All of us get older. It’s difficult to visualize yourself as a senior citizen when you’re still in your twenties and already on top of the world.
But that’s where singer Madonna is now. Back in the 1980s, she was a 20-something darling of the pop and dance music world around the globe. Now she’s 64, and only months away from turning 65.
At 28, Madonna had already experienced three extremely successful hit albums, a list of chart topping singles longer than your arm that included “Everybody,” “Burning Up,” “Borderline,” “Lucky Star,” “Like a Virgin,” “Material Girl,” “Crazy for You,” “Into the Groove,” “Angel,” “Dress you Up,” “Live to Tell,” Papa Don’t Preach,” “True Blue,” “Open Your Heart and “La Isla Bonita.”
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention a sizable role in the film “Desperately Seeking Susan,” which was lauded by New York Times film critic Vincent Canby as one of the 10 Best Films of 1985, and a concert performance that was part of the Who’s That Girl World Tour in June of 1987, which took place near Paris with an audience of over 130,000 people. At that time it broke every known record for the highest attended female concert of all time.
In a 2019 interview with the British Publication Guardian, she had this to say about that time in her life: “It took my breath away. I can’t begin to tell you. I remember the first concert I did on the Virgin tour, in Seattle, when everything became big and I had no way of being prepared for it. It literally sucked the life out of me, sucked the air out of my lungs when I walked on stage. I sort of had an out-of-body experience. Not a bad feeling, not an out-of-control feeling, but an otherworldly feeling that nothing could prepare you for.”
Over the next three decades she would continue with a musical winning streak, although she was never fully embraced as an actress, despite finally achieving acclaim and a Golden globe award for Best Actress as Eva Peron in the movie “Evita.”
Of that film, she said: “This is the role I was born to play. I put everything of me into this because it was much more than a role in a movie. It was exhilarating and intimidating at the same time. And I am proud of ‘Evita,’ more than anything else I have done.”
Her Significance to the LGBTQ Community
The Queer community has been there, all along, supporting Madonna since the release of “Everybody” and “Burning Up.” While the rest of America had turned their back on dance music, Madonna was wholeheartedly embracing it, providing plenty of material that was dance worthy for LGBTQ clubs around the world. Then there was her sense of fashion: unique and unusual and unlike anything else out there. Without question, those two elements are how she first caught the attention of queer fans on a national and global level.
But before there was Madonna the singer, there was Madonna the dancer. She had left her home state of Michigan to travel to New York in search of career success and fame and with every intention of following a career in dance. Along the way she became friends with many gay men, supportive of the LGBTQ community at large and, as her career led to a position of power, an advocate for those in need throughout the HIV/AIDS pandemic. To this day she reminds a steadfast ally to our community. She even turned down the opportunity to present the album of the year award at the recent Grammy Awards ceremony, instead recognizing the importance of and choosing to introduce the first trans woman performing at the Grammys.
Does America destroy its own Icons?
To a great degree in the United States, fans and the media are often judgmental of performers who start to show signs of aging. Especially women.
As has been the case in our particularly patriarchal society, many female actors and recording artists eventually turn to plastic surgery in an effort to retain a younger image.
As the years have passed and Madonna’s youthful beauty has diminished, she has turned to plastic surgery, as well. At first it was barely perceptible, but followed by injectibles and outer eye lifts, she began to take on an unexpected Asian look. Her recent appearance on the Grammy Awards showed us additional work had been done, and the face of a woman many called barely recognizable as Madonna.
She responded on Instagram.
“Once again I am caught in the glare of ageism and misogyny that permeates the world we live in. A world that refuses to celebrate women past the age of 45 and fills the need to punish her if she continues to be strong-willed, hardworking and adventurous. I have never apologized for any of the creative choices I’ve made nor the way that I look or dressed and I’m not going to start.”
Can Madonna dish it out but not take it?
In an interview with The Advocate in 2019, Madonna doesn’t deny the accusations many have said about her aberrant behavior towards other people around her.
“They … think I’m a bitch,” she said in the pages of The Advocate. “They already think I’m Atilla the Hun. They already compare me to Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein. I was never appalled by myself. I felt a little bit uneasy about certain things, but honestly I’ve learned to love myself more…”
That raises a question: if she does love herself as much as she claimed to in 2019, why did she feel the need to go to such an extent to change her appearance through plastic surgery? Did she not believe fans of her music would accept her aging?
Back to her response on Instagram:
“Instead of focusing on what I said in my speech, which was about giving thanks for the fearlessness of artists like Sam (Smith) and Kim (Petras), many people chose to only talk about close up photos of me taken with a long lens camera by a press photographer that would distort anyone’s face.”
Trying to deflect the reasons her face has changed so drastically by attributing it to one photographer, when it was clear through the television camera lens audiences everywhere were seeing the same thing, confirms a sad but human truth: despite all her claims of strength and bitchiness, she’s just as vulnerable to criticism as everyone else.
Should we still support her?
If you’re a life-long Madonna fan, the answer is a definite yes. If you don’t feel strongly about her music or her reputation one way or the other, consider this: throughout her career she has been a constant LGBTQ ally. Most recently, during an effort to recognize the importance of trans visibility, she was subject to harsh criticism from press, fans and fellow performers. Despite her intimations of being a queen of steel, it’s obvious the comments have seeped through the cracks. They hurt. They stung. If someone who stands up for you is victimized by another, what would you do?
Although Madonna won’t be performing on stage in Charlotte, she will be making an appearance nearby: in Atlanta on Tuesday, September 5. Tickets are currently listed at $149 – $560, but are expected to go higher as the concert date approaches.