Madonna Pop Culture Icon  by Rosemary McKittrick

Photo courtesy of Julien's Auctions.

 “I am my own experiment.  I am my own work of art,” Madonna said.  More than a singer.  More than a performer or actress, Madonna is a 20th century cultural icon.  An experiment in the culture of pop star—someone who’s constantly unfolding and transforming herself.

Colleges like Harvard have offered classes on Madonna and how she impacts American culture.  Like any good work of art she stirs things up. 

I think the biggest reason I was able to express myself and not be intimidated was by not having a mother. For example, mothers teach you manners. And I absolutely did not learn any of those rules and regulations.
— Madonna

When the songstress first arrived in New York City in the late-70s she was 19-years-old with $35 in her pocket and a dream of a career in modern dance.  She ultimately used her talent as a backup dancer to break into the music business. 

Madonna met anybody and everybody who could help.  From the beginning, she was an unstoppable force in the business with an edgy, brassy persona that craved the limelight. 

“I stand for freedom of expression, doing what you believe in, and going after your dreams,” she said.  And that’s what she did.  The self-confident, sexually-liberated pop star turned the music industry upside down.          

She released her first album Madonna in 1983.  Dick Clark put her on his popular TV show American Bandstand and the kids couldn’t get enough.

“She had some sort of bizarre outfit on,” he said.  “She looked different—she was different—and they loved her.”  Madonna took control of her music and her image early on. 

Young girls wanted to look, sound and dress just like her. 

With the release of her follow-up album in 1984, Like a Virgin, the pop diva’s career took a quantum leap.  The title track, Like a Virgin, was the first of 12 number-one hits and one of Madonna’s most recognized songs.  Another single on that album, Material Girl, birthed Madonna’s nickname The Material Girl.  

Born in Bay City, Mich., on Aug. 16, 1958, as Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone, the third of six children, Madonna’s rebelliousness was obvious from the beginning. 

Raised in a strict Catholic household she described her mother as a religious zealot.  Growing up, there were always nuns and priests coming and going.  That gave her plenty of old-fashioned values to rebel against she said.  Her mother ultimately died of breast cancer when Madonna was 5-years-old and she was raised by her father and step-mother.

"I think the biggest reason I was able to express myself and not be intimidated was by not having a mother," she says. "For example, mothers teach you manners. And I absolutely did not learn any of those rules and regulations."

Madonna is ranked by Guinness World Records as the most successful female recording artist of all time and the top-earning female recording artist in the world.  On March 10, 2008 she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The cult of celebrity is a gristmill in America and divas like Madonna keep it churning.  Anything belonging to or even signed by her is going to be collectible.  On Oct. 8, Julien’s Auctions featured a selection of Madonna items in its Legends auction held in Macau, China.  


Children’s Books; 4; Madonna’s books written for children; signed on title page in black ink by Madonna;  $1,280. 

Sex Book; first run edition signed on first page in black marker by Madonna;  $2,560.

Evita Ephemera; including script cover signed by Madonna, Antonio Banderas and Alan Parker; $3,438.  

Bustier; black lace; worn by Madonna; for the “Like a Prayer” Pepsi commercial that was pulled from airing;  $6,875.

Stage Ensemble; Girlie Show; Dolce & Gabbana designer; sequined black bolero-style jacket; jacket features beaded fringe trim and snap closure; Columbia Studios matching boy shorts;  $23,750.           

Rosemary McKittrick is a storyteller.  For 26 years she has brought the world of collecting to life in her column.  Her website is a mother lode of information about art, antiques and collectibles.  Rosemary received her education in the trenches working as a professional appraiser.

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