Madonna’s Speech – Billboard Woman of the Year 2016

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 just stopped locking the door. In the years to follow, I lost almost every friend I had to AIDS or drugs or gunshot.

As you can imagine, all these unexpected events not only helped me become the daring woman that stands before you. But it also reminded me that I am vulnerable. And in life, there is no real safety except for self-belief. And, an understanding that I am not the owner of my talents. There are no rules – if you’re a boy. There are rules if you’re a girl. If you’re a girl, you have to play the game. What is that game?

You’re allowed to be pretty and cute and sexy. But don’t act too smart. Don’t have an opinion – don’t have an opinion that is out of line with the status quo at least. You are allowed to be objectified by men and dress like a slut, but don’t own your sluttiness. And do not, I repeat do not: share your own sexual fantasies with the world. Be what men want you to be, but more importantly, be what women feel comfortable with you being around other men. And finally, do not age. Because to age is a sin.

You will be criticized – you will be vilified and you will definitely not be played on the radio. When I first became famous there were nude photos of me in Playboy and Penthouse magazine. Photos that were taken from art schools that I posed for back in the day to make money. They weren’t very sexy. In fact, I looked quite —

People say I’m controversial. But I think the most controversial thing I have ever done is to stick around. 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.

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