Re-Invention: what Madonna does best

I’m developing a love for biographies. Maybe it’s because I’ve just written one.

My man found me this one at Barter Books last weekend, which was very touching in itself. It wasn’t a book he would ever normally take off the shelf. That he picked this up at all and searched the index for Martha Graham meant that he’d been taking notice. That this book about Madonna had nine references to Martha Graham meant that I’d been right to include a page about their touching relationship in my book ‘Martha & Me’.

Anyway, Madonna and me go back a long way. I remember the first time I saw that ‘Like a Prayer’ video. It resonated with me on so many levels. It was released in 1989, the year I got married. I loved the imagery – the roses, the candles, the knife, the blood, the cross. I loved the melody and the sense of story in the video, the wrestling to make sense of sexuality and sensuality, injustice and redemption.

Back to the biography. It’s a good one: MADONNA Like an Icon by Lucy O’Brien. It spans the whole of Madonna’s remarkable career and her incredible ability to reinvent herself. And what I love about that is that she never seems to re-invent herself just to stay popular and relevant, just to stay famous. Her musical journey is representative of her journey through life – there’s rebellion and searching and anger and reaction and pain and confusion and joy….as she changes, her musical landscape changes with her. As she matures, her voice matures. She moves with the times but more than that, she moves with her own times. It’s all out there for everyone to see – often more than most of us would ever dare to reveal. Many would say she went too far, but you have to admire her courage and honesty.

We all change. If we all looked the same and thought the same and behaved the same as we did a decade ago, that would be sad. We wouldn’t have developed. We wouldn’t have learnt anything at all. I see new versions of myself emerging all the time. Some I like more than others. They are all me: me in different seasons of life.

It’s not about re-inventing ourselves to please others or impress or maintain status or popularity. It’s about expressing ourselves through our look and our lifestyle choices and our relationships and our interests. Being ourselves: who we are today.

Throughout Madonna’s life, people came and went. Relationships came and went; fans came and went; musicians and singers and dancers came and went. Each season of life was peopled by a different crowd, with one or two very special people staying by her side the whole time. That’s life.

The only person who was actually with her from the very beginning was herself. She had to learn to understand herself and express herself and live with herself and care for herself. She was the only one who could make sense of her spirituality and sexuality, the only one who could ever begin to work out what she really needed to give and to receive.

Re-invention is not contrived. It is necessary for survival. There’s no going back to how things were before.

Madonna’s creativity, determination and courage astound me.

‘MADONNA: Like an Icon’ has inspired me to be myself, whatever that looks like.

Re-invent yourself.


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