from the May Issue
US pop icon Madonna has begun her legal defense in a Malawian court as workers at one of the singer’s charity projects attempt to sue for unfair dismissal, a tribunal official said Monday.
Eight staff at the failed $15 million Raising Malawi Academy for Girls (RMAG) lodged the action at the end of March, claiming they were let go without proper procedures.
The star said “there is nothing unfair about the termination of the applicants’ employment given the termination of employment was necessitated by genuine economic reasons,” in documents filed last week by lawyer Davis Njobvu.
Madonna said the decision not to continue funding the academy project was taken by her charity Raising Malawi Inc. “after carefully reviewing its financial commitments and future plans and was made in good faith.”
Led by Anjimile Oponya, the former head of the school, the workers allege they were forced to sign a termination agreement they describe as “unfair and unconstitutional”.
Madonna, who adopted children David Banda and Mercy James from Malawian orphanages, said the charity had proposed to pay them more than they were due on the condition they signed a “confidentiality agreement.”
The pop star also said Raising Malawi, a US-registered foundation providing funds for the school’s construction, was not directly implicated in the affair and it was RMAG that “would be responsible for any matters relating to the applicants’ employment.”
She said RMAG was “ready and willing to pay the applicants their retrenchments and redundancy benefits calculated in accordance with the Employment Act and the laws of Malawi.”
A hearing of the application to strike out Raising Malawi as a party to the action has been set for Wednesday in Blantyre.
Madonna announced in January that she was reviewing the direction of Raising Malawi, which had originally planned to establish an academy offering 500 scholarships to girls from impoverished backgrounds.
In a statement, she said she had realized the academy would not be enough as two-thirds of girls are not educated beyond primary school and she wanted to reach “thousands and not hundreds of girls” by constructing several schools in the area.
Not About Madonna: My Little Pre-Icon Roommate — and Other Memoirs by Whit Hill will be published in September by Heliotrope Books (272 pages, trade paperback 978-0-9832940-0-9 $17.95).
“In the fall of 1977, when I came to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to enter the dance program at the University of Michigan, I thought I knew a thing or two. I had acted professionally in New York City, my hometown. I had posed nude for art classes. … I was a very modern girl. … When I met Madonna Ciccone, my initial assessment, even as I watched her leg soaring into an effortless front extension, was that I had little to learn from any young whippersnapper from Michigan, safety-pinned earlobes or no. I felt no instant flush of warmth and trust the day we met, no recognition of a kindred spirit — in fact all I recall feeling was an almost seismic wariness. But somehow, a few days later, she was my roommate. … I never knew what hit me.”
So begins Whit Hill’s compelling, poignant—and very funny—memoir of her life, as reflected through the lens of her junior year at the University of Michigan—with her roommate Madonna. NOT ABOUT MADONNA it is also the story of the years that followed for Whit, a life of motherhood, dance, music, love, loss, change, and the bizarre experience of unwittingly becoming a semi-professional “Madonna expert.”
As close as sisters (yet at times as distant as constellations), these college roommates shared not just a tiny room but experiences of looming adulthood, sexuality, affections, and hard work for their art. Madonna and Whit learned from each other, influenced each other, loved each other—then parted, taking off on their own individual roads.
Not about Madonna is a book about two very different women who lived alongside each other for nine months, about women artists in America, about mothers and daughters, about giving birth — to hot, squirming babies, and to huge, ionospheric pop careers. It is about loss and poverty and hope and happiness and remembrance. And it is, heartbreakingly, about all the ways you can lose your mom.
The book includes a never-before-published, seven-page handwritten letter Madonna wrote Whit during Christmas break, 1977. Intensely personal and beautifully written, the letter is a glimpse inside the mind of a young woman on the brink of something extraordinary.
When asked how the book came about, Whit says, “I’ve been working on Not About Madonna on and off for the last twenty years or so—sometimes enthusiastically, sometimes half-heartedly, sometimes with hope, other times with bewilderment. I’ll admit it: I started the project to try and support myself and my kids while trying to be an artist. But then I decided I needed to write something I could be proud of. I just wanted to take the celebrity ‘I-Knew-Her-When’ schlock and make something beautiful out of it. Like finding a piece of plastic on the beach and incorporating it into a mosaic. I hope I’ve succeeded.”
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Who do you think are pop’s best female role models?
The people that I admire, they might not live moral lives, but they’re just so f*cking honest. For me, John Lydon [aka Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols] is a hero. Madonna. I hate this kind of media training thing where people asked a question and the artist just skirts around it. I don’t think Madonna ever did that. Whatever you asked her, she’d give you an answer. And I think that’s how it should be. If people are investing in you and beliving you, at least give them the truth.
Madonna Rules the Dance Tent (2006)
Coachella purists raised their eyebrows when organizers announced the addition on Madonna — the most mainstream act the alt-rock-leaning event had ever booked — as the Sahara dance tent’s headlining act in 2006. But Madge proved that she belonged in the desert as she delivered a dynamic 30-minute set of club hits that had everybody but the Tool fans shaking their asses.
Abel Korzeniowski: The score I recorded in London was for W.E. – a new feature film directed by Madonna. (via facebook)
Abel is famous for scoring the music for Tom Ford’s A Single Man.
After she was turned into a hate figure in the film The King’s Speech and Any Human Heart, the television adaptation of William Boyd’s novel, the late Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, will receive at least a measure of sympathy when Andrea Riseborough portrays her in Madonna’s forthcoming film, W.E.
“It is a kinder, gentler portrayal,” says Hugo Vickers, the author of Behind Closed Doors, a new biography of the Duchess, who acted as the film’s historical adviser. “It is silly to portray her as a baddie. If there was anyone who was a baddie it was Edward VIII.”
The author also worked as a consultant on The King’s Speech in which he felt that Wallis – played by Eve Best – was turned into “too gauche” a character. “Obviously, as an adviser, I can only make sure these films are as historically accurate as possible and I have no say in the dramatic content,” says Vickers. “I think Andrea Riseborough captures the character very well, however. She makes her human.”
Madonna, who is the director and co-writer of the film, has presented a two-tiered romantic drama focusing on Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson and a contemporary romance between a married woman and a Russian security guard.
The film is likely to please Edward Fox. The actor, who appeared in the television series Edward & Mrs Simpson, told me just before Christmas that he had spoken to a lot of people who knew Wallis. “They told me she was fun, hospitable and welcoming,” he said. “Sadly, we live in harsher times today than when we made that series. We seem to have an insatiable appetite for figures that we can hate.”
Madonna, by the way, goes back a long way with Vickers. It was he who advised her to purchase, with her former husband Guy Ritchie, Ashcombe House in Wiltshire, the former home of Cecil Beaton, when it came up for sale in 2001.
Andrew Lloyd Webber thinks Madonna would be a ”great Norma Desmond” in a remake of ‘Sunset Boulevard’.
He told Piers Morgan: “I bet you this never, ever, happens, but you know who would make a great Norma Desmond on screen? Madonna.
“She’s the right age. I’ve not got through to her. She hasn’t taken my call this time.”