Trigger Warning: This post contains the description of sexual assault and may be triggering to survivors.
I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about comparing Miley Cyrus’ sexual antics to Madonna’s thought-provoking ways of the 1980s. Just to clarify, Madonna’s the best and no one can ever compare, ok? But in the November issue of Harper’s Bazaar, Madonna writes a strikingly candid letter about her nonconforming teenage days, being sexually assaulted during her first year of living in New York City, her provocative actions, finding religion, and enduring several never-ending adoption processes.
During her high school years, Madonna didn’t want to be like everyone else because that just wasn’t cool. She said that she turned herself “into a real man repeller”, by refusing to shave her legs/armpits, refusing to wear makeup, and she even wore tied scarves over her head “like a Russian peasant”. She wanted people to like her and her nonconformity.
Madonna during the early years
Although it wasn't all she expected it to be, Madonna moved to New York because she felt her eccentricity fit in there. Within her first year of living in “The Big Apple” however, Madonna recalls being held up at gunpoint, having her apartment robbed three times, and being “raped on the roof of a building I was dragged up to with a knife in my back”. While trying to live out her dance career, Madonna would pose as a nude model for art students and when the going got tough, she would often cry in her small apartment. She was “hell-bent on surviving”, even when she felt her life was unbearable.
She eventually started shaving, wearing crucifixes around her neck, and started saying “Jesus was sexy”. As Madonna says, “Yes, I like to provoke; it’s in my DNA. But 9 times out of 10, there’s a reason for it.” But at the age of 35, Madonna realized that she wanted to be something more than a sexual provocateur and that’s when she found Kabbalah. The religion inspired her to ask questions and debate topics, which she felt was her "kind of place".
After re-marrying and living in dysphoria in London, Madonna realized that she “had an embarrassment of riches”, and wanted to help children who didn’t have families. She went through a series of grueling adoption processes for her son David, and her daughter, Mercy James. When she was adopting David she was accused of child trafficking, and during the adoption of Mercy she was seen as an unfit mother because she was then divorced from Guy Richie. Luckily, she was able to win both her cases. As Madonna says, “looking back, I do not regret one moment of the fight.”
Madonna's ambitious self today
Now Madonna directs films and builds girls’ schools in Islamic countries. She says that the idea of being daring has now transformed into her norm. At the end of her letter, she leaves readers with the idea to be daring as well. When this advice is coming from one of the mamas of controversy, I think we can all accept her challenge.
Thanks to Harper's Bazaar
Images via TIME, Rolling Stone, and People Magazine