Madonna at 60 – from Michigan girl with just $35 in pocket to global megastar
She is an icon of pop erotica, the sultry superstar who has gloried in basques throughout her career.
And as she turns 60 on Thursday, chart queen Madonna will become the seductress who puts the Sex into sexagenarian.
In four decades of flirting with controversy, she has sold more than 300 million albums – and is already busy on her hotly-anticipated 14th studio release.
From tours alone, she has netted more than £1billion.
Tirelessly reinventing herself as she evolved from dancer to global megastar, Madonna Louise Ciccone has earned millions of adoring admirers – including a select few who have also won her rebel heart.
One of six children of Italian Catholic emigrants, Madonna was left devastated at five years old when her mum, whose name she shared, died of breast cancer. As a teen, she developed her defining rebel streak.
Wyn Cooper, who dated her as a fellow pupil at Rochester Adams High School in Michigan, remembers the pair’s mischief fondly.
He recalled: “We went skinny-dipping, and we used to drive around before school smoking pot and listening to David Bowie.”
But the intelligent teen, a straight-A student, also had an appetite to learn. Wyn said: “I’d loan her books and we’d discuss them. I was sort of her tutor.” On leaving school, Madonna won a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan.
But at 20 she dropped out – and took herself to New York. There, she waitressed at Dunkin’ Donuts. She boosted her pay posing nude for photography students for $30.
She sat twice for photographer Martin Schreiber, the class teacher, before striking up a brief relationship with him after their shoot.
“There was a fire in her,” Schreiber told us from his home in Paris. “I was a momentary infatuation for her. She was a lovely young woman.”
The photographer, now 72, later sold five of Madonna’s nudes to Playboy for a six-figure sum.
He added: “She had a rebelliousness, perhaps a resentment of her background, the restrictions of Catholicism.”
Challenging that upbringing would be a key theme – with religious imagery featuring frequently.
Madonna dedicated 1986 hit Papa Don’t Preach to Pope John Paul II. In 2006 the Vatican called for her excommunication when she staged a mock crucifixion on her Confessions tour – in Rome.
Her multiple reinventions also took her into film, with 1985’s Desperately Seeking Susan proving her screen breakthrough.
But it was fiercely flaunting her freedom that truly defined her.
In 1991 she was almost arrested in Canada for miming masturbation on her Blonde Ambition Tour.
Fans slated her 1992 book Sex, packed with explicit imagery, yet it sold 150,000 copies on its first day.
Unsurprisingly, her sexuality was not just in her art.
Ed Steinberg, who produced Madonna’s first music video – for Everybody, in 1982 – said: “Her reputation at the time was of a man-eater. She’d do what it took to get the help she wanted.” His girlfriend never left him in the same room with her.
“Do I think there’s some part of her that slept her way to the top?” asks the 67-year-old. “I know that. She seduced a number of producers and record people. The thing we like is that it wasn’t a clandestine thing – she acted like a male rock star.
“She had a large appetite for men and was unashamed about it.”
It was not just men she flirted with – she controversially kissed Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at the 2003 VMAs.
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The first of Madonna’s two marriages was in 1985, to actor Sean Penn, 57. They split four years later.
In 1996 she had daughter Lourdes, now 21, with fitness trainer Carlos Leon.
Then in 2000 she married British film director Guy Ritchie, 49. The pair had a son Rocco, now 18.
But she has also adopted four children from Malawi, where she has set up a charitable foundation – David Banda and Mercy James, both 12, and twins Esther and Stella Mwale, four.
As she hits 60, ex-love Schreiber hopes Madonna will, in the words of her No1 hit Vogue, once more Strike a Pose.
“She should let me photograph her again to show how beautiful she still is,” he says.
“She’s a good-looking, sexy, desirable woman, even now.”
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