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Madonna on motherhood and fighting ageism: “I’m being punished for turning 60”

Madonna on motherhood and fighting ageism: “I’m being punished for turning 60”

When Decca Aitkenhead meets Madonna for the June cover interview of Vogue, she is not sure which iteration of the pop powerhouse will receive her – and the impeccable Georgian façade of her central London townhouse betrays no clue. The mother of reinvention, Madonna has variously been a singer, actor, dancer, filmmaker, activist, author and philanthropist. She has been a Kabbalah spiritualist, a punk club kid, an English country lady, a dominatrix; she has played Eva Perón and Breathless Mahoney, and channelled Marilyn Monroe. But, even now, aged 60, and with her 14th studio album, Madame X, due for release on June 14, her career still feels like a battle.

“People have always been trying to silence me for one reason or another, whether it’s that I’m not pretty enough, I don’t sing well enough, I’m not talented enough, I’m not married enough, and now it’s that I’m not young enough,” she tells Aitkenhead. “So they just keep trying to find a hook to hang their beef about me being alive on. Now I’m fighting ageism, now I’m being punished for turning 60.”

Vogue 2019 1

She’s motivated by the thought of paving the way for women to come, but Madonna’s duty of care to younger generations is often overlooked by the celebrity gossip narrative. “People got very excited about [the thought of Lady Gaga and myself as] enemies, when we never were enemies,” she sighs of society’s tendency to pit women against each other.

That said, Madonna has not felt particularly supported by women throughout her career. She is grateful for the artists who worked against all odds and defied convention before her, such as Frida Kahlo. “There are no living role models for me,” she concedes. “Because nobody does what I do. And that’s kind of scary. I can look back at women who I think were great and amazing – freedom fighters, like Simone de Beauvoir or Angela Davis – but they didn’t have kids. Being a single parent of six children, I continue to be creative and be an artist and be politically active, to have a voice, to do all the things that I do. So I mean, there isn’t anybody in my position.”

Vogue 2019 2

When most families expand, the parents tend to relax their rules, but Madonna says she feels the need to protect her children more than ever. She hasn’t allowed her 13-year-old son David to have a phone yet. “I’m going to stick that one out for as long as possible, because I made a mistake when I gave my older children phones when they were 13,” she shares. “It ended my relationship with them, really. Not completely, but it became a very, very big part of their lives. They became too inundated with imagery and started to compare themselves to other people, and that’s really bad for self-growth.”

She sees her own work ethic most reflected in David. “What he has more than anything is focus and determination,” Madonna continues. “I’m pretty sure he got it from me. He’s the one I have the most in common with. I feel like he gets me; he has more of my DNA than any of my children so far. Let’s see what happens – it’s still early days for everyone.”

Vogue 2019 cover

Her daughter Lola, she goes on, “is insanely talented. I’m green with envy because she’s incredible at everything she does – she’s an incredible dancer, she’s a great actress, she plays the piano beautifully, she’s way better than me in the talent department. But she doesn’t have the same drive, and again, I feel social media plagues her and makes her feel like, ‘People are going to give me things because I’m her daughter.’ I try to give her examples of other children of celebrities like Zoë Kravitz, for instance, who have to work through that ‘Oh yeah, you’re the daughter of…’ – and then eventually you are taken seriously for what you do. You just have to keep going. But does she have the same drive that I have? No. But she also has a mother, and I didn’t. She grew up with money, and I didn’t. So everything is going to be different. But what can I do? I can’t fixate on it. I just have to do my best.”

Read the full interview in the June issue of Vogue, which hits newsstands on May 10.

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