In our lifetimes few women have made such an impact on pop culture than Madonna. With each and every reinvention – and there have been many, from ’80s fashion icon to ’90s sex provocateur-turned-kabbalah hippy mum to ’00s disco revivalist, Madonna Louise Ciccone has challenged society’s notions of what a powerful woman looks like, how she’s “allowed” to act, and of course, express herself.
As Madonna celebrates her 60th birthday this week, it would be a borderline travesty if we didn’t pay tribute to the woman whose influence has seeped into our lives through her songs, music videos, movies (Desperately Seeking Susan yes, Swept Away maybe not), looks and scandals. Oh, the scandals.
Most of us can recall our first encounter with Madonna. For one of my friends, she wouldn’t have been born if her mum hadn’t heard ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ in a car park (“I’m keeping my baby”). Another confessed that she lost her virginity the same year as ‘Like A Virgin’ touched us for the very first time. On that note, here are some of my colleagues and friends’ first Madonna memories.
Mia Freedman, Mamamia co-founder.
I was about 12 and her song ‘Like A Virgin’ had just been released and I remember being quite scandalised by the lyrics and that she was singing about sex. I bought lots of rubber bangles and six years later I bought ridiculously expensive tickets to see her live when she came to Sydney. We were so far away we practically had nosebleeds and she was the size of my fingernail so I watched the whole concert on a screen.
Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ video: ICONIC. Image: GIPHY.
Mandy Nolan, comedian, author and Mamamia contributor.
When Madonna sang ‘Like A Virgin’ it was the same year I surrendered mine to a boy on the school football team with white blonde hair and a silver tooth. It was a fabulous theme song for what turned out to be a very disappointing encounter. I think the whole thing lasted pretty well as long as the pop song and fortunately it was before iPhones so there was definitely no film clip!
Grace Wilkie, lawyer.
One of Mum’s favourite stories to tell me is that I owe my life to Madonna. It was 1987 and my mum was celebrating her uni graduation. The drinks were flowing, and mum woke up the next day in a boy’s bed.
A few weeks and one persistent mysterious nauseating illness later, Mum realised the graduation encounter had left her with more than she’d bargained for. After receiving the results from her pregnancy test at the medical centre in the local shopping centre, it’s safe to say my small town country girl of a mother was distraught.
Then, as Mum was walked through the shops on her way to the car, what should she hear for the very first time but Madonna’s ‘Papa Don’t Preach’? It was a sign from the goddess herself that just couldn’t be ignored. Now, here I am!
Holly Wainwright, Head of Content, Mamamia.
‘Like a Virgin’. Madge on a gondola, gyrating under bridges. I had never seen anything like it. I couldn’t decide if this was the end of feminism, or the most confident woman I’d ever seen. TBH, I still can’t. And then there was Desperately Seeking Susan, when she became a defining style crush. If you’ve never seen Madge drying her pits with a public toilet’s hand dryer, you don’t know cool.
Desperately seeking armpit aeration. Tres cool. Image: GIPHY.
Leigh Campbell, Executive Editor, Mamamia.
My bestie Lauren and I did a dance in Year 5 at the talent night to ‘Like A Prayer’. We were naive and had no idea about anything so our dance was basically a mix of sex moves and the ‘up yours’ hand gesture.
All the parents died of laughter. Why the drama teacher let us do it I still don’t know to this day.
Life is still a mystery, no? Image: GIPHY.
Adam Bub, Commercial Editor, Mamamia.
I was five years old, and my sister was eight. She bought The Immaculate Collection on cassette tape because her best friend was obsessed with Madonna. When we took family road trips, out came The Immaculate Collection… and that was my induction into the Material Girl.
Every time the tape came up to ‘Justify My Love’ – her racy precursor to the Erotica era – my parents would fast-forward the tape because of all the heavy breathing. I became obsessed with wanting to know what ‘the naughty song’ was. It took me years to finally hear it!
Block your ears, kids. Image: GIPHY.
Amy Boyle, Sales Co-ordinator, Mamamia.
I remember the music video to ‘Ray of Light’ which was iconic. Also I’m a huge Britney Spears fan and so when Madonna worked with Britney in 2003 it was like seeing your idol’s idol – which made Madonna all the more impressive.
AND I FE-YAL! Image: GIPHY.
Nama Winston, Content Producer, Mamamia.
Madonna was the first concert I ever went to sans parents and my dad was insanely worried. My friend’s dad basically forced him to let us go. My dad sat outside Adelaide Oval the whole time. It was so embarrassing, but so worth it.
Polly Taylor, Page Editor, Mamamia.
I remember seeing her in A League of Their Own and thinking she was seriously bad-ass.
I think it was the first time in my life I’d seen a movie with a nearly all-female cast that carried an empowering message – and of course Madonna was front and centre.
A league of her own. Image: GIPHY.
Millie Carter, Designer, Mamamia.
I was about six and I can still remember the music video to ‘Cherish’ through my childhood eyes! It was so pretty, mystical – magical. And I believe it was then I realised… When I grow up, I wanna be a mermaid.
Mer-donna. Image: GIPHY.
Rikki Waller, Direct Sales Manager, Mamamia.
I remember hearing ‘Like A Virgin’ for the first time and bugging my mum for weeks about what a virgin was and how do I become one. I also watched her porno (Body of Evidence) with my first boyfriend…
Anna McDonald, Client Solutions Director, Mamamia.
I remember playing with friends while wearing lace gloves and bangles before realising it was for Madonna. First memory was watching her on Top of the Pops singing ‘Holiday’.
I remember singing “open your heart to me” in a friends bedroom while she explained what the lock and key really were. Also, I wanted the t-shirt with her on sooooo much (head thrown back, bare shoulders) and was top of my Christmas wish list but Santa didn’t get it. Wonder why.
What’s your first Madonna memory? Tell us in the comment section below.
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