Madonna, a former lover of Jean-Michel Basquiat tells her story
I am not sure if I met Jean-Michel in an art gallery or a night-club, but in those days you couldn’t tell the difference.
He had the presence of a movie star and I was crazy about him. He carried crumpled wads of money in the pockets of his paint-splattered Armani suits. Money he felt guilty about having. Money he always gave away to less fortunate friends.
I remember Jean-Michel’s tag - Samo- which was accompanied with a little crown and I remember thinking he was a genius. He was. But he wasn’t very comfortable with it.
I remember all the girls were in love with him and one night I looked out of his loft window and saw a girl whose heart he had broken, burning his paintings in a big bonfire. I wanted to stop her and rescue his paintings, but he didn’t seem to mind. He said it was their fate.
I remember him getting up at 3am and sleep-walking to an empty canvas. He stood inches away from it and proceeded to paint the most minuscule figures and what he did was so beautiful and intellectual and I stood watching him with dumbfounded amazement
He was one of the people I was truly envious of. But he didn’t know how good he was and was plagued with insecurities. He used to say he was jealous of me because music is more accessible and it reached more people. He loathed the idea that art was appreciated by an elite group.
When I broke up with him he demanded I give back the paintings he had given me. Not because he didn’t think I deserved them, but because he was obsessed with the idea that I would sell them.
He was so paranoid. of course, I was heart-broken but complied. Now I couldn’t buy one of his paintings if I wanted to.
When I heard that Jean-Michel had died I was not surprised. He was too fragile for this world.
I remember one summer having dinner with Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel at Mr Chow’s and feeling like the luckiest girl in the world to have known him. To have known all of them. Now they’re all gone.
Jean-Michel Basquiat and Madonna photographed by Stephen Torton, 1982.
Madonna and Basquiat dated for a while, but his heroin addiction ended up pulling them apart. “He was an amazing man and deeply talented. I loved him,” she said. “When I broke up with him, he made me give all [his paintings] back to him. And then he painted over them black.” She regrets giving the art back, but felt pressured to do so since it was something he had created. (The Howard Stern Show, March 2015)
Madonna: “Basquiat was my boyfriend for a while, and I remember getting up in the middle of the night and he wouldn’t be in bed lying next to me; he’d be standing, painting, at four in the morning, this close to the canvas, in a trance. I was blown away by that, that he worked when he felt moved. And they gave jobs to everyone. Keith would meet kids on the street and ask them to come stretch his canvases for him. Basquiat had every B-boy and every graffiti artist in his loft. He was constantly giving everything away. I think they felt guilty that they became successful and were surrounded by people who were penniless, so they shared what they had. They were incredibly generous people, and that rubbed off on me. You stay inspired that way. I could never work in a recording studio where you have this lovely view and a beach and the waves are crashing. For me, it’s all about being in a tiny room with little windows. It’s almost like you have to be in a prison. And you can create beauty when you’re in that sort of deprived environment, which is a re-creation of your formative years.”
“I remember having conversations with Keith [Haring] and with Basquiat about the importance of your art being accessible to people,“ she recalled. “That was their big thing—it should be available to everyone. It was so important for Keith to be able to draw on subways and walls. And Basquiat used to say to me, ‘You’re so lucky that you make music, because music comes out of radios everywhere.’ He thought that what I did was more pop, more connected to pop culture than what he did. Little did he know that his art would become pop culture. But it’s not like we really had discussions about the meaning of art. I remember hearing them talk about those things.”
“No, you won’t get big!” (Because big is bad, right？)
“It won’t make you bulky!” (Because to be bulky is to break the rules of femininity, didn’t ya know)
“You won’t look like this (insert image of female body builder).
You’ll look like this (insert image of crazy toned fitness model)”
(because there are only good and bad bodies. Anything that doesn’t look
like the model is bad, ya heard.)
“You’ll get lean, sexy muscle！” (because all other muscle is unsexy, and you only want the sexy. It’s all about being fuckable )
“You won’t look like a man” (because the WORST thing you can do as a
woman is potentially confuse 2-3 stupid people about your gender. Peeps
need their boxes & labels, or else…uh, chaos？).
Heard any of these phrases before？If not, you may have been living in
a bubble, lol. At least, in fitness. But while they are common (and
kinda true, at least in terms of women not being equipped for fast,
large amounts of muscle gain), I’d argue that they do little to actually
address the major concern of women who are scared about weight lifting.
Because it isn’t actually about the muscle.
It’s all well and good to address the female concern of becoming too
“bulky” by offering the standard go-to “no it won’t” answer. And the
facts, of course. There’s lots of ways to do that, and they aren’t
necessarily ineffective: plenty of women have started lifting as the
result of reassurances that they won’t get “too big” (whatever that
means to them). But still, the fear of size is a big issue, even amongst
educated women who can recite the facts behind muscle growth verbatim.
And that’s because the standard - and scientific - answers fail to
address the root of the problem. They may even reinforce it: when we say
“no worries, you won’t get bulky and muscular!” we reinforce the idea
that muscle is a undesirable thing…
…and that’s just IT.
Because when women say they’re scared of getting too bulky, what they
are actually saying is “I’m scared of breaking the rules about what
women should look like and be seen as less desirable”. And when they say
they’re scared of being too muscular, it’s a fear of being judged:the
culmination of their experiences & observations. If it were a movie,
think of a sassy montage of every single negative comment, statement
or stance they’ve ever heard about women with guns. And while the media
can be cruel, the people around us can reinforce negative notions with
tiny comments, judgements and reminders. Negative attitudes towards
women with muscle can be subtle, are generally accepted and pervasive.
If you pay attention to the way women with muscle are treated in the
media, it’s hard to ignore the negative connotations and strong
statements about femininity. Think about celebs like Cameron Diaz,
Michelle Obama, Pink, Madonna, Jessica Biel, Serena Williams, Beyonce
etc: though often revered in fitness circles ALL of these women have
been on the brunt end of body shaming, particularly about their muscled
bits in the mainstream media. They’ve all had strangers “debate” their
bodies, been called “too muscular” and had millions of people comment on
how they “should” look. Which isn’t actually unusual for ANY women in
the public eye, but is particularly helpful if we are to understand why
so many women are scared of muscle. (if you’re doubtful, feel free to
google any of the names with the words “too muscled”).
So, MY thing is this… if we really want to address that concern head
on, we have to dig a little deeper than “don’t worry! You won’t look
like a man (and conversely become less worthy because you’ve been told
that having visible muscle as a woman makes you less f*ckable or
desirable). We also have to dig deeper than JUST supplying the facts-
which ARE facts, by the way: women don’t have enough testosterone to
build significant size, the loads you’d need to be lifting to build
significant muscle are VERY heavy (if you can lift it more than 8 times
in a row, it’s generally not enough to encourage growth, less even. 5lb
& 10lb weights will NOT do much for the average woman) and muscle
building takes time. SOOOOO MUCH TIME. Getting big does not happen by
accident, overnight, or even
over hundreds of nights).
We also have to own our shizz more often. Especially people who WANT
women lifting and getting strong. Say you are a trainer or enthusiast
who spends at least SOME time trying to promote the benefits of
resistance and strength training for women AND you simultaneously (and
1. Make occasional comments about how a female celebrity (or any
woman really) is starting to look “manly” or needs to cut back on
training (without actually knowing anything about her regimen).
2. Refer to muscular women (and there is a BIG range, no pun
intended) as “She-Hulks”, “Trannies”, “Scary”, “Wrong”, “Androgenous Sea
Creatures” or “Gross” (PS: transphobia sucks, but that’s another
discussion entirely #ally).
3. Reinforce the notion that women with visible muscle are
unattractive, undesirable, unf*ckable, unmarryable and otherwise
unworthy in ANY way (big or small). (Example: suggesting that muscular
women may have a hard time finding a partner, or wondering aloud if they
intimidate men). Not about personal attraction (we like what we like),
but in general. Back hair isn’t my favorite thing in the world, but
saying all men with back hair are undesirable is silly, wrong and
downright offensive (right? Right).
4. Use the term “real women” or worse, use it in a phrases such as “real women are soft, have curves, are round, are petite”.
5. Make casual faces, comments, jokes or exhibit a variety of other distancing behaviors when it comes to women with muscle.
… you’re doing it WRONG.
Soooooo….. how about we start by looking at our own language,
attitudes and treatment of women with muscle? Is there something there
you might want to address or change? The attitudes of the people around
us are a HUGE motivator: women who have support systems that encourage
strength and physical fitness report higher confidence levels, positive
self-image and less stress/anxiety over appearance.
Sharon Needles as Joan Rivers, Alaska Thunderfuck as Laganja Estranja, Jinkx Monsoon as Alaska Thunderfuck, Ben DeLaCreme as a super fan and Manila as Madonna. Hosted by Michelle Visage. Go to 4:25 to skip the introductions.