Occupation: Actress, Mass-media phenomenon, Musician, Singer
Date of Birth: August 16, 1958
Place of Birth: Bay City, Mich., USA
Sign: Sun in Leo, Moon in Virgo
Relations: Ex-husband: Sean Penn;kid: Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon (by former companion Carlos Leon), Rocco Ritchie (by current squeeze Guy Ritchie); beau: Guy Ritchie (director)
Education: Attended University of Michigan


ANY etymologist can attest to Madonna's dynamic impact on linguistics. The belly button-baring, blonde bombshell has not only contributed "boy toy," "vogue," and "wannabe" to the English lexicon, but has put an entirely new spin on such dictionary classics as "ambition," "brassiere," and "material." Of course, the library is not the arena Madonna aspires to conquer. The envelope-pushing entertainer has instead focused her considerable determination to succeed on both the music and motion picture industries.

Born in 1958 near Detroit, Madonna Ciccone was the eldest daughter of her engineer father and housewife mother's eight children. (Madonna's mother died of breast cancer when she was six.) The plucky girl exhibited a showbiz flair at a young age, and signed up for such artistic outlets as school shows, the cheerleading squad, piano lessons, and ballet classes. Madonna's dancing skills earned her a scholarship to attend the University of Michigan. In 1978, two years into her college studies, Madonna grew impatient for stardom, dropped out, and moved to New York. Legend has it that she set down in Times Square with only thirty-five dollars and abundant ambition to her name.

A series of low-wage jobs, including a stint behind the counter at the Times Square Dunkin' Donuts, ensued before Madonna landed some short-lived gigs with the acclaimed dance troupes of Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham. Her restless aspirations prevented her from remaining a nameless face hidden among a sea of dancers for long  besides, her attention had wavered away from dance to music. The dancer-turning-singer joined a succession of small-time bands, and, during the early eighties, she first tried her hand at writing songs and gradually learned to play guitar and piano. Madonna landed gigs singing at local dance clubs, attracting considerable attention for her boogie-inducing tunes and her enthusiastic, naughty stage presence. In 1982, star DJ Mark Kamins supplied Madonna with her big break: he created a club-scene hit from one of her demo singles, "Everybody," and introduced the budding performer to Warner Bros. executives, who liked what they heard  and saw  and promptly signed her to a recording contract.

Madonna's eponymous debut album was released to zero fanfare in 1983. Tracks from the record nonetheless became must-plays in New York's nightclubs. The record's first single, "Holiday," made the leap from dance-floor turntables to airplay by inner-city radio stations and, incredibly, into America's Top 20 chart. In quick succession, "Lucky Star" and "Borderline" followed the debut single's trajectory. Both those tunes were boosted by music videos that introduced the world to Madonna's intriguing look: layered mesh halter tops, exposed midriff, short skirts, all set off by religious accessories and a pointedly bad dye-job. While hits from Madonna were still camped out on the charts, Warner Bros. released Like a Virgin (1984). Its title track became the singer's first No. 1 single, and the album topped the charts. In 1985, Madonna sold more singles and albums than any other artist that year.

Now a certified sensation, Madonna embarked on a sold-out tour; appeared in the modestly entertaining feature films Vision Quest and Desperately Seeking Susan (both 1985); married actor Sean Penn; and made her theatrical debut opposite him in a 1986 production of David Rabe's Goose and Tom-Tom. The media-magnetic couple wed in 1985  on Madonna's birthday, August 16  in Malibu, California. The partnership produced the truly dreadful film Shanghai Surprise (1986) and zillions of tabloid headlines, and ended in divorce less than four years later.

Controversy  not entirely unwanted controversy  became Madonna's next companion. The title track to her 1989 album Like a Prayer reaped tremendous publicity by virtue of its highly contested music video, which featured a slip-clad Madonna dancing before burning crosses, kissing an African-American saint, and displaying spontaneous stigmata. The resulting outcry from religious groups prompted Pepsi to cancel its sponsorship of her tour and to pull the plug on a TV commercial starring the kinky video vixen. And what lesson did Madonna take away from this escapade? Scandal sells. She went on to employ similar promotional techniques to boost ticket sales for her 1990 Blonde Ambition tour, box-office figures for the documentary Truth or Dare (1991), and sales of the X-rated Sex book and the similarly-themed album Erotica (1992).

In 1992, Madonna cemented her superstardom with a seven-year, $60-million deal with Time Warner. Under the pact, Madonna became head of her own label, Maverick, which she formed with longtime manager Freddy DeMann. Initially dismissed as a vanity studio, Maverick has succeeded beyond even the Material Girl's most ambitious dreams, thanks largely to the label's best-selling artists, Alanis Morissette and the English techno band Prodigy.

After the uproar surrounding Sex subsided, Madonna, realizing she was seriously overexposed, slipped out of the limelight and into a handful of low-key film roles in such indie fare as Blue in the Face and Four Rooms (both 1995). When she reemerged, she embodied two new personae: mother-to-be and serious actress. On October 14, 1996, she and then-boyfriend Carlos Leon welcomed daughter Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon  whom mama Madonna calls Lola  into the world. In addition, the lambasted star of such filmic flops as Who's That Girl? (1987) and Body of Evidence (1993) appeared as the titular heroine of Evita (1996). It was a role she seemed born to play. At least the Hollywood Foreign Press Association thought so  it honored Madonna with a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy.

Ever the shape-shifting provocateur, Madonna has built her career by aggressively strip-mining pop culture, donning a spectrum of usually shocking, always rebellious cultural personae like so many costume changes in her quest for self-realization. But in the wake of Lourdes' birth, a singularly sedate, subdued, and spiritually-centered woman emerged: a hardworking and privacy-guarding mom devoted to raising her kid, managing her empire, and selecting her artistic projects very carefully.

Nowhere was Madonna's newfound state of meditative reserve and self-awareness more readily in evidence than on her 1998 release Ray of Light, a moody, introspective album she created with the express intent of affecting people "in a quieter way," as she related to one interviewer. Never one to limit her media boundaries, the continually morphing pop icon also set about establishing two new Maverick divisions: Mad Guy Television and Mad Guy Films.

Four years passed before her next cinematic outing, in The Next Best Thing, the story of best friends  a straight woman (Madonna) and a gay man (Rupert Everett) who decide to have a child together. Soon after the film's release, a spokeswoman from Madonna's record label confirmed months-old rumors that the pop icon and her current beau, British film director Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels),welcomed a son named Rocco in August 2000.

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