Madonna (b. Madonna Louise Ciccone)(1959– ) pop singer, songwriter, movie actress; born in Rochester, Mich. She won a scholarship in high school to study dance at the University of Michigan. She left in the late 1970s and moved to New York City where she studied and danced with Alvin Ailey and Pearl Lang, acted in underground films, and performed with rock bands. Her albums Madonna (1983) and Like a Virgin (1984) sold over a million copies each and included several hit singles. Her movie performances, except for that in Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), were less well-received. Known for her provocative stage and video performances, a somewhat ambiguous symbol of a new feminism in her combination of vulgarity and shrewdness, she was arguably the best-known woman in the world at the height of her popularity. Her 1992 venture, the book Sex, photographs of her in pornographic poses plus her texts of erotic musings, seemed to have put a temporary cap on her career as a media superstar, but she continued to draw adoring crowds wherever she appeared.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.