Date of Birth: August 16, 1958
Born near Detroit, Madonna Ciccone was the eldest daughter of eight children. Exhibiting a flair for showbiz at a young age, she signed up for artistic outlets such as school shows, the cheerleading squad, piano lessons, and ballet classes. Her dancing skills earned her a scholarship to attend the University of Michigan but in 1978, she grew impatient for stardom, dropped out, and moved to New York.
A series of low-wage jobs ensued before Madonna landed some short-lived gigs with the acclaimed dance troupes of Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham. Her attention eventually wavered away from dance to music and she joined a succession of small-time bands. During the early eighties, she first tried her hand at writing songs and gradually learned to play guitar and piano. Landing gigs singing at local dance clubs, she attracted considerable attention for her boogie-inducing tunes and her enthusiastic, naughty stage presence. In 1982, a star DJ gave Madonna her big break: he created a club-scene hit from one of her demo singles, "Everybody," introduced the budding performer to Warner Bros. executives and was promptly signed.
Madonna's debut album was released in 1983 and tracks from it 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 into America's Top 20 chart. In quick succession, "Lucky Star" and "Borderline" followed the debut single's trajectory. The following year, Like a Virgin's 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.
Success had arrived: she embarked on a sold-out tour; appeared in the 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 couple wed in 1985 and the partnership produced the truly dreadful film Shanghai Surprise (1986), and zillions of tabloid headlines. The marriage ended in divorce less than four years later.
Controversy became Madonna's next companion. When the music video for the title track to her 1989 album "Like a Prayer" resulted in outcry from religious groups, it prompted Pepsi to cancel its sponsorship of her tour. Realizing that 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).
After the uproar surrounding Sex subsided, Madonna 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. In October 1996, she and then-boyfriend Carlos Leon welcomed daughter Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon into the world. In addition, she appeared as the titular heroine of Evita (1996), a role she seemed born to play. Or at least, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association thought so by honoring her with a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy.
In December 2000 she married director Guy Ritchie, the father of her son, Rocco. Ritchie directed Madonna in Swept Away (2002), a remake of an Italian classic, but the movie was a box office and critical disaster. Madonna then turned to writing children's books, releasing her first, The English Roses, in 2003.
Madonna and Ritchie adopted a boy from Malawi, David Banda (b. 2005). The adoption papers were filed on October 10, 2006 and the adoption was finalized on May 28, 2008, just months before Madonna and Ritchie divorced.