Say what you will about Madonna, but her staying power is undeniable. So when Harper’s Bazaar let her write a retrospective on her life, career and struggles thus far, we figured it would be eye-opening. But smack dab in the middle she makes a stunning revelation: She was raped in her early days starting out in New York.
The essay is framed around the concept of “truth or dare” — specifically challenging people to dare. She reflects at length on being an unpopular high schooler before moving from Rochester, Mich. into the big city to catch her lucky break. That’s where things took a turn for the worse:
New York wasn’t everything I thought it would be. It did not welcome me with open arms. The first year, I was held up at gunpoint. Raped on the roof of a building I was dragged up to with a knife in my back, and had my apartment broken into three times. I don’t know why; I had nothing of value after they took my radio the first time.
Even when you’re the queen of pop, it takes an incredible amount of courage to share such a story. We cannot applaud her enough for doing so.
As we all know, she persevered, so she also discussed her continued grit and determination in the face of fear and loneliness in a city that doesn’t slow down for anyone:
And all the homeless people on the street. This wasn’t anything I prepared for in Rochester, Michigan. Trying to be a professional dancer, paying my rent by posing nude for art classes, staring at people staring at me naked. Daring them to think of me as anything but a form they were trying to capture with their pencils and charcoal. I was defiant. Hell-bent on surviving. On making it. But it was hard and it was lonely, and I had to dare myself every day to keep going. Sometimes I would play the victim and cry in my shoe box of a bedroom with a window that faced a wall, watching the pigeons shit on my windowsill. And I wondered if it was all worth it, but then I would pull myself together and look at a postcard of Frida Kahlo taped to my wall, and the sight of her mustache consoled me. Because she was an artist who didn’t care what people thought. I admired her. She was daring. People gave her a hard time. Life gave her a hard time. If she could do it, then so could I.
Further on she talks about her introduction into Kabbalah and the ridicule it brought, as well as the tribulations she went through after adopting her son from Malawi. She writes about her divorce and of studying the Qur’an before reflecting upon where she is now.
It’s incredibly poignant, introspective and harrowing, and it proves what we’ve always suspected: Madonna has more facets than we’ll ever know. (Now if she’d just quit wearing that damned grill.)