Madonna, the highest-grossing solo touring artist of all time, boasts an IQ of 140 and has authored a children’s book.
Madonna is a ray of light.
The Queen of Pop has accomplished more in six decades than most people do in a lifetime. As the highest-grossing solo touring artist of all time, the most affluent female musician in America, and an activist for many humanitarian causes, the Material Girl’s 60th birthday is a reason to highlight her many milestones.
Here are 20 things that make Madonna a one-of-a-kind woman who isn’t afraid to express herself.
1. She is the richest female musician in the United States, coming in ahead of Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Beyonce and Taylor Swift, according to Forbes. Her “Rebel Heart” tour, which ended in 2016, grossed $170 million. Forbes estimates that Madonna is worth $580 million, compared to Celine Dion’s $400 million.
2. In 2017, Billboard declared Madonna the “all-time top-performing female artist” since Billboard launched its Hot 100 list in 1958 — thanks to the fact that she has “a record (among all acts) of 38 top 10s hits, including 12 No. 1s.” Plus, the superstar has sold 64 million albums and singles in the U.S., and 12 of her albums are multi-platinum.
3. Born Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone, she chose the single stage name Madonna, which was also her mother’s first name. Her mom passed away at the age of 30 from breast cancer, when Madonna was just 5 years old. In 2016, Madonna told Billboard magazine that she considers herself a super control freak, which stems from the loss of her mother. “Obviously, you could say it has to do with my childhood, if you’re going to psychoanalyze me: My mother dying and me not being told, and a sense of loss and betrayal and surprise,” she said.
4. She follows a macrobiotic diet and incorporates a lot of sea vegetables, like seaweed, into her meals. In 2016, Self magazine reported that her trainer Craig Smith said she works out for at least 30 minutes, six days a week.
5. She published her coffee-table book “Sex” featuring erotic photographs, some of which depicted bondage, in 1992 — and it sold 150,000 copies in a single day, topping the New York Times Bestseller list. Many critics viewed the book as having gone over the edge. “A great deal of energy has been spend on making this book offensive, and it will certainly succeed on that score,”. Others love it to this day: Just last year, the Huffington Post noted that “‘Sex’ is still the most radical career move a pop star has ever made.”
6. Madonna depicted sadomasochism and bisexuality in 1992 with her song “Justify My Love,” which was banned from MTV. Despite its portrayal of explicit bedroom acts, ABC’s “Nightline” aired the video in conjunction with a Madonna interview — and weeks later it topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Her video “Erotica” was only aired three times before being pulled by MTV for being too sexually charged, and her 2001 video directed by then-husband Guy Ritchie, “What it Feels Like for a Girl,” was only allowed to play overnight because of its violent content.
7. She formed her first band, Breakfast Club, a new wave synthpop group, when she was just 22. She got her first record deal — with Sire Records — just two years later.
8. She’s been an AIDS activist since the ’80s, when some of her closest friends, like artist Keith Haring and choreographer Christopher Flynn, were diagnosed with the disease. She has supported charities like the American Foundation for AIDS Research and Bid 2 Beat AIDS.
9. “Like a Virgin,” the title track on Madonna’s second studio album, received strong reactions from the media and showcased her fearless exploration of sexuality with a music video that featured her in Venice, Italy wearing a white wedding dress. Music columnist Jim Farber wrote for Entertainment Weekly that the song raised the “Madonna-whore” ante. The song went on to become Madonna’s first No. 1 single.
10. Her 1989 song “Like a Prayer” was publicly condemned by the Pope for conveying disrespectful scenes of the church. And that wasn’t her only run-in with the Vatican: When she mock-crucified herself in her 2006 “Confessions” tour performance in Rome, a spokesman for the Vatican said, “This concert is a blasphemous challenge to the faith and a profanation of the cross. She should be excommunicated. To crucify herself during the concert in the city of Popes and martyrs is an act of open hostility.”
11. She debuted her iconic pink conical bra, designed by Jean-Paul Gauthier, during her Blonde Ambition tour in 1990. More recently, both Lady Gaga and Katy Perry wore reinterpretations of the bra while performing.
12. Town officials in Pacentro, Italy, the home of Madonna’s paternal grandparents, proposed constructing a 12-foot bronze statue of Madonna in 1988 in a small piazza near a ruined medieval castle. Residents ultimately voted against it because of her controversial reputation.
13. She kissed Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2003. The smooch shocked viewers everywhere, but just this year Spears downplayed its impact, noting that “no one slipped anyone the tongue … it was just a kiss — a nice kiss.”
14. She wrote her first children’s book, “The English Roses,” in 2003 which has since sold more than a million copies worldwide and been translated into 30 languages. The book is about four girls who attend school in London, but are jealous of a girl named Binah who they think has a perfect life. After finding out that they’re wrong, they invite Binah to join their group and she becomes one of the English Roses. ”Raising kids makes most people, including myself, grow up at least a little bit,” Madonna said at the time. ”It also makes us more responsible and more thoughtful about our own actions and their consequences for those around us.”
15. She directed her first film, “Filth and Wisdom,” about a Ukrainian immigrant cross-dresser, in 2008. The film made just $354,628 at the box office.
16. She’s been nominated for 28 Grammy Awards, and won seven. In 1992 she won best music video, long form for “Blond Ambition World Tour Live”; in 1999, she won for best pop album and best dance recording and best short form music video for Ray of Light; in 2000, she won for best song written for a motion picture, television or other visual media for the song “Beautiful Stranger”; and in 2007, she won best electronic/dance album for “Confessions on a Dance Floor.”
17. She has more than $100 million in artwork by Fernand Leger, Tamara de Lempicka, Man ray, Pablo Picasso, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.
18. She claims to have an IQ of 140 — making her a genius.
19. In 1989, Pepsi paid her $5 million to film a commercial that never aired because the company viewed her song “Like a Prayer” as too controversial. People magazine reported that Pepsico Inc. spokesman Tod MacKenzie said, “When you’ve got an ad that confuses people or concerns people, it just makes sense that that ad goes away.”
20. She opened a children’s hospital wing in Malawi in 2017, called Mercy James Institute of Pediatric Surgery and Intensive Care, and subsequently earned the nickname “Daughter of the Nation” from Malawi’s president, Peter Mutharika.
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