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Madonna Interview : Aperture

Vince: At what cost?

Madonna: I know, but for me it was a very enlightening moment.

Vince: But it is a terrible cost – to give up everything in order to rule?

Madonna: Right, but if you are a powerful female and you don’t play the traditional role that you are supposed to play when you get married and have a family and everyone feels safe with you, then you are going to be intimidating to people. And that idea has always been running through my work. Accepting it, not accepting it; accepting it, not accepting it. And shoving it in people’s faces. I mean that whole crotch-grabbing thing was just so like, OK every other rock star in the universe has done it, so I’m going to do it. And you know how freaked-out people got about it. Whatever. But we got off the subject.

Vince: Is there an early influence on your ideas about femininity and masculinity?

Madonna: I think probably my earliest influences probably came from the world of dance, especially with Martha Graham, because I studied at her school and I read all about her and saw the movies of her dances and performances. She freaked people out, too, because she brought to life all of these Greek myths and she reenacted them in her dances. And she was always turning things around; she was always the agressor who trapped the men. And her dances were very sexually provocative, very erotic, and very female-assertive, and I know that that really influenced me. And also ballet is such a female thing, and when I was younger, being surrounded by male ballet dancers – to me, that’s gender confusion. I mean, a bunch of guys walking around in tights putting their toes up in the air, and they’re incredibly effeminite men. Being surrounded by that on a regular basis when I was growing up – I mean, I wanted to be a boy when I was growing up because I was in love with all of the male dancer I know and they were all gay. And I thought, Well, if I was a boy, they’d love me. So I got into role-playing then. That’s where it began. I remember when I was still in high school, I had cut my hair off really short, and I was totally anorexic – I had no boobs – and I would dress like a boy and go to gay clubs and my goal was to trick men into thinking I was a boy.

Vince: Did it ever work?

Madonna: It did actually, a few times. Yeah, it really started in the dance world.

Vince: And when you got into music, it wasn’t in the rock and roll world, which is a lot more gender-defined, but through disco, which was much more fluid.

Madonna: And I’m sure that’s really influenced me, because from the dance world to the music world, my social strata was mostly gay men. That’s who my audience was, that’s who I hung out with, that’s who inspired me. For me, it freed me, because I could do whatever I wanted and be whatever I wanted.

Vince: Knowing that your audience is ready to be f*cked with.

Madonna: Totally. Ready to be f*cked with and certainly not intimidated by a strong female. So the problem arose when I left that world and went into the mainstream. Suddenly, there was judgment. But before that I was in my little gay cocoon.

Vince: But you certainly fed off the judgment.

Madonna: Well, absolutely. As soon as you tell me I can’t do something – And that’s how I’ve always been, starting from when I was a little girl. The boys could wear pants to church and the girls couldn’t. And I used to say, But why? Is God going to love me less if I don’t wear a dress? It just irked me – the rules. So I would put pants on under my dress, just to f*ck with my father. And after church, I would tell him I had pants and I’d say, See, lightning did not strike me. And I guess I’ve been doing that ever since.

Vince: Do you have a feminine ideal? Is there someone who seems like perfection – and I mean totally in your own terms?

Madonna: Well, a lot of the artists that I collect and that I admire: Lee Miller, Tina Modotti, Frida Kahlo – that whole group of females that kind of started off as muses and became artists in their own right and absolutely worked in a lot of different worlds and moved in a lot of different worlds and were artstic and political and still had their femininity about them. I can’t think of anybody now. That’s a tough one. I’m sitting here and combing all the areas; Is there an actress? Is there a singer? Is there an artist now? Help me!