Stuff You Should Know: Madonna


Allow us to make some of you (and us) feel depressingly old…Madonna turns 53-years-old today. Whether you’re a fan or not, you’ve at least heard of Madonna a few times over the year. She is and always has been a master at the craft of keeping her name in the news.

So, in honor of one the greatest pop stars of any generation, here are 10 things you might not know about Madonna…

Her Name Really Is Madonna


Although it sounds like a name conjured up by big record executives, as it turns out, Madonna’s name really is Madonna. Madonna Louis Veronica Ciccone to be exact. Madonna is also technically Madonna Jr. because she was named after her mom, Madonna Fortin Ciccone.

Her Mom Died When She Was Little


Sadly, the woman who gave one of the world’s biggest stars her name died of breast cancer when Madonna was just five years old. Being the third child of six children, and the oldest of the girls, she took on her mother’s role and took care of herself and her siblings. This was a pivotal point in Madonna’s life as she has credited this tragedy for making her the strong, determined and hard working person she is today.

She’s More Straight Laced Than You Think

like a virgin

Madonna was a straight A student in high school, a cheerleader (who allegedly rocked nude colored panties on nights when she had to do high jumps and such) and was always the lead in almost every high school play. When Madonna graduated, she was given the Thespian Award for all her work and then she went on to the University of Michigan on a full dance scholarship. Wolverines represent!

She Works Harder Than You

madonna guitar

Much to her father’s dismay, Madonna dropped out of college to pursue a career in dance, although we’re not sure why he objected, because that’s a plan that always works. Anyway, she flew to New York with only 35 dollars in her pocket and famously told the cab driver to drop her in the middle of everything. The cab driver dropped her off at Times Square and she was on her own. She worked at Dunkin’ Donuts, worked as a hat check girl for The Russian Tea Room and posed nude for artists during the day.

Madonna became a regular on the New York club scene but avoided the non-stop partying of most 21-year-olds. In fact, she was there to do even more work, promoting herself on the dance floor, getting connections and passing out her demo tapes and begging DJs to play it.

She could have saved herself a lot of legwork and uploaded her stuff on YouTube but we’re pretty sure at the time, “Youtube” was something that helped you snort cocaine up your nose.

She Wanted to Be a Ballerina


Shortly after arriving in New York City, she signed with the prestigious Pearl Lang & company. However, her penchant to be an individual didn’t really mesh with the uniformity of ballet. Unique from the very beginning, Pearl Lang has said that for their first class, while everyone was dressed in a black leotard, Madonna had her hair greased and spiked up with pomade, wearing a shirt that was torn apart and put back together by giant safety pins.

There was a reason for that, though…

She Was Super Duper Poor


As you might imagine, the 35 dollars in Madonna’s pocket when he went to New York probably lasted her all but five minutes, even less. Early in her career, she would sleep on her friend’s couches and later, in a studio apartment located in a questionable part of town where she was robbed several times. With little money, her meals consisted of popcorn and yogurt. She used to borrow other people’s clothes that she would then rip up and add homemade accessories (wire bracelets, necklaces, torn up socks, fingerless gloves) in order to make them stylish and then use the scraps to tie her hair up – which later ended up being her first signature look and ironically, something little girls paid a lot money to emulate. Kids…so stupid.

She Turned Down Fame the First Time

You remember Patrick Hernandez, right? Yeah, we don’t either. But back in the 70s, Patrick Hernandez had a hit called “Born to Be Alive” and hired Madonna as his back up dancer. You can see the hilarious results of that endeavor in the video above.

While on tour in Paris, Patrick really took a liking to the future star and wanted to help her advance her career. However, Madonna wasn’t pleased with the slow progress that his managers were making with her and bid Patrick and Paris adieu so she could make it on her own terms.

She’s Probably Smarter Than You


You don’t make it in the music business and last as long as Madonna has if you’re dumb. She’s famously known as a top notch ball breaker when it comes to business deals. It’s been rumored that when Warner Brother’s refused to give her a share of the profits from her albums that she thought she deserved, she convinced them to help fund her own label, Maverick Records. She then signed herself on to her own label (which allowed her more control of her albums and her money) and many other notable artists such as Alanis Morissette and Prodigy.

Madonna Cares


From the very beginning of her career, Madonna has been a notable voice in the fight against AIDS. She has also participated in two Live Aid concerts and, after a random phone call from a woman asking her for help on the AIDS and orphan epidemic in Malawi, has single-handedly made the world aware of Malawi and its plight. She founded the non-profit Raising Malawi organization, which supports community-based organizations that provide vulnerable children and caregivers with nutritious food, proper clothing, secure shelter, formal education, targeted medical care, emotional care and psychosocial support.

She Got In a Fight With Hall & Oates

Okay not really, but in this video from a 1984 music conference, Hall & Oates argue against MTV and the “video fad.” Madonna immediately puts Oates and his elegant mustache in their place at the .53 second mark. The look on his face is classic. Sorry Hall & Oates, video didn’t kill the radio star, but Madonna certainly made it its bitch.