Madonna has revealed she was raped at knife-point at the start of her career. The pop legend has opened up about her traumatic ordeal for the first time in nearly two decades, revealing she was sexually abused by a stranger at knifepoint shortly after arriving in New York City from Rochester, Michigan, to pursue her dreams of stardom.
Writing in the November issue of Harper’s Bazaar magazine, the 55-year-old singer recalls: ‘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.’
The fearless music icon graces the cover of Harper’s Bazaar November issue, opening up about her 30 years of ruling pop in a personal essay that chronicles her childhood, moving to New York and rise to fame. ‘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,’ the Rochester, Michigan-born singer writes of her first years in Manhattan.
In the ostentatious and bondage-inspired fashion shoot, photographed by Terry Richardson, a daring Madonna makes a statement in her signature fearless fashion: form-fitting dresses, thigh-high leather boots, heavy metal and lots of gold. ‘If I can’t be daring in my work or the way I live my life, then I don’t really see the point of being on this planet,’ explains the singer, who has hinted that she could be releasing a new album in 2014.
But the queen of pop says it wasn’t always so easy. On her teenage years, she admits most people thought she was ‘strange’. ‘I didn’t have many friends; I might not have had any friends. But it all turned out good in the end, because when you aren’t popular and you don’t have a social life, it gives you more time to focus on your future.
‘And for me, that was going to New York to become a REAL artist. To be able to express myself in a city of nonconformists. To revel and shimmy and shake in a world and be surrounded by daring people.’ Then known as Madonna Louise Ciccone, the signer was just 19 years old when she moved to New York City in 1977 with $35 in her pocket.
‘I was scared s***less and freaked out by the smell of piss and vomit everywhere, especially in the entryway of my third-floor walk-up,’ she recalls. Trying to be a professional dancer at the time, she paid her rent ‘by posing nude for art classes’. ‘When you’re 25, it’s a little bit easier to be daring, especially if you are a pop star, because eccentric behavior is expected from you,’ she says.
After ten years in the spotlight, she says she ‘began to search for meaning and a real sense of purpose in life.’ She soon discovered Kabbalah in a search for a more spiritual life. ‘At 35, I was divorced and looking for love in all the wrong places. I decided that I needed to be more than a girl with gold teeth and gangster boyfriends. . . I wanted to be a mother, but I realized that just because I was a freedom fighter didn’t mean I was qualified to raise a child.’
Then at 45, Madonna found herself married again, with two children and living in England. She explains how moving to a foreign country ‘wasn’t easy’. ‘Just because we speak the same language doesn’t mean we speak the same language. I didn’t understand that there was still a class system. I didn’t understand pub culture. I didn’t understand that being openly ambitious was frowned upon. ‘Once again I felt alone. But I stuck it out and I found my way, and I grew to love English wit, Georgian architecture, sticky toffee pudding, and the English countryside. There is nothing more beautiful than the English countryside.’
As the world entered the aughts, Madonna said she decided she ‘had an embarrassment of riches’, and realized that ‘there were too many children in the world without parents or families to love them.’ After applying to an international adoption agency, faced with the ‘bureaucracy, testing, and waiting that everyone else goes through when they adopt,’ she said she was approached by a woman from Malawi, who told her about the millions of children orphaned by AIDS.
‘Before you could say “Zikomo Kwambiri,” I was in the airport in Lilongwe heading to an orphanage in Mchinji, where I met my son David.’ But despite her elation and happiness, she admits she had no idea that adopting a child was going to land her in ‘another s*** storm’. ‘I was accused of kidnapping, child trafficking, using my celebrity muscle to jump ahead in the line, bribing government officials, witchcraft, you name it. Certainly I had done something illegal!’
She calls this period of her life an ‘eye-opening’ experience. ‘I could get my head around people giving me a hard time for simulating masturbation onstage or publishing my Sex book, even kissing Britney Spears at an awards show, but trying to save a child’s life was not something I thought I would be punished for. ‘One of the many things I learned from all of this: If you aren’t willing to fight for what you believe in, then don’t even enter the ring.’