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BY LIV PHILLIPS
Looking around our campus and through our peers, we can feel the tingling starpower. The undeniable potential that Michigan students have to be someone extraordinary. Our alumni range from Brady to Page as we are the Leaders and the Best, so it’s no surprise the Queen of Pop once roamed our halls. Emerging on the music scene in the 80s after attending The University of Michigan on a dance scholarship, Madonna became the sultriest, toughest, and smartest “Boy Toy” in the music industry. Her mark on fashion is as influential as her chart-topping hits, pioneering a signature look that changed the dialogue around women’s sexuality, fit with big bows, red lips, and plenty of confidence.
It is easy to forget what it was like to be a woman in the late 20th century, even the most famous one in the world, when we see current performers like Miley Cyrus in her wrecking ball era dressed in… well… nothing. In more recent years, a pop star performing in risque apparel is almost expected, but Madonna was the disruptor of the status quo her entire career. In 1990, she jetted globally on her Blonde Ambition tour, gifting the world with Madonna in her prime and transforming what it meant to be a star. She enlisted dear friend Jean Paul Gaultier to create more than 60 fantastical outfits for the shows and within the $2 million stage set, she was the first to implement costume changes and exaggerated looks into concert culture. Madonna graduated from Queen of Pop to full pop culture Icon on tour during Express Yourself when she stripped out of a sophisticated pinstripe suit to reveal a sultry ballet pink bullet bra. The conical bra rebelled against the narrow definition of the soft feminine figure by making it a strong and defiant statement used to celebrate and exert dominance. The world tour did incredibly well as Madonna generated over $62 million in sales, which is $113 million adjusted for inflation, and the emblematic bra sold for $52,000 in 2012.
While Madonna’s racy wardrobe had tabloids reeling, her 1989 Like a Prayer music video got the attention of the world. The viral video drew a line connecting racial injustice and religion, establishing Madonna as one of the first figures in entertainment to call out the Church for racial disparities. Unsurprisingly, this form of fighting social injustice was poorly received and Madonna and director Mary Lambert became the face of controversy. The video was condemned by the Vatican for her performance and a once $5 million Pepsi sponsorship was swiftly taken away upon debut. But despite the public's reaction, Like A Prayer was nominated for MTV Music Awards’ Video Of The Year and in 2008 she performed the hit song for the pope, creating a full circle moment of social justice and radical expression.
From sex icon to sinner, Madonna’s multifaceted fashion and diverse aesthetic was what connected her with girls around the world. One of her most notable looks was in her Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend inspired shooting of Material Girl. Her tribute to Marilyn Monroe was another ode to women's sexuality. The bustier dress, satin bow, pink opera gloves, white faux fur stole and two rhinestone cuffs Madonna wore in the Material Girl video recently went up for auction and are expected to generate $150,000. Madonna created a generation of women who aspired to be THE material girl, and she capitalized on that influence by creating her own inspired brand. Material Girl, the brand, was created by Madonna and daughter Lourdes to represent strong, spontaneous, and fearless style. The clothing emulated punk-rock style and added a sophisticated feminine touch with pieces ranging from printed pants to denim corsets, and within the last fiscal year, Material Girl generated $10 million in sales. Along with her clothing line came the ‘Truth or Dare’ perfume, an intoxicating mixture of sweet gardenia and musky amber, that earned her $60 million alone.
Madonna’s taste has been followed and copied from the moment she stepped on the scene. In 2022, she remains one of the most influential artists in Hollywood. The star continues to strut the stages and red carpet determining what’s in vogue while donning the most talked about pieces and shaping a culture of the new woman.