Madonna Louise Ciccone was born in Bay City, Michigan, on August 16, 1958. Her father, Silvio Anthony Ciccone, is a first-generation Italian American (with roots in Pacentro, Italy), while her mother, Madonna Louise (née Fortin), was of French Canadian descent. Her father later worked as a design engineer for Chrysler and General Motors. As Madonna had the same name as her mother, family members called her "Little Nonni". The third of six children from her father's first marriage, her full-blood siblings are: Martin, Anthony, Paula, Christopher, and Melanie. Madonna was raised in the Roman Catholic faith. Upon receiving confirmation, she adopted Veronica as an additional confirmation name. She was raised in the Detroit suburbs of Pontiac and Avon Township (now part of Rochester Hills).
Her mother died of breast cancer at the age of 30, in 1963. Months before her mother's death, Madonna noticed changes in her behavior and personality, although she did not understand the reason. Mrs. Ciccone, at a loss to explain her medical condition, would often begin to cry when questioned by Madonna. Madonna later acknowledged that she had not grasped the concept of her mother dying. Madonna Ciccone as a junior in high school, 1975.
Madonna turned to her grandmother in the hope of finding some solace and some form of her mother in her. The Ciccone siblings resented housekeepers and invariably rebelled against anyone brought into their home ostensibly to take the place of their beloved mother. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Madonna commented that she saw herself in her youth as a "lonely girl who was searching for something. I wasn't rebellious in a certain way. I cared about being good at something. I didn't shave my underarms and I didn't wear make-up like normal girls do. But I studied and I got good grades ... I wanted to be somebody." Terrified that her father could be taken from her as well, Madonna could often not sleep unless she was near him. Her father married the family's housekeeper Joan Gustafson in 1966, and they had two children: Jennifer and Mario Ciccone. At this point, Madonna began to express unresolved feelings of anger towards her father that lasted for decades, and developed a rebellious attitude. She attended St. Frederick's and St. Andrew's Catholic Elementary Schools, and then West Middle School. She was known for her high grade point average, and achieved notoriety for her unconventional behavior: she would perform cartwheels and handstands in the hallways between classes, dangle by her knees from the monkey bars during recess, and pull up her skirt during class—all so that the boys could see her underwear.
Madonna later attended Rochester Adams High School where she became a straight-A student and a member of the cheerleading squad. After graduating, she received a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan. She convinced her father to allow her to take ballet lessons and was persuaded by Christopher Flynn, her ballet teacher, to pursue a career in dance. In 1978, she dropped out of college and relocated to New York City. She had little money and worked as a waitress at Dunkin' Donuts and with modern dance troupes. Madonna said of her move to New York, "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." She started to work as a backup dancer for other established artists. During a late night, Madonna was returning from a rehearsal, when she was dragged up an alleyway by a pair of men at knifepoint and forced to perform fellatio at knifepoint. Madonna had later commented that "the episode was a taste of my weakness, it showed me that I still could not save myself in spite of all the strong-girl show. I could never forget it." While performing as a dancer for the French disco artist Patrick Hernandez on his...
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