Madonna has spent the past four decades telling us exactly what’s on her mind: good, bad and frequently very explicit. But if you had any notion that turning 60 might cause her to tap the breaks on her legendarily blunt assessments of the pop firmament, think again.
In an upcoming New York Times Magazine profile, the mother of six holds forth on the inspiration behind her Latin-influenced 14th album, Madame X, her #MeToo moment, denies going on a date with Donald Trump and explains why Miley Cyrus should thank her for continuing to shake it.
Here are the seven crucial takeaways from the Times interview:
On how blocking out the “Greek chorus” of social media comments about her being “too old, washed up, out of ideas” has helped her sanity: “It’s not that I engage with it, but it ends up going in front of your eyes, and then when it goes in front of your eyes, it’s inside your head,” she says. “It comes up in your feed, and then you get pulled into it whether you like it or not. So it’s a challenge to rise above it, to not be affected by it, to not get frustrated, to not compare, to not feel judged, to not be hurt. You know, it’s a test. Yeah… I preferred life before phone.”
On how the leak of her previous album, Rebel Heart, hurt her corazon: “There are no words to describe how devastated I was,” she said of the songs from her tepid-selling 2015 album leaking online several months early in unfinished versions. “It took me a while to recover, and put such a bad taste in my mouth I wasn’t really interested in making music… I felt raped.”
On the darker edge of Madame X and how her experimentation with genres from dance to fado, rap and Cape Verdean batuque helped her explore her anger about world leaders like Pres. Trump: The singer says that the American president and his like seem to be “systematically removing all of our personal freedoms.” Which is why writer Vanessa Grigoriadis says the signer visualized herself as a “freedom fighter traveling the world to spread the gospel of love and anti-discrimination — fighting misogyny, homophobia, racism, guns, the rise of authoritarianism.”
Speaking of Trump, no, they never dated: She says it wasn’t true that she’d once asked Trump for a date, as claimed by “John Miller,” the real estate mogul’s alleged “publicist,” who told People magazine in 1991, “She called and wanted to go out with him, that I can tell you.” Madonna, however, did recall speaking to Trump on the phone in Florida when she was shooting a Versace campaign with Steven Meisel at the now-president’s home in Palm Beach. She said Trump kept calling her asking how things were. “He kept going: ‘Hey, is everything O.K.? Finding yourself comfortable? Are the beds comfortable? Is everything good? Are you happy?’ ”
On the time Harvey Weinstein “crossed lines” with her on the Truth or Dare set: Asked about the #TimesUp movement and whether she thought the anti-sexual-assault movement would go mainstream in her lifetime: “No, that was pretty surprising,” she says, going on to describe how disgraced mogul Weinstein — the co-founder of Miramax, which distributed the singer’s 1991 cinéma vérité documentary — acted on the set of the film. “Harvey crossed lines and boundaries and was incredibly sexually flirtatious and forward with me when we were working together; he was married at the time, and I certainly wasn’t interested… I was aware that he did the same with a lot of other women that I knew in the business. And we were all, ‘Harvey gets to do that because he’s got so much power and he’s so successful and his movies do so well and everybody wants to work with him, so you have to put up with it.’ So that was it. So when it happened, I was really like, ‘Finally.’ I wasn’t cheering from the rafters because I’m never going to cheer for someone’s demise. I don’t think that’s good karma anyway. But it was good that somebody who had been abusing his power for so many years was called out and held accountable.”
She not only rolls with a hair and makeup team and social media photographer, but a staff lighting specialist, because she’s Madonna: Describing the scene after the singer accepts an award at a recent GLAAD media event, Grigoriadis says the singer moves to a “modified red carpet, set up just for her in a private room,” where her dedicated social media photographer documents everything and her “personal hair and makeup folks bowed over her like art conservators touching up a priceless painting.” But that’s not all. “She even had her own lighting specialists, who monitored news outlets’ lighting apparatuses for shadows and bathed her in pure white light.”
On being provocative and sexual over 60: “It’s almost like a crime,” she says of the perception of her continued pushing of the envelope. “She might have been doing all this for the younger generation, so that when Miley Cyrus was 60, no one would bat an eyelash if she twerked on stage,” writes Grigoriadis. “She had always been a pioneer. She told me she had sympathy for the way middle-aged women are confused by social media, unsure of how to project an appealing image without relying on the shortcut of youthful beauty.” “You can’t win,” she says. “An ass shot will get you more followers, but it will also get you more detractors and criticism. You’re in that funny place.”