From Madonna’s rendition of Material Girl, where she donned rollers and a dressing gown and impersonated a vacuous housewife, to her performance of Express Yourself in a tailored black suit with signature Jean Paul Gaultier cone bra corset peeking out, she stuck up two fingers to the dumb blonde stereotype and reminded the world that women are more than decoration.
Pop stars embracing the gay rights movement might be standard form now (and a performance at G-A-Y is part of every pop star’s promo) but in 1990, Madonna’s support for the gay community was a bold move. Six of her seven dancers were gay and a performance of Now I’m Following You featured men dressed as Dick Tracy pairing off with each other. Her final show of the tour was dedicated to her friend and artist Keith Haring, who had recently died from Aids-related complications, and proceeds went to an Aids charity.
For her tour wardrobe, Madonna asked Jean Paul Gaultier to design clothes that reflected her confidence and swagger. He said yes (“I thought my assistant was joking. I was a big fan,” he has said) and so was born the most iconic piece of stage wear ever – the conical bra. For the far-reaching influence of Madge’s tour and style, see Lady Gaga performing Alejandro during her ArtRave: The Artpop Ball tour.
Christina Aguilera riding a carousel horse, wearing no trousers and screaming “DIRRTY” during her Back To Basics tour wasn’t that shocking back in 2006 – not when, 16 years earlier, Madonna lay on a bed with two male dancers, sang Like A Virgin and simulated masturbation. In Toronto, she was threatened with arrest if she performed the routine – she did it anyway.
Now it’s expected pop stars will welcome fans into their personal lives with Instagram accounts and behind-the-scenes videos. But when Madonna made In Bed With Madonna, a backstage documentary filmed during Blond Ambition, it was groundbreaking. In it, she lays bare family rifts, her relationship with Warren Beatty and with her dancers. For another layer of insight, watch new film Strike A Pose, which tracks down those dancers.
Join us down a rabbit hole of Madonna’s greatest hits and listen to our Spotify playlist.
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