Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone—known today as the world-famous recording artist Madonna—was born to Catholic parents in Bay City, Michigan, on August 16, 1958. “My mother was a religious zealot,” Madonna recalls. “There were always priests and nuns in my house growing up.”
In 1976 Madonna was awarded a full scholarship to the University of Michigan's dance program, but she dropped out after two years and relocated to New York City to pursue a career as both a dancer and singer. In 1982 she recorded her first hit song, “Everybody,” and the following year Sire Records produced her first full-length album, Madonna.
In August 1985 Madonna married the actor Sean Penn, but the couple divorced just over two years later. Meanwhile, Madonna firmly established herself as a legend in the entertainment industry, releasing five highly successful albums and starring in four major motion pictures between 1985-90. She later married British director Guy Ritchie in 2000 and gave birth to their son, Rocco John Ritchie, that same year. The couple divorced in 2008, shortly after having adopted a child from Malawi that May. Madonna adopted a second child from Malawi in June 2009. For additional details about Madonna's professional and personal life, click here and here.
More than once in the course of her musical career, Madonna has offended many Christians with her unfiltered disrespect for their religious symbols and traditions. Her controversial 1989 music video, Like a Prayer, featured burning crosses (resembling those of the KKK), statues crying tears of blood, and Madonna herself seducing a black Jesus who was later arrested unjustly by a racist white police officer. During her worldwide “Confessions Tour” in 2006, Madonna wore a fake crown of thorns and performed part of her act in mock crucifixion upon a large suspended cross. And her 2015 “Rebel Heart” tour included highly sexualized pole dancers dressed as Catholic nuns.
Madonna was much less bold in 2012, when, for fear of offending the sensibilities of Muslims and thereby potentially opening herself to violent retribution, she abandoned her original plan to wear a “Terror Bride” outfit in the video for her new song, “Superstar.” Combining a traditional Iraqi bridal veil and a U.S. soldier’s uniform, the outfit was supposed to have served as a visual statement against war and the subjugation of women.
In February 2003, when the U.S. invasion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq was imminent, Madonna filmed an anti-war video titled “American Life,” which included scenes of: (a) stealth bombers and missile launches interspersed with images of the American flag and of Madonna urinating on a toilet; (b) a fashion show where, against a backdrop of war planes, scantily clad models wore camouflage-patterned clothing; (c) Iraqi children's faces juxtaposed with images of nuclear mushroom clouds; and (d) Madonna herself pulling the pin on a grenade and throwing it at a George W. Bush look-alike, who calmly picked it up and lit his cigar with it. But in April 2003, with the president's public approval ratings soaring in the early stages of the war, Madonna announced that she had decided not to release the video after all—out of “respect to the armed forces, who I support and pray for.”
In July 2007 Madonna sang her new song, titled “Hey You,” at a “Live Earth” concert in London, where the performers exhorted those in attendance to “combat the climate crisis” by reducing their “carbon footprints” via recycling and various lifestyle changes. In that song, Madonna urged people to do whatever they could to minimize their individual impact on the environment. The video that accompanied the song featured a host of images fraught with environmental symbolism—e.g., polar bears, melting ice caps, highways packed with automobiles, airliners in flight, and logging-industry trucks laden with felled trees.
Madonna herself, however, has long failed to abide by the carbon-reduction precepts that she exhorts others to follow. For example, during a four-month, 56-date world tour in 2006, the entertainer flew at least 100 people—including technicians, dancers, backup singers, managers, and family members—in private jets and commercial airliners all across the globe. It is estimated that the tour produced 651 tons of carbon dioxide—plus another 267 tons from Madonna's scheduled flights (with staffers) to fashion shows, guest appearances, and vacation spots. And these figures do not even take into account all the carbon emissions associated with the transport of the many thousands of fans who attended the Madonna concerts. The United Kingdom-based company Carbon Footprint estimated that Madonna's total carbon emissions for the 12 month-period preceding July 2007 equaled 1,017 tons—including the emissions from the numerous gas-guzzling vehicles that Madonna owned: a Mercedes Maybach, two Range Rovers, Audi A8s, and a Mini Cooper S. (The corresponding annual figure for the average American was about 19.8 tons.)
Madonna again promoted anti-global-warming activism throughout her “Sticky and Sweet” concert tour of 2008, even as she and her entourage produced as much carbon dioxide in 45 days, as approximately 160 Brits produced all year.
Madonna's 2008 music video, “Get Stupid,” featured several depictions of the earth being sliced up and destroyed. The causes of this destruction were unmistakable: American commercialism, consumerism, greed, and disregard for the environment—societal vices represented in the video by images of cash registers, corporate assembly lines, animal slaughterhouses, gluttony, obesity, dense highway traffic, Wall Street, oil wells, airliners in flight, factory smokestacks, and rising atmospheric temperatures. Another portion of the video grouped Republican presidential candidate John McCain in with a montage that also featured Adolf Hitler, Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei, and scenes of war, genocide, Third World poverty, and foreign government repression. Then, in what essentially amounted to the “heroes” section of the video, were images of Bono, the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, Bill Gates, Al Gore, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Michael Moore, Mother Teresa, and, in culmination, Democatic presidential nominee Barack Obama.
Madonna avidly supported Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. On the night Obama was elected, Madonna told her concert audience: “I'm so fu**ing happy right now! Woo!... Let's hear it for (Barack) Obama! It's the best day of my life.” Later in the performance, the stage was adorned with three large images of the new president-elect, each bearing the words “We won.” “Thank you, thank you, thank you, for making it possible,” Madonna said before leaving the stage. “Barack Obama—we are one!”
Four years later, Madonna likewise supported Obama's re-election bid. “Thank God for Michelle Obama and her husband too,” she said at a September 2012 concert in New York, subsequently ripping off her shirt to reveal an “OBAMA” tattoo painted across her lower back. Madonna also held a fundraiser for President Obama that fall. And at a Washington, DC concert, she told her fans: “Y’all better vote for fu**ing Obama, OK? For better or for worse, all right? We have a black Muslim in the White House! Now that’s some amazing shit. It means there is hope in this country. And Obama is fighting for gay rights, so support the man, godammit.”
Madonna currently has a net worth of about $800 million.
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