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Iconic Facts About Madonna – The ‘Material Girl’

Samantha Franco
Photo Credit: Michael Tran / FilmMagic / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Michael Tran / FilmMagic / Getty Images

Madonna is an absolute icon. She’s been a household name for decades, and people around the world know her image and music. However, not everyone knows these quirky facts about the Queen of Pop, including what happened with her most recent medical scare.

Madonna didn’t start as a solo artist

Portrait of Madonna
Madonna, 1980s. (Photo Credit: Oscar White / CORBIS / VCG / Getty Images)

Before Madonna was known to the world as one of the greatest female artists of all time, she tried to achieve fame in bands with other musicians. Some of her earliest experiences in music included her performing vocals, drums and guitar as part of the band called the Breakfast Club with her then-boyfriend Dan Gilroy.

Madonna went on to join another band, Emmy and the Emmys, but her inclusion was short-lived. In 1981, she decided to go solo and released her first album, Madonna, two years later. It features tracks that’ve become everlasting hits, including “Borderline,” “Lucky Star” and “Holiday,” along with several others.

That performance at the MTV Video Music Awards

Madonna posing on a red carpet
Madonna at the first MTV Video Music Awards, 1984. (Photo Credit: Sonia Moskowitz / Getty Images)

Before the official release of her second album, Like a Virgin, Madonna sang the iconic song of the same name for the first time even on-stage at the first annual MTV Video Music Awards in 1984. For the performance, she was dressed in full wedding attire, including a white dress and veil, and began the number like any other. However, during the performance, she began to perform sexual gestures on the floor.

Those in the music industry thought her erotic actions marked the end of her career, but the attention she received did the exact opposite. Instead of turning her career to dust, the controversy propelled her into stardom, making it one of her greatest songs of all time. People rushed to get their hands on the album, which ended up selling over five million copies.

Madonna has major acting chops

Jonathan Pryce and Madonna as Juan and Eva Perón in 'Evita'
Evita, 1996. (Photo Credit: Handout / Getty Images)

Yes, Madonna is extremely well known for her singing career, but she has actually had quite a fruitful acting one ,as well. Before fame, she starred in an indie film that wasn’t released until after she rose to stardom, but she used that experience to appear in a number of other movies.

Madonna can be seen in films, like Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), A League Of Their Own (1992) and Evita (1996). Her work in the latter was so impressive that it earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress. On the flip side, she’s also won multiple Razzie Awards, including Worst Actress for her roles in Shanghai Surprise (1986), Who’s That Girl (1987) and Swept Away (2003).

Madonna even starred on Broadway

Photographers standing behind a barrier as Madonna walks by
Madonna, 1988. (Photo Credit: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection / Getty Images)

While music was always her main calling, Madonna also tried her hand at acting on-stage. In 1988, she co-starred in a Broadway comedy called Speed-the-Plow. The show served as a satirical look into the American movie business, and Madonna stayed with the cast throughout 1988 and ’89. She starred as the studio head’s secretary, Karen.

After seeing the show for themselves, some critics wondered if, perhaps, Madonna’s casting in the role was a tactic to drive box office sales, rather than her qualifications to play the part. However, one critic, Frank Rich, wrote that she showed “intelligent, scrupulously disciplined comic acting.”

Maybe she was meant to act after all?

Turning down multiple iconic acting roles

Madonna performing on-stage
Madonna performing at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, 2008. (Photo Credit: Bill McCay / WireImage / Getty Images)

If she had wanted to, Madonna likely could’ve had a much bigger acting career.

In 2021, while on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon (2014-present), she recalled how she’d turned down the role of Trinity in the 1999 epic, The Matrix. The part was later played by Carrie-Anne Moss, but we can’t help but wonder what it would’ve looked like with Madonna in that leather getup.

It turns out that Madonna has actually turned down quite a few big roles. Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman from 1992’s Batman Returns could’ve been played by Madonna, as well as Demi Moore’s Molly Jensen from Ghost (1990).

Madonna has an impressive number of Guinness World Records

Madonna performing on-stage
Madonna performing a tribute to Prince at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards. (Photo Credit: Jeff Kravitz / BBMA2016 / FilmMagic / Getty Images)

Madonna ultimately choose to stick with music, rather than pursue a career in acting – and the world is glad she did. Music is truly her calling, and it’s no surprise that, throughout her career, she’s been able to achieve many great things with her talents, including no fewer than 16 Guinness World Records.

Arguably one of the most notable records she’s achieved is the Biggest-Selling Female Recording Artist of All Time, a title that was re-certified in 2023 after it was confirmed she’s sold over 400 million records over her decades-spanning career. Beyond that, she’s also beat her own record for the Highest Grossing Concert Tour Ever By A Solo Artist, with her 2008-2009 Sticky & Sweet tour, beating her previous record from two years prior.

A bacterial infection put Madonna in the ICU

Madonna standing on-stage
Madonna at the 65th GRAMMY Awards, 2023. (Photo Credit: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images)

One thing Madonna has never done is slow down. At 64 years old, she’s still pushing herself to provide fans with multiple shows and extensive tour dates. However, it seems this is catching up with her, as she recently suffered a “serious bacterial infection” that forced her into a “several day stay” in the intensive care unit (ICU).

A source close to the singer said, “She clearly burnt herself out and people around her have been politely reminding her that she is not 45 anymore, let alone 25.” Apparently, her goal was to get back in shape for tour. “If she can get herself back in shape, the tour will have a whole lot more buzz around it, and she’s already got loads of publicity – even if it’s the wrong kind,” the source said.

While Madonna has been recovering and trying to keep her spirits high, friends and family have done their best to encourage her to take it easy. “Many of us feel the constant remarks about her age have put pressure on her to compete, so we are relieved that she has been forced to take time out and put her health first,” another source revealed.

On July 5, TMZ reported a source indicated that, just 10 days out from the planned start of her Celebration tour, Madonna was still feeling “weak and very tired.” She herself posted an update for fans just five days later on Instagram, saying she appreciates their support.

“I’m on the road to recovery and incredibly grateful for all the blessings in my life,” she wrote, adding, “My focus now is my health and getting stronger and I can assure you, I’ll be back with you as soon as I can!” She also assured fans that her upcoming tour is currently being rescheduled, so they’ll see her back on-stage as soon as she’s well enough to perform.

Madonna ended her social media statement by saying, “I couldn’t be more grateful for your care and support,” and accompanied her comments with a selfie.

Madonna didn’t think she’d survive the bacterial infection

Madonna performing on stage
Madonna performing at the O2 arena in London, United Kingdom, 2023. (Photo Credit: Kevin Mazur / WireImage for Live Nation / Getty Images)

On the opening night of her rescheduled 2023 tour, Madonna revealed to the audience at London’s O2 arena that she didn’t think she’d survive the aforementioned bacterial infection she suffered.

Speaking on stage, she said, “I didn’t think I was going to make it. Neither did my children, that’s why I woke up with them all around me. I forgot five days of my life – or my death. But the angels were protecting me. If you want to know my secret, how I survived, I thought, ‘I’ve got to be here for my children. I’ve got to pull through for them.'”

Following this incredibly intimate moment, the pop star performed an acoustic cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” pausing after the lyric “Did you think I’d lay down and die” to ask the audience, “Well, did you?”

Later in the tour, at a show in Belgium, the Queen of Pop further commented on her hospital stay, saying, “I was in a hospital and I was unconscious, and people were thinking, predicting that I might not make it. It’s a f*****g miracle that I’m here right now. My mother, god bless her, she must be watching over me – she said, ‘Girl, it’s not your time to go.'”

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She added, “I was given another chance, so I’m very grateful for that.”

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!