The Most Controversial Moments From Madonna's Journey To Pop Superstardom

The pope denounced her, the Toronto police threatened to apprehend her, and MTV banned her controversial videos. Regardless, fans of all ages continue to love Madonna no matter what controversy she finds herself embroiled in.  

Madonna has an unparalleled ability to push everybody's buttons. Is this by design, or is it simply her inherent nature? Was it Madonna who made scandals - or did the scandals make Madonna? 

One thing is for sure, Madonna has experienced success like few others. While others rise to stardom and eventually fade, she’s stood the test of time, remaining relevant for over four decades, and she's been immortalized as a pop legend and controversial celebrity. Is Madonna’s career one of determined calculation - or the manifestation of raw talent?

Photo: Justify My Love/Warner Bros.

  • The Vatican Called Her Blond Ambition Tour ‘Satanic’ And Urged Catholics Not To Support It

    According to People, Madonna’s Blond Ambition World Tour “might have done the most to define Madonna as a music icon.” Perhaps its most notable scandal is when the pope called on Catholics to not support Madonna or her tour, calling it "satanic." When the Vatican’s official newspaper declared the show sinful, this was a decree that wasn’t normally published or publicly declared.

    There were many things the Vatican didn’t like about the show, from the openly gay backup dancers to Madonna’s tendency to get touchy-feely to her lyrics to - well, just about everything.

    Madonna said of the tour: “[It] asks questions, provokes thought and takes you on an emotional journey, portraying good and bad, light and dark, joy and sorrow, redemption and salvation.”

  • She Was Fired By Pepsi Because Of The Racy Content Of The ‘Like A Prayer’ Video

    In 1989, Madonna signed a year-long endorsement contract with Pepsi for $5 million. But all would not be well for long, and the commercial would only air one time. The commercial itself wasn’t scandalous, but it included the song "Like a Prayer," of which the music video would air the next day. After the video's release, the controversy surrounding the music video quickly bled over to Pepsi’s commerical, creating a message that confused consumers.

    A spokesman for Pepsi stated, ''When you've got an ad that confuses people or concerns people, it just makes sense that that ad goes away.” Madonna pocketed an easy $5 million, and her career, once again, gained momentum off of controversy. 

  • Her Video For ‘Justify My Love’ Was Banned By MTV - So She Released The First-Ever Video Single

    Madonna was the first artist to ever release a video single after MTV rejected her video for “Justify My Love.”

    Critics said it promoted fornication, sadomasochism, and cross-dressing. The video single reportedly sold well, and the controversy it generated helped take the “Justify My Love” single to No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100.

  • She Writhed Around On The Ground During An Infamous VMA Rendition Of ‘Like A Virgin’

    She Writhed Around On The Ground During An Infamous VMA Rendition Of ‘Like A Virgin’
    Photo: @MTV / Twitter

    It was 1984, just as Madonna was becoming famous, at the annual MTV Video Music Awards when Madonna performed an electrifying rendition of "Like a Virgin." It opened with Madonna sitting atop a 17-foot-tall wedding cake in a white wedding dress complete with a veil. She descended off the cake and on to the stage where she began to writhe about on the floor as she sang. She ended the performance with her dress above her head and her undergarments exposed.

    This performance is “widely considered one of the most iconic moments in pop culture history” and can be attributed to making Madonna a household name. 

  • She Released A Sensual Coffee-Table Book, ‘Sex,’ That Became An 'NYT' Best-Seller

    In 1992, Madonna was in the headlines as she released the sensual coffee-table book Sex. It put the public and the press in a whirlwind. The coffee-table book retailed for $50 and sold 150,000 copies the very first day. Soon thereafter, it made The New York Times Best-Seller list. Many were mesmerized by its immensely explicit content; others, however, were outraged by its dominant/submissive-themed photo collection.

    Over 25 years after its initial publication, HuffPost says, “Sex is still the most radical career move a pop star has ever made.” It was this book that defined her as a razor blade to be handled with care for she holds nothing back. Nothing for Madonna is off-limits - nothing.

  • She Drew The Ire Of Both Sides Of The Abortion Debate With ‘Papa Don’t Preach’

    Madonna's song ''Papa Don't Preach'' hit the top of the pop charts and stirred debates about abortion. Critics argued that the message was catchy and young people might sing it thinking teenage pregnancy was something that was okay. Pro-choice proponents criticized it, saying it was a message that Madonna was pro-life and abortion was something she frowned upon.

    While both sides argued, the album and song soared in the charts. Love it or hate it - if you talk about it, it will sell. And sell it did.