Queen of the Imadge

Madonna has perpetually reinvented herself while maintaining her status as iconic pop diva over a mind-blowing 25-year career. American Singer Madonna, the top earning female singer in the world, has perpetually reinvented herself while maintaining...

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Published: Thu 18 Oct 2007, 11:39 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:45 AM

madoher status as iconic pop diva over a mind-blowing 25-year career.

From kinky virgin to Christian devotee, cowgirl to disco queen, exhibitionist to anti-war activist and beyond, the risque and border-pushing images Madonna has inhabited are countless.

The dancer and singer, who came from working-class origins in the northern state of Michigan, this week signed a groundbreaking 120-million-dollar music deal that seems destined to leave other artists in the dust as they struggle to navigate the digital age.

She was born Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone in 1958, to a father of Italian origin and a mother with French-Canadian roots. Her mother died in 1963 of breast cancer, and Madonna set off for New York City in 1977 with 35 dollars in her pocket.

She scraped together a living by posing for nude photographs, selling doughnuts, dancing, singing and playing music in smalltime bands before she finally broke out with her first big single 'Everybody' in 1982, followed by more big hits 'Lucky Star', 'Borderline', and 'Holiday'.

The 1985 release of 'Like A Virgin' propelled Madonna onto the international stage. It was followed up in 1986 with another disco anthem, 'Material Girl'.

Controversy followed, to the sound of synthesizers, as she brought sexuality into the living room: the breathy 1989 pop paean 'Like a Prayer' was set to a video of Catholic-educated Ciccone prostrating herself in church in a low-cut dress.

Still in her twenties, she climbed the showbiz ladder in comedy film roles, with a blonde perm in 'Desperately Seeking Susan' and a beauty spot in 'Who's That Girl?' Critics were less kind to her acting efforts than to her songs.

maRecord sales and film fees rocketed as the material girl reinvented her image with each new album.

She was paid 2.5 million dollars for her role in the 1993 erotic thriller 'Body of Evidence', where she burned herself into film goers' memories in typically provocative style, dripping hot candle wax onto a naked Willem Dafoe.

She was ranked the highest-earning female singer in the 2006 Guinness Book of Records, after pulling in 50 million dollars and passing the 150-million-disc sales mark.

Forbes business magazine ranked her the third most powerful personality in the United States in 2007, with annual revenues, including tour earnings, of 72 million dollars.

Her 1990 film 'Truth or Dare' (also titled 'In Bed with Madonna') and the 1992 book 'Sex' were non-fiction works, however. The first was a documentary of her Blonde Ambition concert tour, while 'Sex' was a pictorial record of fantasies, including a photograph of the singer hitchhiking naked.

"A lot of people are afraid to say what they want," she wrote in 'Sex'. "That's why they don't get what they want."

The early 1990s also saw perhaps her most striking image decision: the pointy cone-shaped bras she donned on her Express Yourself and Vogue tours.

A decade later she was writing books for children. 'The English Roses' (2003), a tale of schoolchildren in London, topped the New York Times bestseller list.

She married for the first time in 1986, to actor Sean Penn, but they divorced four years later. She was also romantically linked to another leading actor, Warren Beatty, with whom she starred in the 1990 adventure 'Dick Tracy'.

Madonna married another movie personality, British filmmaker Guy Ritchie, in 2000, and put down roots in Britain, buying at least five properties in London including a 14-million dollar house.

She had two children, daughter Lourdes in 1996 and, a son Rocco, with Ritchie, in 2000. In 2006 she made the news again by adopting David Banda, a young orphan from Malawi, and getting involved in aid projects in Africa.

In the late 1990s her music took off in a new direction, thumping to a new dance-flavored beat on her multi award-winning 1998 album 'Ray of Light'.

The period also saw her take a spiritual step seen as a potential move away from her sex kitten image, embracing Kabbalah, an Orthodox sect with ancient roots but a trendy modern-day following in Hollywood.

But the provocative instincts remained. In 2003 she grabbed the showbiz world's attention by clinching pop princess Britney Spears in a lingering kiss on stage at the 2003 MTV Music Video Awards.

"I know I'm not the best singer and not the best dancer, but I'm not interested in that," she said in 'Truth or Dare'.

"I'm interested in pushing people's buttons."

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