Love her or loathe her, EVERYONE has an opinion on Madonna. So as Her Madgesty celebrates 60 years on the planet, we asked HuffPost staff around the world what she means to them.
For some, she served as a vehicle for coming out of the closet, for others it made them question their ideas about feminism. And one staffer admitted they couldn’t name a single one of her tunes (we’re still processing this information too).
Happy birthday Madge!
“I was gifted the 7″ single (look it up) of ‘Like A Virgin’ for my 13th birthday. Me and my friends spent my entire party dancing around my parent’s front room to it. None of us had a clue what the song was about, but I just remember thinking it was the greatest pop song of all time. It also signalled the start of my long love affair with Madge. This reached peak fanship when she released the ‘Erotica’ album in 1992. It signalled the start of the first real backlash against her after years of riding the crest of global superstardom, thanks to the huge success of ‘Get Into the Groove’, ‘Vogue’, ‘Like A Prayer’ and the iconic Blonde Ambition tour. Much of that backlash was down to Erotica’s S&M-lite imagery and lyrics, and the accompanying Sex book, which had the self-imposed protectors’ of society getting awfully hot under the collar at the sight of a very naked Madge, which is exactly what she wanted, of course. My girlfriend Claire was also obsessed with this era. Unfortunately, the naked men in the Sex book also made me realise that I definitely wasn’t into girls and so mine and Claire’s mutual love affair of Madonna - and our doomed relationship - came to an abrupt end. Sorry Claire... but thank you your Madgesty!”
Matt Bagwell, Executive Editor, Entertainment, HuffPost UK
I like her music and there's no denying she's an absolute icon, but I feel since around the mid 2000s she's appeared to follow trends rather than setting them. I think the first time I thought this was when she went really heavy on parkour athletes for the ‘Jump’ video and subsequent tours even though parkour's popularity peaked about a year beforehand. It just felt a bit out of place and not the kind of bandwagon-jumping she'd engaged in until then.
Chris York, Senior Editor, HuffPost UK
“I was born in 1977, so Madonna was always just there. I don’t remember her arriving; she was just part of the landscape - on Top of The Pops, mostly, in film and in the news for various, often religion-related controversies. I didn’t buy her albums, but I admired what she stood for. At that awkward age of 13, not sure whether to strut my stuff or cover up in a big baggy T-shirt, uncomfortable as I was in my newly teenage body, here came Madonna: unashamedly enjoying her own sexuality to the point of mocking her targets with a Jean-Paul Gaultier conical bra. She didn’t seem to behave for anyone, was probably unbearable up close, but she was owning it. To a shy 13-year old, that was kind of amazing. To a by now less shy 41-year-old, Madonna at 60 is just as inappropriate and just as amazing for it. Happy Birthday Your Madge.”
Polly Curtis, Editor-in-Chief, HuffPost UK
“Truth is, I feel a bit torn about Madonna nowadays. I’ve loved her music, and her ‘fuck you’ attitude, since I was a teenager… but as a woman in my mid-thirties starting to think for the first time about how women age and how to embrace different eras of my life, I can’t help feeling a bit disappointed that Madonna at sixty looks nothing like any other sixty year old woman I’ve ever seen. I sort of want her to own it, make it fabulous and look fun. But here’s the bit I’m torn about - why the hell should she? She has never given a crap about her critics, and that’s what we love about her. I suppose it’s fitting that she’s still making me feel conflicted about feminism and womanhood in the same way I did the first time I was really old enough to recognise how screwed up the lyrics to ‘Like A Virgin’ are. But what a tune. Argh.”
Jess Brammar, Head of News, HuffPost UK
“To me, Madonna represents endurance. Over her 35 years in the public eye, people have thrown every insulting comment they can at her - whether that’s about her age, her life choices, her talent, her looks or her career - but no matter what obstacles she’s faced, Madonna always stuck to her guns, kept going and eventually overcame whatever stood in her way. You don’t necessarily need to be a fan of her music or agree with everything she’s ever said and done, but there’s no denying that to be 60 years old in an industry that celebrates and puts so much emphasis on youth, and remain one of the most talked-about and divisive people in it, is truly remarkable.”
Daniel Welsh, Entertainment Reporter, HuffPost UK
In all honesty, I couldn't even name three of her songs...
Haydn Mclaughlin, Video Programmer, HuffPost UK
“Madonna and the word controversy tends to go hand in hand. But with stripper culture becoming mainstream culture, everyone knowing how to twerk while wearing bondage on stage, Madonna’s conscious act of pushing things forward doesn’t appear to be daring anymore. But a few years ago, while watching ‘The Carrie Diaries’, there’s a scene set in the 80s where Carrie Bradshaw gets ready for a Madonna inspired shoot and when heading back to her internship in the same outfit, her puffy pink sweetheart cut dress is seen as being too explicit and wild. What we’d now wear to an 80s fancy dress party was once a symbol for pushing womanhood and sexuality forward. Though Madonna’s pointy bra ceases to have the shock factor anymore, I don’t think we should forget that Madonna and the machine behind her were breaking down glass ceilings, way before it was 2018 and way before being openly sexual was the norm.”
Tahmina Begum, Style Writer, HuffPost UK
“I’ve always been a fan a Madonna. In the early 80s, I remember belting out ‘Like A Virgin’ while dancing around the living room with my mum. Looking back, a 5-year-old singing this was probably inappropriate, but looking back, when has Madonna ever been appropriate? This is part of her appeal, she’s always pushed boundaries and in turn, her fans have followed. I love the classics, from ‘Holiday’ to ‘Like A Prayer’, however, the album that had the most impact on me was ‘Ray Of Light’. This was around the time that I came out and I just remember how free this album made me feel. Madonna hasn’t always got it right, but she has never been afraid to reinvent herself. I think everyone should try and be a little more Madonna and shake things up a bit - the world would definitely be a better place! All hail, the Queen of Pop!”
Dave Leonard, Specialist Director, Ryot Studios
It was around the summer of 1991 in Mexico City when I remember listening to ‘Material Girl’ and ‘Vogue’ for the first time. ‘The Immaculate Collection’, recently released in Mexico, struck a nerve in me. I knew, even though being 7 years old, that her music was something else. I can't say I'm a hardcore Madonna fan, but I won't deny I'm constantly trying to learn how to vogue (I was born without rhythm) and of course, shower singing and lip-syncing to her hits. As other artists, she's had her ups and downs, but there’s no doubt why she is THE Queen of Pop. I still have and cherish that CD, one of my late father’s belongings.
Mauricio Lechuga, Social Media, HuffPost Mexico
“To me, Madonna is the epitome of ‘Pop Queen’. She’s an absolute icon of pop royalty and fashion. What immediately springs to mind is her standout looks - from her cone bra to her Grammy Awards kimono (so inspiring it was chosen by four out of eight drag queens in a ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ challenge). Then there’s her incredible back catalogue of hits that never age (‘Like A Virgin’ is my go-to karaoke song), and of course all those fabulous 80s hairstyles that inspired many big hairdos of my own about 20 years after her. I also can’t help but think of her falling off the stage at The BRITs (watch the video above, sorry Madge). I can’t believe she’s turning 60.”
Becky Barnes, Social Media Editor, HuffPost UK
“For me, Madonna will always be the woman who pushes the boundaries between controversy and genius and somehow manages to survive. Was her 1990 ‘Vogue’ video guilty of cultural appropriation, or did it celebrate the LGBT+ people of colour who created the iconic “voguing” dance style? Was her 2003 VMA kiss with Britney empowering, or just another example of faux-lesbian staging choreographed for the male gaze, rather than genuine female enjoyment? Is Madonna progressive or simply a believer that “all publicity is good publicity?” I don’t think we will ever understand her motives, or find the answers to these questions. But isn’t it great that years on, we’re still asking them?”
Rachel Moss, Lifestyle Reporter, HuffPost UK
Madonna has always been yesterday's superstar to me. 'Material Girl' came out 9 years before I was born! She sits in the same place as Bowie and Iggy Pop, legends who hit their peak before I came into the world. I think the first time I even heard of her was when she kissed Britney on stage in 2003 - when I was 10 . Britney and S-Club were my first loves - don't judge me!
Connor Parker, Editorial Intern, HuffPost UK
“I’ve always been a Kylie fan. My first boyfriend was on Team Madonna. Growing up with our bedrooms wallpapered with Smash Hits posters of our favourite pop stars and their song lyrics, weekends would regularly involve a BMX ride down to the local Woolies to snap-up their latest singles on cassette (yes, cassette tape!). Dating in our 20s, after a few drinks, it was war! “I see Kylie’s new single is out... has a whiff of number 2 about it,” Malc would say. “I hear Madonna’s new film is going straight to DVD,” I would respond. In the end it didn’t matter. Both are icons. And I have Malc to thank for introducing me to what a classic pop album her debut is (many an evening has been spent dancing round my kitchen to Borderline), YouTube videos of her MTV performances (her 1990 Marie Antoinette performance of Vogue takes pop royalty to the next level), and we were lucky enough to get front row tickets to 2007′s Live Earth at Wembley and witness her having A LOT of fun with a boombox.”
Andy Dangerfield, Executive Editor, Distribution, HuffPostUK
“I have never previously confessed to this but when Die Another Day was released in 2002 it quickly became 11-year-old me’s favourite James Bond film (I know, I know). I just loved Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry hanging out in Cuba and that ice palace. Of course this meant the Madonna soundtrack was a pretty huge part of my life for the subsequent months I watched it on repeat. The song is now something I look back on with that nostalgia you can only have for things that you later found were really a bit terrible, but in all fairness if anyone is going to make fencing look cool then it’s got to be Madge.”
Sophie Gallagher, Lifestyle Reporter, HuffPost UK