Nobody quite embodies the Eighties like the ‘Material Girl’ from Detroit, Madonna Louise Ciccone.
In the 1980s Madonna showed herself to be a supreme manipulator of style and her own image, earning more money in that decade than any other female pop artist and appearing in the same year in both a nude pictorial in Penthouse magazine, and on the cover of Time magazine.
One of her first hits was the provocative song Like A Virgin (1984). The accompanying video was a self-conscious and calculatedly sexy cocktail with Madonna’s ‘coy’ lace undies and navel display set against the faux naivety of the lyrics and the symbolism of the crucifix.
That was followed by a string of successes that she promoted with a knowing, ironic and erotic image.
When it was discovered that she had starred in a low-budget soft porn film, A Certain Sacrifice, in 1979 her record sales actually rose!
Madonna was one of the few performers in the 1980s who possessed a talent for popularising underground trends just before they hit then mainstream.
Her movies were slammed by critics and her videos were slammed by the Vatican but she didn’t care.
She made statements that were slammed by everybody and she still didn’t care.
No other pop star (except perhaps Prince) was as self-possessed as Madonna. After all, the Eighties was the decade of Self.
The message behind her pop videos, songs and a book of sex photographs (1992) seemed to be that women should exploit their sexuality – Feminists were divided on whether to support or condemn her for using her body to promote her career, but it was Madonna’s business acumen and marketing prowess that made her an icon of the 1980s and 1990s.
But there is more to Madonna than meets the groin. She has certainly lived up to her name, by acting like a real Prima Donna.
Her marriage to Sean Penn was kept a strictly private affair to which only the brides closest 5000 friends were invited. Security was so tight that only 10,000 members of the press were allowed in.
The tabloids dubbed the couple ‘The Poison Penns’ after Penn nearly strangled a member of the paparazzi and ran over the foot of a Sun photographer.
By December the following year the material girl had filed for divorce. She changed her mind, filed again in January 1988 and then changed her mind again. Third time lucky, she finally served Penn with the papers (while dropping the assault charges she had taken out against him).
Madonna married her second husband, British film-maker Guy Ritchie, at Skibo Castle on 22 December 2000. They are now divorced.
Madonna is a distant relation of both Celine Dion and Camilla Parker Bowles. Both Dion and Madonna trace their lineage back to Zachary Cloutier, who died in 1708.