52 Things You Didn’t Know About Madonna
Today is Madonna’s 52nd birthday, and while she has decided to celebrate it with a guitar-shaped birthday cake and an intimate party at London’s Shoreditch House, we’re rounding up some of our favorite facts about the pop star after the jump. Feel free to add anything that we’ve missed in the comments!
1. Madonna was born Madonna Louise Ciccone on August 16, 1958 in Bay City, Michigan, which she once referred to as “a stinky, little town in Northern Michigan,” on national television.
2. She was raised in Pontiac, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.
3. Her mother, Madonna Louise, died of breast cancer in 1963.
4. Madonna was referred to as “Little Nonni” to distinguish her from her mother.
5. Her father, Silvio Anthony Ciccone, was a first-generation Italian American from Pacentro, Italy. He worked as a an engineer for Chrysler and General Motors.
6. Madonna was the third of six children: Martin, Anthony, Paula, Christopher, and Melanie. She was the eldest daughter.
7. Madonna once described her childhood self to Vanity Fair as a “lonely girl who was searching for something. I wasn’t rebellious in a certain way. I cared about being good at something. I didn’t shave my underarms and I didn’t wear make-up like normal girls do. But I studied and I got good grades…. I wanted to be somebody.”
8. In middle school, Madonna was known for doing cartwheels and handstands in the hallway and flashing boys her underwear.
9. Eventually her father got remarried to the family’s housekeeper. They had two additional children, and moved to a larger house in Rochester Hills.
10. Madonna was on the cheerleading squad at Rochester Adams High School.
11. After having to convince her dad to let her take ballet lessons, she received a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan.
12. She dropped out of college in 1977 and moved to New York City with only $35 in her pocket.
13. Madonna worked several minimum wage jobs to make ends meet, including one at a Dunkin’ Donuts.
14. She performed with several modern dance troupes, and studied dance with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
15. In 1979, Madonna was a backup dancer for a French disco artist named Patrick Hernandez. While in Europe, she became involved with a musician named Dan Gilroy and they formed a band called the Breakfast Club.
16. Madonna left Breakfast Club in 1980 to form another band, Emmy. Their music got the attention of a producer who landed her a meeting with Sire Records founder Seymour Stein, and in turn, a singles deal.
17. Madonna’s debut single, “Everybody,” came out on October 6, 1982.
18. Unhappy with the completed tracks tracks on her debut album, Madonna, she asked her boyfriend John “Jellybean” Benitez to help with the additional production work.
19. Madonna had her first Top 10 hit in 1984 with “Borderline.”
20. Madonna’s often-copied signature ’80s look was created by stylist and jewelry designer Maripol.
21. With 1984’s Like a Virgin, Madonna became an international star. It was her first number one album on the Billboard 200.
22. Family organizations tried to get the video for “Like a Virgin” banned for promoting premarital sex. They were even more upset after Madonna’s now infamous performance of the song at MTV’s Video Music Awards. As she recalls it:” I remember my manager Freddy shouting to me, ‘Oh my God! What were you doing? You were wearing a wedding dress. Oh my God! You were rolling around on the floor!’ It was the bravest, most blatant sexual thing I had ever done on television.”
23. Madonna had her film debut in 1985, first with a cameo as a club singer in Vision Quest, then with a much larger role in Desperately Seeking Susan.
24. She started dating Sean Penn while working on the video for “Material Girl,” and they were married on her 27th birthday in 1985.
25. Madonna’s first North American arena tour — The Virgin Tour — featured the Beastie Boys as the opening act.
26. In July of 1985, both Penthouse and Playboy published a number of nude photos of Madonna, which were taken when she first moved to New York. The media went nuts.
27. Madonna’s third album, True Blue, topped the charts in over 28 countries worldwide in 1986, and spawned three number one singles, “Live to Tell”, “Papa Don’t Preach” and “Open Your Heart.”
28. Madonna and Sean Penn filed for divorce in December 1987. While her lawyers blamed it on Penn’s drinking at the time, Madonna has explained, “I was completely obsessed with my career and not ready to be generous in any shape or form.”
29. In 1989 Madonna signed an endorsement deal with Pepsi. Her song “Like a Prayer” debuted in one of the TV spots that followed.
30. The Vatican spoke out against Madonna’s music video for “Like a Prayer” which features burning crosses, statues crying blood, and Madonna seducing a black Jesus.
31. In 1990, Madonna starred as “Breathless” Mahoney in Dick Tracy opposite of Warren Beatty. They dated while filming, but things fizzled out by the end of the year.
32. The Pope asked people not to attend Madonna’s Blond Ambition World Tour, which involved Madonna simulating masturbation on stage while caressing two male dancers. Her response: “I am Italian American and proud of it. […] The tour in no way hurts anybody’s sentiments. It’s for open minds and gets them to see sexuality in a different way. Their own and others.”
33. Madonna released her first greatest hits compilation, The Immaculate Collection, in November 1990. At the time, it was the best-selling compilation album by a solo artist in history.
34. The video for “Justify My Love,” one of the two new songs on Immaculate, was banned by MTV. It featured bondage and two girls kissing.
35. Madonna dated Vanilla Ice for eight months.
36. Truth or Dare, an intimate behind-the-scenes look at the Blond Ambition World Tour, came out in 1991.
37. The following year Madonna landed the role of Mae Mordabito in A League of Their Own. She also recorded the film’s theme song, “This Used to Be My Playground.”
38. Madonna founded her own entertainment company, Maverick, which included her own record label, Maverick Records, in 1992. The first release was Madonna’s controversial book, Sex, which featured photos by Steven Meisel.
39. After a series of sexual escapades (including handing David Letterman a pair of her underwear during an interview and asking him to smell it) many critics wondered if Madonna’s career was over.
40. Madonna toned things down in 1994 by releasing “I’ll Remember,” the theme song to With Honors.
41. Around this time she became involved with her personal trainer Carlos Leon.
42. After writing a letter to director Alan Parker, Madonna secured the title role of Eva Perón in Evita. Her performance earned her a Golden Globe for Best Actress. She also earned a Guinness World Record for the most costume changes in a film.
43. On October 14, 1996, Madonna gave birth to Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon. It was around this time that Sandra Bernhard introduced her to Kabbalah.
44. Ray of Light, the album that followed Lourdes’ birth, revealed a different side of the pop star, and earned her four Grammy awards. As she explains it: “This record, more than any other records, covers all the areas of life. I had recently joined Kabbalah and I had left off partying — but I had just had a baby, so my mood was complete, and I was incredibly thoughtful, retrospective and intrigued by the mystical aspects of life.”
45. “Frozen” was Madonna’s sixth number two single, giving her the records as the artist with the most number two hits. The song was banned in Belgium over accusations that it was plagiarized from Belgian songwriter Salvatore Acquaviva’s 1993 song “Ma Vie Fout L’camp.”
46. In 1999, Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, introduced Madonna to Guy Ritchie. On August 11, 2000, she gave birth to their son, Rocco Ritchie, and they were married at Skibo Castle in Scotland that December.
47. Her September 2000 release Music was Madonna’s first number one album since Like a Prayer.
48. The album that followed, 2003’s American Life, was the lowest selling album of her career.
49. Madonna’s first children’s book, The English Roses, debuted at the top of The New York Times Best Seller list and became the fastest-selling children’s picture book of all time.
50. Madonna’s tenth studio album, Confessions on a Dance Floor, won her a Grammy for Best Electronic/Dance Album. The first single, “Hung Up,” set a record by reaching number one in 45 countries.
51. In 2007, Madonna left Warner Bros. Records and became the founding artist for Live Nation Artists.
52. “4 Minutes” off of 2008’s Hard Candy pushed Madonna past Elvis Presley as the artist with the most top-ten hits.