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Saturday, August 15, 1998 Published at 07:34 GMT 08:34 UK


Madonna: mad for fame at 40

The unforgettable corsets of the Blond Ambition Tour 1990

If you likened Madonna's life to a birthday cake it would have many layers and plenty of cherries on top.

[ image:  ]
From early on she ached for fame and while some settle for 15 minutes she has been riding the wave for 15 years.

As she reaches the age of 40 on Sunday, it is widely held that her remarkable ability to reinvent herself is the key to her longevity.

Madonna prefers to think herself as shedding layers. In a recent interview she said: "It feels to me like I'm just getting closer to the core of who I really am."

[ image: Madonna in Versace]
Madonna in Versace
But is this henna-tattooed, sub-hipster-wearing mother-figure any closer to the real Madonna Ciccone or just another incarnation of the same old material girl?

As she officially enters middle age, the world's biggest-ever female pop superstar seems to be chasing fame as hard as she did as a teenager.

Into the groove

Madonna's life has all the hallmarks of a movie script. Tragically losing her mother to cancer aged five, she was brought up by her father.

[ image: New York streetwise]
New York streetwise
Dropped off in New York's Time Square aged 19 with $35 in her pocket, the young Madonna worked as a photographer's nude model and made a soft porn movie to fund her rise to the top.

By 1982 she was a disco queen, making the contacts which would eventually lead to her first album. She stormed into the charts with Like A Virgin two years later.

From then Madonna held the spotlight and toyed with it.

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She has done vamp, tramp, diva and butch. She got married, divorced and flirted with lesbianism.

She burned crosses and was condemned by the Vatican. She has worn conical bras, just stilettos and has been photographed naked, again.

Sex sells

[ image: Underwear outerwear]
Underwear outerwear
In the early nineties the shock pop queen stayed in the headlines by turning sex-kitten.

The documentary In Bed with Madonna came out in 1991, followed by Sex, her sealed book of explicit nude poses with a fawning entourage.

Whether it was an important cultural landmark in an era of Aids repression as she claimed at the time, or a rebellion against her father as she later decided, her sexploits kept her in the headlines long after she had revealed everything.

[ image: Icon plays icon]
Icon plays icon
Then Madonna decided glamour was in Vogue. After desperately seeking the role of Evita, she won it and lived it wearing forties chic and hair sleek long after filming had ended.

In the process she built up a new fan base, an older set who enjoyed Andrew Lloyd Webber hits.

Like a Botticelli virgin

She claims the most hurtful thing ever said about her was that she had a baby for attention. But the child is an important accessory for the latest Madonna.

[ image: The latest look]
The latest look
Lourdes Maria's arrival in 1996 heralded a more tranquil period.

Once again she has created a new look and a new sound, with the help of top British record producer William Orbit. With Ray of Light already selling 20 million copies, once again she is one step ahead of the game.

The release of Madonna's latest song confirms that she plans to continue to seek the limelight.

Substitute for Love is due out on August 24, together with a video with scenes bearing a striking resemblance to the Paris car chase that ended in Princess Diana's death almost exactly a year earlier.

The song is all about fame. The video is supposedly about Madonna coping with fame. She will probably have to keep coping.

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