’s Fashion Empire
Madonna changed the fashion landscape with her signature style in the 80s. Naturally, she’s created a few clothing lines and fashion collaborations over the years. To date, Madonna has created five fashion brands, including her own business ventures and collaborations with big-name brands.
Her five fashion brands include collaborations with H&M and Dolce & Gabbana. She also founded “Material Girl” with her daughter, Lourdes, in 2010. Finally, she launched her global lifestyle brand called “Truth or Dare by Madonna” and her skincare line, “MDNA Skin,” in the 2010s. Out of all these business ventures, it seems like “MDNA” is the only one still in operation.
She Follows a Vegan Diet
Madonna has reportedly been a vegetarian since she was only fifteen. Over the years, she’s gone back and forth with this decision. When she was pregnant with her daughter Lourdes, she supposedly went back to eating meat. However, she’s most recently touted her vegan, macrobiotic diet as the secret to how she feels and looks so youthful.
While some fans have speculated about whether or not Madonna is still vegan, she hasn’t made any public comments about it. She did post a 2023 Instagram reel that showed her eating chicken with her family, much to the dismay of her vegan fans. Considering that Madonna is still in great shape and continues to tour, we think she’s making the choices that work best for her.
“Madame X” is yet another nickname often associated with Madonna. Although she made it official with her 2019 album and accompanying film, it’s a nickname that’s been hers for quite some time. The story goes that legendary dancer Martha Graham gave Madonna the nickname when she was a dancer just starting out at her studio.
According to Madonna, Martha Graham had a very strict dress code for her dance studio. Naturally, Madonna always broke that dress code. Martha Graham started calling Madonna “Madame X” because she was like a spy, completely unrecognizable with every new outfit she wore to class. Apparently, Madonna has been reinventing herself from the very beginning.
Another Unlikely Collaboration
The “Queen of Pop” is constantly reinventing herself, and she’s not slowing down anytime soon. Along with her constant reinventions come off-the-wall, unexpected collaborations with other artists. A recent collab was in 2019 with Colombian singer Maluma. The two crafted the song “Medellín” together for Madonna’s “Madame X” album.
Since the release of their song, Maluma and Madonna have remained close friends and collaborators. They have appeared as special guests at each other’s concerts. The tabloids love to speculate about a possible romantic connection, especially because of the large age gap between the two. However, we’re pretty sure the two are just good friends and maintain a professional relationship.
Madonna’s Missing Star
It seems like a given that Madonna would have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, right? Wrong. Surprisingly, the mega pop star doesn’t have her own star on Hollywood Boulevard. She might want it that way. Rumor has it that an invitation was extended to Madonna in 1990 to have a star created in her honor.
The story goes that Madonna either completely ignored this invitation or turned it down, and the nomination eventually expired. Whether or not she receives a star in the future remains to be seen, but at least we know her absence on the Walk of Fame isn’t a mean-spirited snub from Hollywood.
Taylor Swift and Beyoncé may be the biggest female musicians at the moment, but Madonna still holds a record that these two stars aren’t even close to surpassing. Although there is no official ranking out there, organizations like “Guinness World Records” estimate that Madonna has sold more records and singles than any other female musician in history.
Over the course of Madonna’s four-decade-long career, she’s sold about 335 million units worldwide. While another musician may surpass this record one day, it doesn’t look like it’ll be anytime soon. As of 2023, Taylor Swift has sold 114 million album units, Beyoncé has sold 200 million, and Rihanna has sold about 250 million.
She Never Wanted to Be Famous
We all remember Madonna’s famous “American Bandstand” quip about how the 25-year-old rising pop star wanted “to rule the world.” It’s not an easy line to forget, but Madonna meant something much different than what most people assume. She revealed in a 2019 “Guardian” interview that her ultimate goal was never to be the most famous or wealthiest musician in the world.
When thinking back to that famous Dick Clark interview all those years ago, Madonna explained that her intention was that she wanted to make a mark on the world, to be somebody after growing up feeling like a nobody. She wanted to make a difference. We think she’s made a pretty memorable mark on the world while becoming incredibly famous along the way.