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Madonna - Biography

All you need to know about the 'Like a Virgin' singer

Madonna with pleated hair© Kevin Mazur
Matthew Moore
Online News Writer & Diversity and Inclusion Lead
Updated: March 7, 2024
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There's no denying Madonna is the mother of reinvention. The Michigan-born icon is one of the few people to have remained a mover and shaker on the pop scene over the course of her decades-long career.

Early life

Born on August 16, 1958, the third of eight children, Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone lost her mother to breast cancer when she was just six years old. "I became an over-achiever to get approval from the world," she explained later.

She left the University of Michigan, where she was studying dance, after just three terms and hot-footed it to New York with $35 in her pocket. A regular on the club scene she worked at developing her vocal talents and soon signed a record deal.


Madonna performing in a cone bra© Brian Rasic

Success came in 1984 with songs Holiday and Like A Virgin; the latter's provocative video combined with the growing influence of MTV meant she was soon a global player in the pop world. For almost a decade Madonna set out to provoke, leading the Vatican to describe her Blonde Ambition tour as "one of the most satanic shows in the history of humanity".

A series of bad film choices, including the risible Body Of Evidence, foiled her efforts to make it in the movie world. Following the luke warm reception of her 1992 book Sex - featuring the singer and a raft of other celebrities in the buff - the singer lowered her profile. She returned in triumph, however, with her Golden Globe-winning performance as Eva Peron in the film version of Evita.

The star is still continuing to make and produce music, with her latest album, Madame X, being released in 2019. The star also embarked on her tour Celebration in 2023, which collected together her greatest hits.

Other ventures

Keely Shaye standing with Pierce Brosnan, Guy Ritchie and Madonna© Michael Crabtree

While Madonna's 2002 outing in Guy's third film Swept Away garnered less than favourable reviews, her first children's book broke publishing records. Entitled The English Roses and based on the Jewish teachings of the Kaballah it was translated into 30 languages and released in 100 countries when published in 2003.

Music aside, Madonna's religious convictions continued to dominate the headlines. First she changed her name to Esther, then she announced her support to the tune of £12 million of a school to enlighten youngsters about Kabbalah teachings. And 2004 closed on a high, with her being inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame alongside such musical luminaries as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Queen, Michael Jackson and Elvis.

The mother-of-reinvention went on to tackle yet more horizons, dabbling in clothes design for High Street store H&M.

Personal life

During filming for Evita, Madonna discovered she was pregnant by her boyfriend, personal trainer Carlos Leon. Their daughter Lourdes was born in October 1996, inspiring the Grammy award-winning album Ray Of Light. The singer had been previously married to actor Sean Penn in 1985, but the two divorced four years later.

Madonna had always said she would never marry again but that was before she met British film director Guy Ritchie. "My head spun round on my body," she said of their first meeting. After the couple's son Rocco was born in August 2000 the two tied the knot four months later in Scotland's Skibo Castle. However, after eight years of marriage, Madonna and Guy announced they were separating. The couple's divorce was finalised by a high court judge in London in November 2008 - one month after news of their split.

Guy Ritchie standing with Madonna© Dave Hogan

Since the couple's split, the singer has dated Brazilian model and DJ, Jesus Luz, French dancer Brahim Zaibat, personal trainer Timor Stephens and dancer Ahlamalik Williams. The star is currently in a relationship with boxer Joshua Popper, with the pair having a 35-year age gap.

Madonna's adoption of a baby boy, David Banda, from Malawi also captured the public's interest in 2006. Having fallen in love with the 18-month-old, she arranged for him to be brought to London amid enormous media interest. In 2007, on a trip back to David's homeland, Madonna set eyes on three-year-old orphan Mercy James and instantly felt a special connection with the youngster. She began the process of adopting the child, and was finally able to welcome her into her family in June 2009, after winning an appeal against an earlier court decision that she could not adopt.

Madonna with her adopted children

Ten years later, the singer adopted twins Stella and Estere Ciccone, who at the time were five years old.  Speaking to People following the adoption, she said: "I thought, 'What am I waiting for? Just do it,'" after she expressed how she'd been finding herself thinking: "'Why isn't my kitchen filled with dancing children?'"


On June 24, 2023, the singer was found unresponsive in her New York City apartment. Madonna was rushed to hospital and placed in a medically-induced coma for two days as she recovered from a "serious bacterial infection". She spent a further three days recovering from the infection and cancelled numerous dates on her North American leg of her Celebration tour as a result.

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