Today (16th August) we celebrate the 60th birthday of shape-shifting entertainer Madonna. Here we take you through 60 facts you may not know about her to honour the undisputed Queen of Pop.
1. Madonna’s first top 10 hit was ‘Borderline’ released in 1984.
2. She turned down the offer of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1990
3. She starred opposite her then husband Sean Penn in 1986’s ‘Shanghai Surprise’. The film cost $17m to make and grossed $2m at the box office.
4. In 2002 Madonna became the only actress to receive Razzie awards for Worst Supporting Actress (Die Another Day), Worst Screen Couple (Swept Away) and Worst Actress (Swept Away) in the same year.
5. She won a Best Actress Golden Globe in 1997 for her role in Evita beating stiff competition in the form of Frances McDormund, Debbie Reynolds, Glenn Close and Barbra Streisand.
6. Madonna has been vegetarian since she was 15.
7. The controversy surrounding her 1989 ‘Like a Prayer’ video resulted in her losing out on a lucrative sync deal which would have seen the song soundtrack a Pepsi commercial. Video director Mary Lambert told Rolling Stone Magazine that her intention was to challenge people’s prejudices and ‘speak about ecstasy and to show the relationship between sexual and religious ecstasy. I think that subconsciously a lot of people understood this and were either enthralled or outraged.’
8. Madonna is in the Guinness World Records as the world’s most successful female recording artist of all time, having sold over 300 million records globally.
9. Gwyneth Paltrow was Madonna’s maid of honour in her 2000 wedding to Guy Ritchie.
10. She has had the most number ones across the Billboard charts with a total of 156 number ones, 12 of which were on the Billboard Hot 100 and 43 on the Hot Dance Club Songs. In addition, she has scored 38 top 10 singles on the Hot 100, more than any artist in music history.
11. Madonna named her daughter Lourdes after the town of the same name in South Western France. Madonna’s mother (also named Madonna) wanted to visit the town because the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared there in 1858.
12. Not just a phenomenal performer and recording artist, Madonna has an IQ of 140.
13. Madonna bought the Hollywood Hills mansion originally built for old Hollywood icon Rudolph Valentino.
14. Madonna is the most successful female artists in terms of UK number one albums only beaten by The Beatles and Elvis Presley overall.
15. The top 5 Spotify streamed Madonna tracks are ‘Like a Virgin’, ‘Hung Up’, ‘Holiday’, ‘La Isla Bonita’ and ‘Like a Prayer’ in descending order.
16. Only Elvis Presley has had more singles in the UK charts.
17. Madonna’s half-time show in 2012 was the most watched in Superbowl history
18. G major is the most common key for Madonna’s music with 17 songs using it.
19. Madonna is the wealthiest female musician in America.
20. Madonna attended the University of Michigan from 1976 – 1978 on a dance scholarship.
21. Madonna grew up in the Rochester Hills area of Michigan, a place she was keen to escape as soon as possible.
22. Madonna’s mother (also named Madonna) died aged 30 when Madonna junior was only five years old.
23. Madonna’s Dad Silvio Ciccone was an engineer by trade. The son of Italian immigrants, he was the first of his family to earn a degree.
24. Madonna’s mother Madonna Louise (née Fortin) was of French-Canadian descent.
25. Madonna shares ancestors with Celine Dion through her mother’s family line.
26. Her childhood friend Moira McFarland recalls watching Madonna dominate the dancefloor at a holiday camp they hitchhiked to aged 12. She says that watching the way she captivated everyone with her dancing was the moment she knew her friend was destined for stardom.
27. Madonna’s siblings are Anthony (b.1956), Martin (b.1957), Paula (b.1959), Christopher (b.1960), Melanie (b.1962), Jennifer (b.1968) and Mario (b.1969). Madonna was born between Martin and Paula in 1958. Her father remarried three years after the death of Madonna snr, his second wife Joan is the mother of Jennifer and Mario.
28. Madonna married her first husband actor Sean Penn aged 27 in 1985. The pair met on the set of her Material Girl video the year before their wedding. They divorced in 1989 but have remained friends.
29. Madonna began a relationship with her Cuban-born fitness instructor Carlos Leon in 1995. She became pregnant with her first child Lourdes the same year in what she described as a ‘happy accident’. The couple broke up in 1997.
30. Mutual friends Sting and his wife Trudie Styler introduced director Guy Ritchie and Madonna. The couple married in 2000 divorcing in 2008. Together they had son Rocco in 2000.
31. Madonna has six children; Lourdes Leon (b.1996), Rocco Ritchie (b.2000), David Banda Mwale Ciccone (b.2005), Mercy James Ciccone (b.2006), Estere & Stelle Ciccone (b.2012).
32. Madonna dropped out of university in 1978 to be a dancer in New York.
33. In the early ‘80s she began performing on the New York club circuit as a singer as well as a dancer.
34. In 1982 Madonna signed to Sire Records releasing her first single ‘Everybody’.
35. Madonna’s third single ‘Holiday’ became a worldwide hit.
36. She wanted to produce her first album but as a she was a novice the record company wouldn’t permit it. She learned quickly and took over production from Like a Virgin onwards.
37. According to her brother Christopher he was employed as her dresser because she was embarrassed about anyone else seeing her naked. He suggests this is due to their Catholic upbringing.
38. In 1985 nude photographs from her art modelling days surfaced. This proved to be a turning point for Madonna; she had nothing to hide anymore so felt empowered to push boundaries.
39. Carlton Wilborn, a dancer on her Blond Ambition and Girlie Show tours has said that Madonna always wanted to ensure that her dancers felt like her equals. He and his colleagues were made to feel like rock stars.
40. In 1992 Madonna founded her own entertainment company, Maverick. It consisted of a record label (Maverick Records), film production company (Maverick Films), and associated music publishing, television broadcasting, book publishing and merchandise divisions. The joint venture with Time Warner paid Madonna an advance of $60m. The royalty rate was 20%, the highest rate at the time only equalled by Michael Jackson’s arrangement with Sony the previous year.
41. 1992 was a controversial year for Madonna with the simultaneous release of her sexually explicit coffee table book ‘Sex’ and sex and romance concept album ‘Erotica’.
42. Supermodel Naomi Campbell and rappers Vanilla Ice and Bid Daddy Kane are amongst the famous people to appear in the sexually explicit pages of ‘Sex’ (1992).
43. The iconic cone bra costume from Madonna’s 1990 Blonde Ambition tour was designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier and sold for $52,000 in a 2012 auction.
44. Madonna has been experimenting with fashion from day one but one of her most memorable looks is the teen bride outfit from her 1984 MTV Video Music Awards appearance. This was the first year of the awards, which were conceived of as an antidote to the Grammys.
45. Known for her penchant for interesting lingerie at the time, Madonna kept fans on their toes by wearing some extravagant outer wear at the 1990 VMAs. She performed Vogue as Marie Antoinette.
46. Between 1985 and 1991 Madonna channelled style icon Marilyn Monroe. She attended the 1991 Oscars alongside Michael Jackson in a diamond necklace reportedly worth $17m.
47. Madonna maintains an enviable figure thanks in large part to pilates.
48. In 2013 Madonna attended the GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Awards dressed in a boy scout uniform. This was a protest against the organisation banning gay scout members.
49. After the birth of her first child Lourdes, Madonna became interested in Eastern mysticism and Kabbalah, a school of thought derived from Judaism. This heavily influenced her musical output, especially 1998’s ‘Ray of Light’.
50. During a performance of ‘Hollywood’ at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards Madonna passionately kissed both Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.
51. During her Sticky & Sweet tour (2008) Madonna played the guitar riff to metal band Pantera’s ‘A New Level’.
52. Madonna’s videos ‘Justify My Love’ (1990) and ‘What It Feels Like For a Girl’ (2001) were both banned from MTV. ‘Erotica’ (1992) was only played after midnight.
53. Madonna was unanimously condemned by the Puerto Rican House of Representatives when she held the country’s flag between her legs in a 1993 concert.
54. Beastie Boys were the support act for Madonna’s first tour, ‘The Virgin Tour’.
55. Madonna was Prince’s first choice for his muse in Graffiti Bridge (1990), but she politely turned it down stating that the script was ‘a piece of shit’.
56. Madonna has authored 7 picture books and 12 children’s stories.
57. Madonna has cited Debbie Harry of Blondie and Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders as her biggest musical influences.
58. In 2008 Madonna was inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame by Justin Timberlake
59. In 2017 delivery company FedEx refused to give Madonna her package for a week, believing she was an imposter.
60. Let’s end with a personal quote from Madonna, which we think sums her up brilliantly. In the April 1991 issue of Vanity Fair she said ‘I sometimes think I was born to live up to my name. How could I be anything else buy what I am having been named Madonna? I would either have ended up a nun or this.’