Why Madonna’s Billboard “Woman of the Year” Acceptance Speech Means So Much
I remember the first time I fell for Madonna. It was the mid-eighties and I had just moved from Kansas City, MO to Lagos, Nigeria. That’s quite a leap by any standard, but my parents were convinced that growing up in the country of my heritage would make a more rounded individual.
In the midst of my formation — I had a neighborhood friend who lived a couple of doors away from me. We were only a month apart in age and exhibited the same taste in pop music. Looking back now — it is unbelievable that she was ever a fan of a woman who used her sexuality as a vice to rule the airwaves with delicious confidence that was both infectious and guaranteed.
It is amazing how raw and available we are in when our youth blinds us from being able to place judgment on the people and things that we grow up to despise — based on misguided spiritualism and the need to adhere to standards that were set by a system that was purposed for our downward spiral.
My friend has changed drastically since then but I haven’t.
I am still the same young girl who was mesmerized by the poster on the wall that featured a punk-virginal rock star decked out to the soundtrack of a life that I wanted to embrace more than the pastors that I was forced to congratulate every Sunday after another boring service.
Like a Virgin was the tune to long-range expectations and the image of me and my pal jumping around in her room — as we swayed to words and a rhythm that we didn’t need translated but hoped would manifest — in time.
She’s now a righteous born again Christian and I am a Christian who doesn’t know how to express that because religion is kind of a weird lifestyle that never jived with my desire for independence and all the things that I was told would make me burn in hell.
My allegiance to Madonna grew steadily over time — as I followed all her hits and even relieved myself to tracks that I hoped would beckon my sexual revolution.
When Erotica made landfall in 1994 — I was finally old enough to understand why I loved Deeper and Deeper so damn much and why Bad Girl hit a nerve that needed to be exposed with no painkillers to boot.
But even before that — I was guided into her world where anything goes — only if you play by her rules. Truth or Dare was a visceral opening into the clit of recognition where you see a powerful woman with the universe at her beck and call — whip everyone around into shapes and sizes that fit her pleasure.
Even the likes of Warren Beatty (who she was dating at the time) and Kevin Costner (who probably wanted to fuck her but didn’t have the guts to do so) weren’t safe from the gorgeous menace of Madonna Louise Ciccone.
The infuriatingly sexual goddess who lost her mother at the worst age ever, moved to New York at a time when violence reigned supreme, dated Jean-Michel Basquiat, married bad boy Sean Penn, while furnishing the trimmings that would allow a smooth glide to the top of the charts.
She ruled supreme much to the chagrin of those who couldn’t stand the notion of a woman expressing herself in ways that are usually reserved for men in her league — who are never thwarted in their mission to be as nasty as they want to be.
When Erotica hit the scene — I recall the reception and it wasn’t pretty. I felt dirty just admitting in private that I couldn’t get enough of the tracks that solidified my goal to be proud of my ability to make myself come without the staple of a dick attached to a loser.
I was finally old enough to be exploratory without permission and placed myself as the heroine in each of her videos. Videos were huge back then and Madonna’s face became my own as I cast my journey of sexual abuse and delayed recovery against the sexual mores that she broke apart and then pieced together according to her commandments.
Years later — I would learn that she was also a victim of sexual violence but instead of cowering in a corner and allowing life to pummel her in whatever direction I could’ve led her to — she overcame it by taking charge of her sensuality by authoring how and when she will be worshipped and adored.
Billboard recently name Madonna “Woman of the Year.”
This honor naturally disappears in the realm of a time when giving and receiving awards is like emptying your bladder with other like-minded humans who were born to perform the same function. There is no prestige attached to getting decked out and paraded in front of the vengeful utterances of social media and the leaking liquid of the red carpet that has been gauged for your epic fall.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t give to fucks. I think the art of being rewarded for a job well done has now been diluted to the point of no return. The ones who deserve the honor are hung out to dry so the industry’s finest can continue to reap the blessings of their statues.
But, this time, I can’t deny the validity of Madonna’s ordainment and neither can she, which makes this a perfectly nostalgic setting.
Her acceptance speech means so much now — more than ever — and that’s because I have lived long enough to comprehend how being a fierce feminist sounds a hell of a lot better than the actual execution.
Nobody really wants to do the work required except a handful of warriors that weren’t born to rule but opted for the task out of rebelliousness and the glory of coming on cue.
If you don’t believe me — peep Madonna at her best and soak in her testimony when she explains how she was manipulated, harassed, and beaten down for daring to be herself — at the expense of a society that still does all it can to make women feel ashamed — for claiming the joy of orgasms that should only be directed by the freedom that comes with self-awareness and the knowledge of what our bodies and minds can accomplish when we engage without force.
I will always view Madonna beyond her legendary status especially since I sampled her when she was still in the making. To me, she was the forbidden fruit that I sliced into many halves and amazingly the juices still flow through the depths of my physical tragedy and into the crevices of my imminent recovery.
Madonna is the star that I would’ve been if I knew how to magnificently “straddle a microphone” and lived through the glorious era of sex, drugs, and Rock N’ Roll as legal adult acting like an adult on mental steroids.
She is the ‘Woman of the Year” to you but to me she is the Virgin in White plastered in Technicolor and lying about being “touched for the very first time.”
I believed her and it saved my life.