Rags to Riches: The Madonna Story You Never Knew

By Jack Ripley | October 18, 2023

Madonna Moved to New York To Become A Dancer, 1978

Welcome to a visual journey of the Material Girl! From her religious start in Michigan, to the gritty streets of New York City, to the dazzling heights of pop royalty, this electrifying photo gallery charts the meteoric rise and lasting legacy of the one and only Madonna. Prepare to be mesmerized as you witness the evolution of an icon who defied convention, broke boundaries, and redefined the world of music and fashion. Get ready to strike a pose and join us in celebrating the Queen of Pop's extraordinary journey.

test article image
(Getty Images)

At age 20, after dropping out of college, Madonna left Michigan and moved to New York City all on her own. She had been attending University Of Michigan on a dance scholarship, and intended to continue to pursue her career in modern dance, on her own terms. Although the move was scary, she soon found work as a background dancer. 

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.

Madonna Was an Art Model to pay the bills, 1978

test article image

After moving to New York City on her own, money was tight for Madonna. She began posing for photography classes at Parsons School of Design as an additional source of income, along with working at Dunkin' Donuts. She was paid as little as $25 for each photography session. Unfortunately, in 1985 some racier magazines dug up and published these photos in order to create scandal. In response, Madonna bravely and simply said: 

"I'm not ashamed."