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Madonna has been making pop music hits for over 30 years, and in that time, she has butted heads with a fair share of celebrities. Sometimes, they started with a bad TV interview. Other times, it was a friendship gone wrong or a snarky comment in the press. Madonna proved that if she wanted to, she could hold a grudge like nobody’s business, but if she felt like it, she could be gracious and bury the hatchet. Read on for a guide to 13 of Madonna’s most explosive celebrity feuds.
Lady Gaga: Madonna’s feud with Lady Gaga can be traced back to an interview where Madonna referred to “Born This Way” as “reductive.” Later that year, Lady Gaga made a thinly-veiled comment about Madonna, saying, “I don’t give a f— what people say. We don’t give a f—, we know the truth,” before singing a cover of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.” For years, Madonna denied that there was any animosity between her and Lady Gaga, but in a February 2015 interview, she admitted that she thinks Lady Gaga ripped off “Express Yourself” with her song “Born This Way”:
“The only time I ever criticized Lady Gaga was when I felt like she blatantly ripped off one of my songs.”
Elton John: Madonna and Elton John’s feud is one of her most public feuds and also one of the nastiest. According to CBS News, John threw the first punch in 2002 when he called Madonna’s theme song for Die Another Day “the worst Bond tune ever” and said it “hasn’t got a tune.” In 2004, he also accused her of lip-synching on her most recent tour, which she denied.
In 2005, John claimed that he had sent Madonna two Christmas cards and that they were both returned, and when he invited her to perform at his bachelor party, she refused. He called her a “miserable cow,” and Madonna’s spokeswoman said Madonna hoped that his marriage would “make him a happier person.” Seven years later, the feud was still going strong, and in an interview, John called Madonna a “nightmare”:
“Why is she such a nightmare? Sorry, her career is over. Her tour has been a disaster and it couldn’t happen to a bigger [expletive].”
“If Madonna had any common sense, she would have made a record like ‘Ray of Light,’ stayed away from the dance stuff and just been a great pop singer and made great pop records, which she does brilliantly. But no, she had to prove that she was like …,” he said, not specifying. “And she looks like a [expletive] fairground stripper.”
In 2015, however, Madonna joined Elton John in condemning comments made by Dolce & Gabbana about IVF, even though she had done modelling work for them before:
All babies contain a soul however they come to this earth and their families. There is nothing synthetic about a soul!! So how can we dismiss IVF and surrogacy? Every soul comes to us to teach us a lesson. God has his hand in everything even technology! We are arrogant to think Man does anything on his own. As above so below! Think before you speak.,,,,,,,,,,,❤️#livingforlove
At least for the moment, Madonna and Elton John have put aside their differences and joined forces for the greater good.
Piers Morgan: Madonna’s feud with Piers Morgan isn’t as vehement as Elton John, but it is probably the most childish for all parties involved. According to the San Francisco Gate, they both attended Marco Pierre White’s birthday party, and as part of the festivities, comedian Bernard Manning performed a set for the party guests. Morgan claims Madonna was acting obnoxiously while Manning was performing, so he threw a bread roll at her. He says that to this day, she has not forgiven him:
“I hate the phony accent, the muscled arms, the stripping off in her mid-fifties. … Everything about her is attention-seeking – I think her 15 minutes of superstardom has probably run its course.”
Gwyneth Paltrow: For some time, Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow were friends, but when Madonna had a falling out with Paltrow’s trainer Tracy Anderson, her friendship with Paltrow also soured. They have thrown passive-aggressive jabs at each other, like Paltrow referring to Madonna as being like an “older sister” to her. In 2013, however, Paltrow really threw down the gauntlet when she suggested that she had better abs than Madonna:
“I’ll Polaroid my abs and text them to her.”
Kevin Costner: Kevin Costner made an appearance in Madonna’s 1991 documentary Truth or Dare, and it wasn’t exactly flattering. In the film, Costner visited Madonna backstage at her concert and referred to her show as “neat.” After Costner had left, Madonna said, “Anyone who says my show is ‘neat’ has to go,” and acted like she was sticking her finger down her throat.
Costner said in an interview with People Magazine that the incident hurt him and he felt “embarrassed by it.” Years later, Costner attended another Madonna concert with his daughters, and to her credit, Madonna took the opportunity to make amends by apologizing on-stage during the concert. Costner said the moment truly touched him:
“Ninety-eight percent of that audience didn’t know what she was talking about. But I really respected that, and it showed me the power of just keeping your own counsel for a long time…Whatever possessed her, whatever was inside her, she came to her own decision. And a bigger thing came out of some kind of humiliation. I never wrote her to say thank you, but I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart, and that meant more to me than you could ever know.”
Prince: Back in the 1980s, Prince and Madonna dated for a time, and their split was less than amicable. Madonna often spoke negatively about Prince in interviews, making fun of him and calling him a “little troll”:
“He was just sipping tea, very daintily,” Madonna said. “I have this theory about people who don’t eat. They annoy me.”
Prince wasn’t above making jokes at Madonna’s expense, though, like this gem from at 2007 concert:
“I got so many hits y’all can’t handle me. I got more hits than Madonna’s got kids.”
In 2011, however, they publicly made amends at Prince’s show at Madison Square Gardens.
Alamo Drafthouse: Madonna was banned from the Alamo Drafthouse after she was spotted texting during a screening of 12 Years a Slave. The theater chain is famously anti-texting, and they will kick people out for using their cell phones during screenings. When attendees shared stories and pictures of Madonna on her phone, Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League tweeted that Madonna was banned from any future Alamo Drafthouse screenings until she apologized:
— Alamo Drafthouse (@alamodrafthouse) October 11, 2013
Arsenio Hall: Back in 1990, Madonna appeared on Arsenio Hall’s show to promote Dick Tracy. The interview started out well, but it went downhill when Madonna brought up John Stamos. Paula Abdul had broken up with Hall and was supposedly involved with Stamos at the time, and Madonna asked if he was “jealous.” They kept on smiling and laughing, but there was obvious tension between them.
You can watch the full interview here:
David Letterman: Arsenio Hall wasn’t the only talk show host to run into problems with Madonna. When Madonna appeared on The Late Show, it was pretty much a train wreck from the start. Less than five minutes in, she called Letterman a “sick f—” and defined an oxymoron as a “funny Letterman.” When the interview ended, she reportedly refused to leave the set and forced the show to take another commercial break.
Whitney Houston: Madonna and Whitney Houston’s feud goes back to Houston calling Madonna “revolting” and “the high priestess of tack.” Houston put aside their feud, however, after Madonna had to testify against one of her stalkers in court. Since Houston had dealt with her fair share of stalkers, she empathized with Madonna and wanted to show her support. Houston sent her flowers and a card saying, “I know what you’re going through. Chin Up! Love, Whitney.”
Deadmau5: In 2012, EDM star Deadmau5 slammed Madonna for what he viewed as pandering to druggie hipsters. During her concert, she had made jokes about Molly, and Deadmau5 tore her apart in two separate Facebook posts:
very classy there madonna. “HUR DUR HAS ANYONE SEEN MOLLY???” such a great message for the young music lovers at ultra. quite the f’n philanthropist. but hey, at least yer HIP AND TRENDY! f—ing cant smack my head hard enough right now.
seriously, i giveth not a f—ing single F— for slating on madonna for reaching an entirely NEW level of idiocy … i can appriciate her meteoric career, and all good deeds done, but WHAT THE F— WAS THAT? That’s your big contribution to EDM [electronic dance music]? Thats your big message to ultra attendies? hipsterspeak for looking for drugs? f— off you f—ing IDIOT. f—.
Later, Deadmau5 and Madonna had it out on Twitter, and they settled on good terms. Madonna claimed that she was not referring to drug use but the song “Have You Seen Molly,” and Deadmau5 said he was happy she cleared it up for him.
Malawi Government: In 2013, Madonna took a goodwill trip to Malawi, and after she left, the Malawi government released a statement claiming that Madonna demanded VIP treatment during her stay. Madonna denied it and released a statement of her own:
I was very happy to visit with the children of Malawi earlier this month and to see with my own eyes the ten new primary schools in Kasungu province that Raising Malawi and buildOn completed this past year. These schools are now educating more than 4,800 children with girls attending in equal numbers. These children who were formerly learning outside on the ground, in unsafe buildings or not at all, now get to attend classes on a daily basis. My children and I were overjoyed to visit these schools and see what amazing progress has been made. I will continue to follow through on my commitment to help educate the children of Malawi. I’m saddened that Malawi’s President Joyce Banda has chosen to release lies about what we’ve accomplished, my intentions, how I personally conducted myself while visiting Malawi and other untruths. I have no intentions of being distracted by these ridiculous allegations. I came to Malawi seven years ago with honorable intentions. I returned earlier this month to view the new schools we built. I did not ever ask or demand special treatment at the airport or elsewhere during my visit. I will not be distracted or discouraged by other people’s political agendas. I made a promise to the children of Malawi and I am keeping that promise.
Guy Ritchie: Madonna was married to director Guy Ritchie from 2000 until 2008 when they had a nasty split. After they broke up, Madonna called Ritchie “emotionally retarded” during a concert, and during an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, she said she would “rather get run over by a train” than ever get married again. When asked about her comments, though, Ritchie said that he still loved her and praised her work ethic, saying, “Put Madonna up against any twenty-three-year-old, she’ll outwork them, outdance them, outperform them. The woman is broad.”