Madonna Biography

Film Actress, Film Actor/Film Actress, Actress, Singer (1958–)
Pop legend Madonna is known for her constant reinvention as a performer. Her biggest hits include 'Papa Don't Preach,' 'Like a Prayer,' 'Vogue,' 'Secret' and 'Ray of Light,' among many others.

Who Is Madonna?

Pop music singer Madonna was born in Bay City, Michigan, on August 16, 1958. In 1981, she went solo as a pop singer and became a sensation on the then male-dominated '80s music scene. By 1991, she had achieved 21 Top 10 hits in the United States and sold more than 70 million albums internationally. In January 2008, she was named the world's wealthiest female musician by Forbes magazine.

Real Name

Madonna's full name is Madonna Louise Ciccone.


Madonna was married to actor Sean Penn from 1985 to 1989. Her second husband was director Guy Ritchie, whom she was married to from 2000 to 2008.

Rise to Pop Stardom


In 1981, Madonna decided to go solo and hired manager Camille Barbone of Gotham Records to help her get her singing career on track. Camille showed Madonna how to navigate the male-dominated world of the music business, and helped put together a studio band that accentuated the budding star's hip style. Friend Stephen Bray, a musician in her band, wrote her first hit, "Everybody," and Madonna used her brash business style to get the recordings to New York music producer Mark Kamins. Kamins then helped Madonna score a record deal with Sire Records. "Everybody" hit No. 1 on the dance charts in 1982.

'Madonna' Album: 'Borderline,' 'Lucky Star,' and 'Holiday'

Using the success of the song as leverage, Madonna convinced Sire to produce the full-length album Madonna in 1983. The album was a slow but steady success, and included the hit singles "Borderline," "Lucky Star" and "Holiday." Soon, girls all over the country were imitating Madonna's distinct sense of fashion, which included fishnet stockings, lace lingerie, fingerless gloves and large crucifix necklaces. "Holiday" also earned the singer an appearance on Dick Clark's American Bandstand in 1984, where she told the host that her main ambition was "to rule the world."

'Like a Virgin,' 'Material Girl,' 'Angel'

This intensity and determination was apparent in her 1985 follow-up album, Like a Virgin, which hit No. 1 on the Billboard Chart and went platinum within a month. The title track, produced by Nile Rodgers, would later be listed as Madonna's biggest pop hit of all time, with the song remaining on the top of the charts for six weeks. She had two other Top 5 hits from the record: the tongue-in-cheek, empowering "Material Girl" and the dance ditty with bounce, "Angel."

'Crazy for You'

She also starred in her first mainstream feature film, Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), and performed the soundtrack's single, "Into the Groove," which hit No. 1 on the U.S. dance charts. Her next single "Crazy for You", which she performed for the 1985 film Vision Quest, also became a No. 1 hit. She then started her first music tour, The Virgin Tour, and watched 17 consecutive songs climb into the Top 10 on the Billboard Chart while also creating a wave of iconic music videos, constantly re-crafting her persona. 

Movies and More Hit Songs from the '80s and '90s

In the next five years, Madonna's life was a whirlwind of activity. On August 16, 1985, she married actor Sean Penn and co-starred with him in the film Shanghai Surprise (1986). She then went on to star in three more movies over the next few years: Who's That Girl (1987), Bloodhounds of Broadway (1989) and Dick Tracy (1990). Madonna's soundtrack album I'm Breathless: Music From and Inspired by the Film Dick Tracy resulted in two Top 10 hits: "Vogue" and "Hanky Panky." She also released four more hit albums: True Blue (1986), Who's that Girl (1987), You Can Dance (1987) and Like a Prayer (1989).


'Like a Virgin' MTV Awards Performance

As always, Madonna mixed her drive for success with her penchant for scandalous behavior. It started with her controversial 1985 performance of her hit single "Like a Virgin" on the MTV music awards, which involved writhing around suggestively onstage in a wedding dress. Then came her marriage to Penn, which was marred by reports of domestic violence and his assault of a photographer — behavior that landed him a month's jail time and eventually led to the couple's very public divorce.

'Like a Prayer' Music Video

This was followed by the debut of Madonna's 1989 "Like a Prayer" video, which was to be aired on MTV as part of a lucrative Pepsi endorsement. The video featured interracial relationship themes, burning crosses and a blending of sexual innuendo and religious ideologies. As a result of the video, Pope John Paul II urged fans not to attend her concerts in Italy, and Pepsi pulled their endorsement of the star.

Despite the public outcry, Madonna had become more popular than ever. The Like a Prayer album spawned a No. 1 title track as well as additional hits like "Express Yourself," "Cherish,"  "Keep It Together" and "Oh Father." By 1991, she had achieved 21 Top 10 hits in the United States and sold more than 70 million albums internationally, generating $1.2 billion in sales. Committed to controlling her career, Madonna helped found Maverick Records, a label under the Warner Music Group, in April of 1992.

'Truth or Dare' Documentary

She also continued to gain attention by pushing social boundaries. First came the film Truth or Dare (1991), a revealing documentary about her Blonde Ambition tour. This was followed by the publishing of Sex (1992), a soft-core pornographic coffee-table book featuring the pop star in a variety of erotic poses. Despite its controversial nature, Sex sold 150,000 copies on the day of its release in the U.S. alone. Three days later, all 1.5 million copies of the first edition were sold out worldwide, making it the most successful coffee table book ever released. 

The album Erotica (1992) was unveiled at the same time, and proved equally successful: By the end of 1993, it had reached double-platinum status. Bedtime Stories came forth in 1994, with groovy lead single "Secret" and the beautifully melancholic "Take a Bow."

More Movies and Music: Late '90s - Present

'Evita,' 'Immaculate Collection,' & 'Music' 

By 1996 Madonna had proven her versatility as a star in both film and music. She starred in the critically acclaimed screen adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Evita (1996), which also featured Antonio Banderas. She won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical, and in the film she performed "You Must Love Me," which earned an Academy Award for Music, Original Song.

Madonna had released the greatest hits album The Immaculate Collection in 1990, following that years later with Something to Remember (1995), a round-up of her balladry that included the new song "You'll See." Then in 1998, she released Ray of Light, a critically-acclaimed outing that had her delving into electronica and spiritual exploration with the help of producer William Orbit. More hits came in the form of songs like "Frozen" and "The Power of Good-Bye." Madonna also earned three Grammys, two for the Top 5 title track and one for the Ray of Light album itself. 

Then came Music (2000), another successful electronic project, this time with more overt, unpredictable dance leanings and the bulk of production handled by French whiz Mirwais. And she continued her work with Orbit, as seen on a couple of Music tracks and the Grammy-winning homage to 1960s-psychedelia, "Beautiful Stranger," part of the soundtrack for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.  

'American Life'

She then made the move from the big screen to the London West End stage in the play Up for Grabs (2002), and wrote her first children's book, The English Roses, which was published in 2003, the same year as the release of her album American Life. Madonna was inducted into the inaugural UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004, and her next album Confessions on a Dancefloor came out the following year. Around this time Madonna became the artist with the most gold certified singles in the U.S., beating The Beatles' longstanding record.

Her professional life continued to boom: In January 2008 she was named the world's wealthiest female musician by Forbes magazine, with estimated earnings of more than $72 million in the last year alone. Madonna earned much of this income from her H&M clothing line; a deal with NBC to air concert footage; and her Confessions tour — the highest-grossing tour for a female artist to date. She also continued to sing, act and manage a number of business interests, splitting her time between the United Kingdom and the United States. 

She was the writer and executive producer of I Am Because We Are , a documentary about the lives of Malawi's AIDS orphans, and the art-house film Filth and Wisdom, both with 2008 releases. Her album Hard Candy was released in April of the same year, and her Sticky and Sweet tour became her first major venture with concert promoter Live Nation.


In 2009, she released a fourth greatest hits album, Celebration, which became Madonna's eleventh No. 1 album in the U.K. With the release of the record, Madonna tied with Elvis Presley as the solo act with most No. 1 albums in the U.K.

'W.E.' Film, Super Bowl XLVI

In 2011 Madonna released her latest film project, W.E., about the American divorcée Wallis Simpson and her romance with Britain's King Edward VIII, contrasted with a more contemporary relationship. Edward gave up his crown to marry Simpson, and the couple became known as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Working behind the camera, Madonna co-wrote and directed this romantic drama, which received decidedly mixed reviews. She, however, did pick up a Golden Globe for an original song she co-wrote and sung for the film, "Masterpiece."

Madonna received another lukewarm reception when it was announced she would be performing at Super Bowl XLVI in February 2012. In advance of the show, many football fans complained about her selection as part of the halftime entertainment. She put on an impressive show, however, which featured her latest single "Give Me All Your Luvin'." And this time around, it wasn't Madonna who created waves during the show. Her musical guest, M.I.A., provoked an outcry when she used an obscene hand gesture in her live performance.


Madonna released her latest studio album, MDNA, in March 2012. On her tour to support the record, she courted controversy. Madonna occasionally flashed her audiences and used Nazi imagery while performing in France. At a concert in St. Petersburg, Russia, she spoke out in support of LGBT rights, which had landed her in legal trouble. She was sued for more than $10 million for breaking a law against promoting homosexuality to minors, but charges were later dismissed. 

Tumultuous Road to 'Rebel Heart'

Through 2014, Madonna was reportedly at work on her next album, said to be collaborating with producers like Avicii and Diplo as seen via Instagram. In December of that year, however, more than a dozen songs planned for her 2015 album Rebel Heart were leaked online. (An Israeli singer was later arrested and indicted for the thefts.) 

To counterattack the theft, Madonna released six songs online before Christmas, with the tracks reaching the Top 10 of iTunes' charts in various countries. However, more controversy followed in January when the singer released via Instagram doctored portraits of prominent leaders and artists like Nelson Mandela and Bob Marley bound by black chord, mirroring the cover art of her forthcoming album. And in early February 2015, there was another album leak of Rebel Heart

That month, Madonna also performed lead single "Living for Love" live at the 57th annual Grammy with a bull and matador theme. More than two weeks later she performed the song at the Brit Awards, but fell down a short flight of stairs due to a wardrobe mishap, with the singer later reporting that she'd suffered whiplash. 

The official version of Rebel Heart, Madonna's 13th full-length release, was released on March 10, 2015, with the deluxe version consisting of 19 tracks. The album is noticeably more stylistically diverse than its predecessors in terms of musical production, lyrically veering from vividly sexual provocation and contemporary boasting to quieter reflection. 

In 2018 Madonna announced she's working on her 14th studio album.

Personal Life & Children

Madonna became a mother in 1996, giving birth to Lourdes Maria (Lola) Ciccone Leon, whom she had with her lover and personal trainer, Carlos Leon. In 2000, she married British director Guy Ritchie and gave birth to their son, Rocco John Ritchie, the same year. Madonna and Ritchie split in 2008. 

On the eve of her 50th birthday in 2008, Madonna faced more challenges in her personal life. She spent much of the previous year fighting allegations that she circumvented traditional Malawi laws to bring home her newly adopted son, David Banda, whom she had been raising since 2006. Critics accused Madonna of using her vast wealth to fast-track the adoption process, a charge she vigorously denied. A coalition of 67 local rights groups challenged the interim custody order on the grounds that existing laws in Malawi do not allow for international adoptions. 

Madonna's application to permanently adopt the boy was approved by Malawai's high court on May 28, 2008, the pop star's lawyer said. "It's a beautiful and positive judgment," Alan Chinula told reporters. "Finally the court has granted Madonna full adoption rights of the boy. ... It's all over, thank God." She decided to adopt from Malawai again, and in June 2009, after another legal battle, was granted custody of Mercy James.

In February 2017, Madonna announced she had adopted 4-year-old twins, Estere and Stelle, from Malawi, posting a photo with the girls on her Instagram account. 

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