Rags to Riches: The Madonna Story You Never Knew

By Jack Ripley | November 22, 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.

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(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.

Her First Breakthrough Hit Was "Holiday", But She Didn't Write It, 1983

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"Holiday" was initially written by Curtis Hudson and Lisa Stevens of the group Pure Energy, who had hoped to secure the song for another artist. However, fate had other plans, as Sire Records' executive Michael Ostin discovered the catchy tune and recognized its potential as the perfect song for the label's rising star, Madonna. It didn't take long for the Material Girl to put her unique spin on the track, creating an instant dance-pop classic. "Holiday" went on to peak at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, cementing Madonna's status as a force to be reckoned with in the music industry.