Madonna (Madonna Louise Ciccone) mədŏnˈə, chĭkōˈnē [key], 1958–, American pop singer and actress, b. Bay City, Mich. She trained as a dancer at the Univ. of Michigan before moving to New York City to begin her music and dance career. Her albums Madonna (1983) and Like a Virgin (1984) secured her position as a sexual and pop icon. She also pursued a career as a film actress, winning critical praise for her parts in  Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), Dick Tracy (1990), and the musical Evita (1996). Truth or Dare (1991) was a revealing backstage performance film that paved the way for her book Sex (1992), which garnered enormous publicity.  In the late 1980s-‘90s, “Madonna Studies” arose as a part of academic courses on feminism, women’s studies, and popular culture.  She has provoked controversy for her use of Christian iconography in the video for her song “Like A Prayer” and also by staging an onstage kiss with fellow singers Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at the 2003 MTV music awards. To date, she has sold over 300 million records worldwide and is the highest-grossing solo touring artist of all time.  She is also a successful entrepreneur owning her own recording company, and has branched out to cosmetics and fashion ventures. Madonna was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.  She founded the Ray of Light Foundation in 1998 to focus on women’s issues and global development, and Raising Malawi in 2006 to support orphaned children in that country.  

See biographies by R. Taraborerelli (2001) and A. Morton (2002); memoir by C. Ciccone (2008); studies by K. Faith, Madonna; Bawdy and Soul (1997), A. Simone, Madonnaland (2016), C. Schwichtenberg, ed., The Madonna Connection: Representational Politics, Subcultural Identities, and Cultural Theory (2019).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Music: Popular and Jazz: Biographies