If there’s one thing pop icon Madonna is excellent at, it’s shocking people. Since the 1980s, she’s been on a mission to make a scene. She’s had music videos banned from MTV, surprised a handful of celebrities with public makeouts, been kicked out of theaters for texting, and even threw shade at Beyonce and Jay-Z on Instagram.
Madonna wouldn’t be the Queen of Pop without her endless controversial moments, so let’s take a look back at the 10 of her most memorable ones.
1984: Madonna’s wardrobe malfunction-turned-performance at the VMAs
At the very first MTV video music awards in 1984, Madonna’s stiletto slipped off her foot during her performance of “Like A Virgin.” Instead of fixing it, she turned the incident into an epic performance, writhing on the floor in her wedding dress costume to the delight — and horror — of viewers.
1989: Madonna’s 'Like A Prayer' video
In 1989, Madonna rolled out the video for “Like A Prayer,” which was filled with controversial imagery. Think a woman being murdered by white supremacists, burning crosses and Madonna kissing a Black saint. Religious groups were not happy, and Pepsi — who Madonna was a spokeswoman for at the time — dropped her from their ads.
1990: Madonna’s 'Justify My Love' video gets the boot from MTV
If “Like A Prayer” was controversial, “Justify My Love” took things to the next level. The video, which was released at the end of 1990, featured a graphic, bisexual orgy, which was hardly the norm at the time. MTV banned her, but that hardly stifled the song’s popularity — it stayed at the top of the charts for two weeks.
1992: Madonna releases her coffee table book, 'Sex'
If you needed a new coffee table book in 1992, Madonna’s book Sex would have been an excellent option. The book is mostly what it sounds like: A series of photographs of Madonna in various sexual positions. While sales were never astronomical, it managed to shock, which was, of course, Madonna’s goal.
1994: Madonna's 20-minute rant on the 'Late Show with David Letterman'
David Letterman isn’t easily phased, but in 1994, Madonna managed to make him just the slightest bit uncomfortable. When Letterman started asking her about her sex life, Madonna responded by calling him a “sick f**k” before launching into a 20-minute-long rant that was hardly PG. And yes, there was a moment when she told Letterman to smell her underwear.
2003: Madonna kisses Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at the VMAs
In perhaps one of her most famous moments of controversy, in 2003 Madonna kept up her tradition of shocking at the VMAs by kissing Britney Spears on the mouth and subsequently making out with Christina Aguilera during their wedding-themed performance of "Like a Virgin" and "Hollywood"
2006: Madonna’s mounts herself on a cross during her 'Confessions' tour
Religious imagery was also present during her "Confessions" tour. While singing "Live to Tell," Madonna attached herself to a mirrored crucifix while also wearing a crown of thorns. Religious leaders were not pleased and Madge later clarified: "My 'confession' follows and takes place on a Crucifix that I ultimately come down from. This is not a mocking of the church. "
2013: Madonna gets shunned for not putting her phone down...twice
In 2013 Madonna was thrown out of the Alamo Drafthouse theater for texting during a screening of 12 Years Of Slave, and two years later she sat in the front row at Hamilton and texted the entire time, prompting Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda to ban her from all future performances.
2015: Madonna kisses Drake at Coachella
At Coachella in 2015, Madonna decided to turn her attention from Britney and Christina to the star of the moment, Drake. Drake appeared to be very caught off guard by Madonna’s public display of affection, and the look on his face afterward wasn’t exactly pleasant.
2019: Madonna reminds Beyonce and Jay-Z that she is 'the master'
Madonna is a pro at photoshop, apparently, which she made known when she put up a photo on Instagram of Beyonce and Jay-Z from their video “Apeshit” and replaced the art on the walls with her album covers. The caption read “learning from the master..............lol.” She later deleted the word “master,” but she got the message across.