She’s played a virgin and a whore, a blushing bride and a gold digger. Madonna Louise Ciccone turns 50 this year; she’s spent the last 25 years of her life in the public eye. During that time she’s been hailed for her style, condemned for her sexuality and adored by multitudes.
When Madonna does something people notice. And that’s just the way she likes it. A change in outfit or hairstyle–and there have been many–can start a fashion revolution. And a new single or video brings forth ardent fans as well as detractors. Whatever you think of her, she’s never boring.
Here’s a look at her first 25 years as a star.
The dance chart success of Madonna’s double A-side of “Burning Up” and “Physical Attraction” convinces Sire Records to produce an album.
The self-titled album sells three million copies worldwide. Millions of teenage girls don fingerless gloves and black rubber bracelets.
1984: The Madonna album spawns three hit singles – “Holiday,” “Lucky Star” and “Borderline.”
“Like A Virgin” then catapults the singer into the stratosphere as does her appearance at the first MTV Music Video Awards where she dresses like a bride.
1985: The Material Girl debuts and the singer’s “Like a Virgin” album is certified 5x platinum.
But not everything Madonna does is successful; she receives mixed reviews of her acting in the film “Desperately Seeking Susan.”
1986: “True Blue” is released. The album includes the chart-topping singles, “Papa Don’t Preach” and “La Isla Bonita.” “”Shanghai Surprise,” Madonna’s movie with and hubby Sean Penn is released; the singer wins a Golden Raspberry for Worst Actress.
1987 Madonna’s next movie, “Who’s That Girl?” tanks while her soundtrack album for the movie soars to the top of the charts.
1988: The residents of Pacentro, Italy unveil a 13-foot statue of the star wearing a bustier. The Pope, who prefers statues of the other Madonna, is not amused; the Vatican urges fans to boycott Madonna’s Italian tour.
The singer again tries her hand at acting, starring in David Mamet’s play, “Speed the Plow.” Reviews are not good.
1989: Madonna divorces Penn, citing irreconcilable differences. But the singer consoles herself with a $5 million endorsement deal from Pepsi. “Like a Prayer” debuts in a commercial for the soft drink maker.
Two months later, the video for “Like a Prayer” debuts. Religious groups threaten to boycott Pepsi in protest of the controversial video, which shows her kissing a black saint and dancing in front of a field of burning crosses.
In April, the singer goes on tour with Blonde Ambition, hitting 27 cities. It sells out everywhere but Italy where the Pope is still trying to persuade people to boycott her. That same year, Rolling Stone names her the “Image of the Eighties” and MTV pulls the video for the newly released “Justify My Love,” for its highly charged sexual content. The video includes S&M scenes, lesbian scenes and lots of Madonna’s trademark groping of herself.
1991: “Truth or Dare,” a documentary chronicling Madonna’s Blonde Ambition Tour, is released. Finally, Madonna achieves box office success.
1992: More controversy erupts upon the release of the album “Erotica” and the simultaneous release of the book Sex. Surprisingly, the furor actually hurts sales of the album. “Erotica” became the first album since her debut to yield no number one hits.
Photographer Steven Meisel shot most of the pictures for the book, while Madonna “wrote” it.
Naomi Campbell, Isabella Rossellini, rappers Big Daddy Kane and Vanilla Ice, gay porn star Joey Stefano, and nightclub owner Ingrid Casares also appear in the photos.
Madonna evidently wanted to create some sort of decadent Weimar Republic vibe for the dual project. In the album video she’s made up to look like a cross between Joel Grey in “Cabaret” and Marlene Dietrich with–inexplicably–a little Barbra Streisand on the side.
For the book party Madonna rejects 1920 Berlin for the Bavarian countryside, opting to wear a sexed up version of lederhosen.
1993: The Girlie Show World Tour sees Madonna dress as a whip-cracking dominatrix surrounded by topless dancers. The dominatrix theme continues in the movie “Body of Evidence,” which had viewers and critics begging the whip-cracking singer for mercy.
1994: CD Review names Madonna Diva of the Decade and, just to show that she deserves that distinction, Madonna creates a ruckus as a guest on the David Letterman Show. The singer uses the f-word 13 times, tells Letterman that he’s no longer cool and then refuses to leave. A few months later the pair appear together as presenters on the MTV Video Music Awards.
1995: Madonna’s streak of top 40 hits is broken when “Bedtime Story” fails to climb above 42. The singer had had 32 consecutive top 40 hits
1996: “Evita” is released to critical acclaim; the soundtrack becomes her 12th platinum album.
Madonna gives birth to her first child, Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon, the fruit of her relationship with boyfriend/personal trainer Carlos Leon.
1997: A quiet year for Madonna, who manages to mostly stay out of the limelight and makes few public appearances. Though she does show up to collect a Golden Globe for Best Actress for her work in “Evita.” She also ends her relationship with Leon.
1998: Madonna goes mystical and starts dressing in saris and painting herself with henna. “Ray of Light” is released and goes on to win four Grammy Awards. At some point in the year she meets future husband Guy Ritchie at a luncheon hosted by Trudie Styler, Sting’s wife.
Madonna tops the singles charts once again with her single “Beautiful Stranger,” recorded for the movie “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.”
2000> Madonna and best gay pal Rupert Everett get drunk and make a movie about a gal and her best gay pal who get drunk and have a baby. “The Next Best Thing,” one critic quips, “is not Madonna’s acting.
In August Madonna has a real-life baby, Rocco John. She later marries his father, Guy Ritchie, at a Scottish castle. Lourdes is the flower girl, Ritchie and Rocco wear kilts.
2001: Madonna goes out on her first tour in eight years, the Drowned World Tour.
“Don’t Tell Me” becomes her 34th top 10 single and surpassestThe Beatles to become the second artist behind Elvis Presley with the most Top 10 hits.
2002: Madonna and hubby Guy Ritchie collaborate on the movie “Swept Away,” about a couple who get shipwrecked. Turns out the movie should have been lost at sea. She’s nominated for a Golden Globe, however, for her work on another movie: “Die Another Day,” for which she writes and performs the theme song.
2003: War protester, children’s book author and lesbian tranny. Those are Madonna’s three faces this year.
She releases “American Life” to mixed reviews and a mini controversy because the original video shows the singer tossing a grenade at a George W. Bush lookalike. It is pulled. Madonna’s foray into kiddie lit, The English Roses, is kicked off at a star-studded release party in London.
But the big news of the year is the kiss. At the VMA Awards Madonna kisses Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera during a performance. Britney’s life begins its downward trajectory. Coincidence?
2004: Madonna tours 20 North American and European cities for her Reinvention Tour, the highest earning concert of the year.
2005 Madonna returns to her dance pop roots with the release of “Confessions On A Dance Floor.” Her 10th studio album receives rave reviews and sells 12 million copies worldwide. On the homefront, Madonna poses for Vogue magazine as a proper English lady, riding to hounds and feeding the chickens on her lavish country estate. Tally ho! Pip, pip!
2006: Madonna embarks on her Confessions Tour, which is partly a promotion of her latest album and partly an expression of all her various selves. The use of Christian iconography in the show prompts protests from various religious groups–just like old times.
Madonna and Guy Ritchie adopt a boy from Malawi, leading to two years of hearings on the issue. Critics accuse the singer of using her celebrity to get around Malawi’s adoption laws. A judge this year finds in favor of the couple, who have been raising the boy, David, in London since 2006.
2007: Madonna is named the fourth wealthiest woman in entertainment by Forbes. Madonna leaves Warner Music Group for a deal with concert promoter Live Nation reportedly worth $120 million over 10 years. Does this mean we can expect to see the Material Girl prancing around in her underwear at age 60?
2008: “Hard Candy,” Madonna’s last album with Warner Brothers is released. The album reaches number 1 in 37 countries. Madonna is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Justin Timberlake, who contributes to the new album
Shortly after her 50th birthday in August, Madonna embarked upon the Sweet and Sticky Tour with 42 shows in 30 cities in Europe and North America.