There are famous people, and then there are living icons. Those who reached this point have surpassed the recognition, becoming role models and legends that inspire worldwide changes. Many of us were born into a world where Madonna already existed. Throughout her career, she has continuously pushed the envelope for what can be said, done, or experienced on an onstage performance. It’s hard to imagine her not being synonymous with sexual freedom and nonconformity.
And yet, on June 17, 1983, she was just another aspiring artist in New York, who had yet to release her first album. That day, Richard Corman did a Polaroid photo-shoot of the then-unknown star. It’s interesting because, while she might’ve been a regular girl from the Midwest trying to make it in the big city, you can almost see she was already the Madonna we know today.
It’s hard to imagine it now, but Madonna was not popular in her high school in suburban Michigan. She tried to be subversive and different, instead of doing the typical acts of rebellion people expected from her. And while I’d imagine it was a lonely way to spend her teens, it most likely prepared her for being in the spotlight. Since breaking into the scene, she’s been as criticized as she has been lauded.
New York City, especially in the late seventies and early eighties, is not what Hollywood makes it out to be. Just like Los Angeles, where several young hopefuls ran off to for their big break, only to end up homeless or fending for themselves in the worst ways, NYC was a tough city. The fact that Madonna survived and overcame those early years is a testament of her determination to succeed.
Originally Madonna moved to the city to become a dancer, but when someone asked if she could sing, she had no problem changing her plans. Maybe that’s why she made it and continues to be relevant. She is always in constant flux, reinventing what she can provide to the audience. She doesn't change her persona; she is always searching for something new to say. Maybe that’s what ultimately sets her and other living icons apart from artists that are just as talented. Much like David Bowie, Prince, and Michael Jackson, Madonna knows that her image is bigger than just herself. She can use her art to get a conversation going and even to bring social change. But instead of claiming it as a statement, she embellishes it through a performance that is as stunning as it is groundbreaking.
Quotes taken from Harper’s Bazaar