Madonna Turns 61: The Queen of Pop's Most Iconic Moments

August 16, 2019

Today is Madonna's birthday. All hail the Queen!

The rise to the top wasn't an easy one for the Queen of Pop. The star hustled it out after dropping out of college in 1978 and moving to New York. She said of her early relocation to the big city, "It was the first time I'd ever taken a plane, the first time I'd ever gotten a taxi cab. I came here with $35 in my pocket. It was the bravest thing I'd ever done."

And it obviously paid off. Madonna quickly went on to become an international star, catching the world's attention with infectious pop hits and provocative imagery and themes.

At 61, she's still rocking out. Most recently, she released "Madame X," her first studio album in four year.

To celebrate the birthday girl, we've put together the most iconic moments from her 40-year career.

'Like a Virgin' performance at MTV Awards in 1984

This raunchy performance is award show history. Starting with Madonna and a stage hubby on top of a giant wedding cake, the raunchy performance ends with the singer rolling around on the floor in a wedding dress.

'Material Girl' music video in 1985

In the video for the second single from the "Like a Virgin" album, Madonna gets her Marilyn Monroe on, paying homage to the Hollywood star's 1953 "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."

Madonna makes her film debut in 1985's 'Desperately Seeking Susan'

Madonna took on her first acting role in "Desperately Seeking Susan," playing Susan Thomas, an NYC drifter who becomes the cool-spiration to Roberta, a bored New Jersey housewife played by Rosanna Arquette.

'Like a Prayer' music video in 1989

Even for a star as big and controversial as Madonna, the "Like a Prayer" video pushed the boundaries of what audience were comfortable with. Elevating her pop sensibilities to epic gospel proportions, the anthemic song was lauded by one critic for its "surface meaning, forging sexuality with pop lyrics that sound so sweet. But underlying that is a rigorous mediation on prayer."

'Vogue' performance at MTV Awards 1990

It's hard to imagine "Vogue" in a vacuum when the song is by now synonymous with the sound of runway fashion shows from the 90s. The song brought the dance style to the mainstream, and this performance at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards was a fittingly baroque, Marie Antoinette spin.


The big ban: 'Justify My Love' music video in 1990

No provocateur worth their weight in controversy can claim the title without getting a video banned. This is what happened to the raunchy, sensuous video for "Justify My Video," the first of several Madonna videos that MTV would ban.

Madonna stars in and wins a Golden Globe for 'Evita' in 1996

In 1996, Madonna starred in 'Evita,' a musical drama based on the life of Eva Peron, the First Lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death in 1952. The role earned Madonna a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical.

The VMA Britney kiss

At the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, Madonna passed the torch to a new generation of pop star in this performance with Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliott. It went beyond music -- Madonna passed a touch of controversy. The live medley ended with a shocking, infamous kiss between Madonna and Britney.