For over a decade, Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone, the wholesome Catholic girl from Bay City, Michigan, has remained one of the most alluring entertainers in the world. Many would agree her success is the result of her cunning business prowess and accurate calculation of the media. From the very beginning, she has understood the innermost workings of the press, their love for controversy, and has used them most effectively to promote each of her multi-million selling albums and movie projects. Sean Lee Talks to the woman behind the whip.
It’s 1995 and Madonna continues to hold a firm grip on the ladder of success that has seen her climb to its highest peaks. It is no secret that she has always wanted to be ‘the biggest movie star in the world’. With her recent signing to play Eva Peron in Alan Parker’s adaptation of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s hit musical Evita, she may just have found the vehicle to make her dream come true. The part of Eva Peron is a major victory for Madonna – most of Hollywood’s top female stars have chased the role at one point, including Meryl Streep and Glenn Close. Of course, Madonna has had more failures than successes in her quest to be accepted by Hollywood, as films of such dubious quality as Dick Tracy and Body Of Evidence show. Indeed, there are many who publicly scorned her for her attempt at making the transition from pop diva to movie actress – but critics beware: Madonna has not forgotten those who said her success would never last. “I think I’d have to say the articles on my private life haven’t bothered me at all. Rather, the stories that were written about me that said I was finished really hurt me the most.” she reveals.
“I don’t know what it is, but the media shoots me down with thorniest ideas – but that just makes me want to go on even more.”
The backlash against the material girl has been in full effect for several years now. Despite it all, she has enjoyed consistent success. At the height of all the negative publicity, there was even an I Hate Madonna book published. Madonna has developed a tough outer skin, refusing to let her critics phase her.
“I find it hard to comprehend that someone could spend their time writing a book about someone they hate.” she says. “This illustrates one of the latest ills of our society: speaking badly of someone makes people feel good! Unless it’s just a case of unrequited love,” she chuckles.
In this exclusive interview, Madonna speaks openly and honestly about a variety of subjects close to her heart including her family, career and fame. As only Madonna can, she confronts the issue of sexuality, frankly discussing what she feels is the repression of sex in Western society. She even addresses the issue of masturbation and why she feels the public is so obsessed about what she has to say about it.
Do you think people have a misconception about you?
“I think that’s inevitable. Most stars are misconceived by the public. I think people make up their mind to give you one attribute and that’s all you’re allowed to have. You’re not allowed to have a full life. Every star does but I tend to think that the public doesn’t always see it.”
If there’s one thing you’d like to get across to people that you haven’t, what would that be?
“I’m a human being just like everybody else. I’m the same as everyone else in that way. We all go through our forms of anxiety. Most of us have had love affairs. I’m sure that most people have experienced the death of a close friend. These are just a few of the things I have to deal with just like most people.”
You once said you never thought of yourself as the best singer or the best dancer or the best performer. You did say, though, you thought you were really good at provoking people into thinking about issues.
“I don’t think any artist can sit there and go, ‘I’m the best painter. I’m the best songwriter. I’m simply the best.’ I don’t think it’s even a fair statement to male. I say that because I think once you get into the arena of competing with people then you lose the essence of what you’re doing.”
We know so well that you’re so efficient at shocking people. What shocks you?
“Ignorance shocks me.”
There have been rumours that you want to have a child, that you’re pregnant, that you’re ready to embrace motherhood. Care to share your feelings about motherhood?
“Well, I suppose I have a bit of an obsession with motherhood and mothering because I didn’t have a mother. All my life I’ve wandered around, you know, wondering what it would’ve been like if I would’ve had a mother. I think I sort of transfer all those feelings onto other people. I try to be the mother I never had.”
“You’ll often find me doing that a lot with the group of people I’m working with on a particular project. Instinctively I’ve always been drawn to people who need mothering so that I may live out this fantasy that I have of what it must be like to be a mother. And I see these people as me – as sort of a young person needing a mother.”
Are you ready to have a child of your own in the traditional sense ? You know, do you have a plan?
“Do I have a plan? Well, I’d like to be a mother in the traditional sense. And, yes, children are definitely very important to me. But I don’t have a specific plan.”
What changes in society would you like to see take place?
“Well, first of all, sexuality seems like it’s a taboo subject. This country (America) seems to be moving more and more into conservatism and I think that alone is a catastrophe because I think that, like anything, the more you try to shove something in the closet and not deal with it, you know, the more hang-ups people get because of it.
And I think, you know, sexuality – self-exploration, self-love, masturbation, whatever – I think they’re a big part of people’s lives. If only everybody could come to deal with that – and that covers all of the realms of sexuality, including homosexuality. There’s this wave of hysteria against it which is something I will have to consistently counter-attack probably throughout my entire life.”
How important is sex to you?
“I think it’s important to deal with it. I think people have to realize that sex is a bigger part of everybody’s life than they’d like to admit.”
What attracts you to a man ? You seem to be drawn more to effeminate men because of what you do.
“I think it’s more a question of sensitivity. I think generally effeminate men are more sensitive or more in touch with their female side. The men that are the most repulsive to me are the men that don’t want to deal with that side of themselves.”
Do you think society has a preconceived notion of how gay men are?
“Definitely. People definitely have a preconceived notion about gay men. What they look like, how they kiss, how they make love.”
Does your ambition ever become too all-consuming for you?
“No. It’s not. Although there are times when I’m so busy that I don’t get the quiet moments or the private moments I’d like.”
What do you regard as the best and worst qualities of fame?
“The best thing about fame is that I can always get a table at any restaurant. The worst thing is that I can’t put my trash out in front of my house because people are always going through it.”
There are people who say your fame has isolated you.
“Sometimes I am. I’ve felt more isolated when I’m on tour. It’s difficult to move around when I’m on tour. Everybody knows where you are every step of the way. When I want to go out and walk around – it is a pain in the ass to a certain extent.
I mean, the one constant I have to consider when I go out is, do I want to deal with the flashbulbs in my face? Because, basically, the photographers just park themselves in my neighbourhood and they just follow me where ever I go. So I have to sort of deal with these extraterrestrial beings following me around.”
What happens when you’re driving in your car and they recognize you? Do you just drive until you lose them?
“No. Usually I just let them follow me and hope they don’t get the table in the restaurant right next to me (laughs).”
If you could live in any other time in history, what time would you choose and would you be ?
“I’d love to hava been around in the Twenties. I don’t know who I’d like to have been, but the twenties because I think there was a real renaissance. I think that a lot the issues that I’m dealing with right now would not have been greeted with so much, uhm, so much outrage, to a certain extent.”
Do you feel that you’ve been misrepresented at times?
“Yeah, I suppose. The thing about personas or public images, in terms of being misrepresented, is that if you present one side of yourself then you are only allowed to have that one side of yourself for the rest of your career. The problem with that, as we all know, is there are a million sides to every human being. It would be horrible for anyone to think that you’re only one way.”
You go through image make-overs on a regular basis. What stays constant with you?
“That I stay true to how I’m feeling at that particular time.”
At this point, what are your religious beliefs?
“My religious beliefs are that I believe in God and I think God is in everything. I don’t believe in organised religion. I have my own personal sense of religion, spirituality, what God is. I was raised Catholic, but I’m not a practising Catholic.”
What is your vision of intimacy?
“Intimacy is a state of mind. It’s what you have with your friends and your lovers and your family at specific times in your life.”
Do you think you have a lot in common with your fans?
“Yeah, I do. I do come from a middle class family in mid-America, and even though I’m this big huge superstar, quote-unquote, you know, I have family problems, relatives that are alcoholics, you know what I mean? The problems that I have are basically the same as other people’s.”
Do you have a career agenda?
“Yeah. I’ve got a five year plan. (Talks like a gypsy) I see a very large mansion in Bel Air (laughs). obviously, I’d like to see my film career finally take off. That would be nice.”
You have had an amazing career and life. Do you ever feel like sometimes you have to pinch yourself?
“Only when I feel I’m gaining weight (laughs). Seriously, I’m aware of everything that’s happening to me.”
Generally, over your career, have you enjoyed the support of your family?
“Uhm, enjoyed the support? Hmmm… My success has been a difficult thing for a lot of members of my family to comprehend. I think that’s because my success has been fairly overwhelming. My brother Christopher is very involved in my career, so he understands everything that happens to me. Whereas, I have other brothers, I have a very large family and some of them keep their distance.
My father tends to not make a big deal of anything I do and that’s actually a relief to me.
More-so, because when I go home I don’t get treated any differently. I think my family supports me but nobody really makes a big deal about me, which is good for me.”
With all your success and fame, what’s the most difficult aspect of your life?
“Getting to sleep at night. I have insomnia (laughs). I went to a sleep clinic in UCLA once and the doctor said I have an overactive adrenaline gland (laughs).”
Why do you think people are so obsessed with what you have to say about masturbation?
“I don’t know. I’m interested in it because to me it’s a form of self-love, examination or exploration of your own sexuality, of your own sensuality, whatever.
I think a lot of people would rather not admit that they masturbate or that they’re interested in masturbation. Or admit that it’s a big part of everybody’s life, you know? But I, obviously, am not afraid to admit that (laughs).”
Do you think we’re experiencing a new wave of sexual repression in our society?
Why do you think that’s happening now?
“Well, sexual repression, I think has a lot do with the fear of AIDS. Everyone seems to think that AIDS is some form of punishment for the sexual revolution of the Sixties and Seventies. I suppose it’s also a way of controlling people. Organized religion is notorious for doing that. I don’t think, however, that I’m qualified to speak on this subject at great length (laughs).”
What inspired you?
“Life. People. I love life. Everyday life. Experiencing all different types of people. I love experiencing life. That’s what I think it’s all about, really. Don’t you agree?
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