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If there's one massive pop icon that is still currently alive and that I can safely say that I endlessly admire, it's the Queen of Reinvention herself, Madonna. I used to be a cynic of the old bird, but after hours (hmm) of research (sources including Wikipedia, Pick Me Up, Time Magazine and Rookie), I arrived at this conclusion. I'd still rather lie in awe of The Hives' new album, however, in future when hearing one of her Madgesty's numerous tunes, I'll be sure to digress my overt appreciation.
This lady is the definition of success, with 12 albums, countless awards and a name that has lasted for three decades. She is the world's top selling recording artist of all time, having sold over 300 million records. Madonna is also recognised as one of Time Magazine's 25 Most Powerful Women of the Past Century alongside the likes of Aretha Franklin, Hilary Clinton and Estée Lauder.
You may be like my past self and are beyond caring. "Her Madgesty?" you snort. "With the overload of sexy times in her videos, you should consider the label 'Her Vadgesty.'" Madge does exploit her sexuality openly, that's undeniable. You may also think of her as the Queen of Commercialism, with her blatant changes in style to keep on top of the popular pile. (Ewww how mainstreeaamm.) Or the fact that she is now 53 years old with children somehow also forces individual to screech in protest of having a dinosaur's vagina thrusted in their innocent faces when watching the oh so amiable MTV. Stay with me my friends, these 'negativities' are actually as what I see as impressive qualities.
You see, Mads had humble beginnings. Born on August 16 1958, in Bay City, Michigan, she was the third of six children. At ten years old, she experienced the death of her mother, which later strongly impacted her as she asserted that "the anguish of losing my mom left me with a certain kind of loneliness and an incredible longing for something. If I hadn't had that emptiness, I wouldn't have been so driven. Her death had a lot to do with me saying—after I got over my heartache—I'm going to be really strong if I can't have my mother. I'm going to take care of myself." (Taraborrelli 2002, pp. 11–13) Take care of herself she did: at the age of 19 Madonna relocated to New York, searching for a career in dance. She became involved with Dan Gilroy and together, they created the band, the Breakfast Club. Madonna later performed for her second band, Emmy before releasing her debut solo album, Everybody in 1982. It was from there she became a wildly renowned pop icon.
It seems that from the very start, Madonna has been purposely provocative throughout her work. She has actively challenged society's discourse and beliefs of gender roles and sexuality. Mads was a leader in the third wave feminist movement as she encouraged women to be powerful; within her music and videos, ladies were portrayed as completely feminine and sexual all while maintaining control of their lives. She challenged the prior bra burning, men hating feminist, instead Madonna celebrated women's sexuality, rather than presenting it as oppressive and male dominated. She stated that "I may be dressing the typical bimbo, whatever, but I'm in charge... of my fantasies. I put myself in these situations with men, you know, and people don't think of me as a person who's not in charge of their life, okay. And isn't that what feminism is all about?" (Cohen, Phillip 2006, pp1) If she could be summed up in one word, Madonna would be equivalent to power.
"I have the same goal I've had ever since I was a girl. I want to rule the world"
Power is not only privileged throughout her music, but also through her own demeanour. Madonna was the first woman to gain good financial control in her industry, in generating over $1.2 billion in sales within her first decade as an entertainer. While shooting for her infamous Pepsi commercial in 1989, she refused to hold the company's can. She would not have herself defined and dictated by a corporate body. Once reaching the top, she stayed there, preserving her fame throughout her never ending change and experimentation. Oh shut up hipsters, this is a very clever strategy of hers. She has always remained in charge of her image and sound, as always, Madge is the epitome of power. In being a popstar chameleon, Madonna has been not only been an immense success, she has illustrated her excessive capability as an amazing business woman. Where before it would have been perceived as vulgar for girls to display such open ambition, Madonna affected this concept. She once famously said "I'm tough, ambitious, and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okay." If this doesn't make her cool, I don't know what will.
An open letter to people who openly complain that Madonna should act and dress appropriately for her age:
If you still looked like this at 53, wouldn't you want to flaunt your miraculously fabulous figure? Honestly, I'd love to look like that and I'm 17. As for acting appropriately, who the shivering shit cares? At that age, I wouldn't be worrying about social conventions for my demographic; I'd be a grown ass woman and I could do whatever I felt like, thank you very much.
I could probably go on about Madonna's impacts as a feminist, her support for the gay community, her being a style icon, her entreprenurship. Perhaps the predominant point for me when deciding to like Madonna was when reading about the first concert of her MDNA tour. It was launched this year on May 31 in Tel Aviv, Israel. In an attempt to host a peace concert, Madonna offered 580 tickets to various Palestinian and Israeli groups. Not all of them accepted, but what strikes me is some did. I like to think that Madge is not just discussing peacemaking but DOING SOMETHING. She employs her fame to create change, unlike many other useless celebrities (ahem, Kim Kardashian). Throughout her solo career, she has nurtured movement in a forward direction, whether it be for being able to have sexual freedom or peace. Because of this, I am proud to announce that I am now a firm believer in Madge's super power: her resonating impact. To me, Madonna is something like a real superwoman.
Recommended reading: Madonna and Gender Trouble - Reena Mistry