In true Madonna fashion, the singer did not mince words when she hit the stage to accept Billboard’s Woman of the Year Award Friday.
The pop icon gave a bold, powerful speech about some of the things she’s overcome and issues she still deals with. “I stand before you as a doormat. Oh, I mean, as a female entertainer,” she began, according to Billboard. “Thank you for acknowledging my ability to continue my career for 34 years in the face of blatant sexism and misogyny and constant bullying and relentless abuse.”
She continued, getting even more candid as she talked about her life experiences as a teenager when she first moved to New York. “People were dying of AIDS everywhere. It wasn’t safe to be gay, it wasn’t cool to be associated with the gay community,” she recalled. “It was 1979 and New York was a very scary place. In the first year I was held at gunpoint, raped on a rooftop with a knife digging into my throat and I had my apartment broken into and robbed so many times I stopped locking the door. In the years that followed, I lost almost every friend I had to AIDS or drugs or gunshots.”
The music star said from all of those struggles she learned, “In life there is no real safety except for self-belief.”
She went on to talk about how she looked up to David Bowie, dished on how she felt “like the most hated person on the planet” while she was married to Sean Penn, and reflected on how so many great music artists, like Bowie, have passed away.
“I think the most controversial thing I have ever done is to stick around,” she said. “Michael is gone. Tupac is gone. Prince is gone. Whitney is gone. Amy Winehouse is gone. David Bowie is gone. But I’m still standing. I’m one of the lucky ones and every day I count my blessings.”
She continued, closing out her speech with a message of women’s empowerment. “What I would like to say to all women here today is this: Women have been so oppressed for so long they believe what men have to say about them,” she said. “They believe they have to back a man to get the job done. And there are some very good men worth backing, but not because they’re men—because they’re worthy.”
“As women, we have to start appreciating our own worth and each other’s worth. Seek out strong women to befriend, to align yourself with, to learn from, to collaborate with, to be inspired by, to support, and enlightened by.”
Madonna stood tall in a Gucci custom multicolored tiger silk jacquard suit complete with floral patches, a sequin embroidered anchor, and “Euterpe” embroidered on the back, completing her look with a pair of black leather platform heels, and Jacob & Co and NOL Jewellers bejeweled rings.
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She went on to tell fans what the word meant, sharing a photo of the back of her blazer on Instagram along with the caption, “Thank You Gucci for the Beautiful Suit! in Greek it says: The Goddess of Music who brings JOY!”
Thank You Gucci for the Beautiful Suit! 💙 in Greek it says: The Goddess of Music who brings JOY! 🎉💘🎉💘🎉💘😂🎉💘🎉
She also thanked Billboard for the award, writing, “Thank you BillBoard for honoring me!! it was good to speak my mind!
Thank you BillBoard for honoring me!! 🙏🏻 it was good to speak my mind! 😂😁😷 🎉🍾🎉🍾🎉🍾💘🍾🎉🍾🎉🍾💘🎉