In possibly the most entertaining matching of reporter and subject perpetrated by a ladymag this year, Harper's Bazaar got Naomi Wolf to interview Madonna for its latest issue. What did they talk about? Body hair, sex, high school — and the movie Ms. Ciccone is promoting. Wolf also sneaked a peek at one of Madonna's bathrooms: "I would swear," writes Wolf, it had "a wall covering made of teal duck feathers."
"I think that the world is not comfortable with female sexuality. It's always coming from a male point of view, and a woman is being objectified by a man — and even women are comfortable with that. But when a woman does it, ironically, women are uncomfortable with it. I think a lot of that has to do with conditioning...I was always very aware of sexual politics, growing up in a Catholic-Italian family in the Midwest, seeing that my brothers could do what they wanted but the girls were always told that they needed to dress a certain way, act a certain way. We were told to wear our skirts to our knees, turtlenecks, cover ourselves and not wear makeup, and not do anything that would draw attention...going to high school, I saw how popular girls had to behave to get the boys. I knew I couldn't fit into that. So I decided to do the opposite. I refused to wear makeup, to have a hairstyle. I refused to shave. I had hairy armpits."
The boys at her school called her "Hairy Monster" in response. These days, of course, she's more successful with men — she rebounded from her divorce with male model Jesus Luz, and she's lately been dating a 24-year-old French breakdancer named Brahim Zaibat. (He's hot. And the relationship has the added bonus of making Liz Jones feel insecure.) Wolf says she broached the subject of their age difference thusly:
I speculate, as a single parent myself, about whether the new model her setup represents (a successful single woman who has her work and her kids and who has taken a lover — or lovers — simply because he makes her happy) is threatening to patriarchal boundaries around the idea of family life.
"Well, it can also be more than just sexual, um, appendages," replies Madonna. What "more" is she looking for? "Someone to share my inner life with."
Of Madonna's new film, W.E., Wolf rather kindly characterizes festival audience and critical reactions as "mixed." (The Guardian was among the many to savage it, writing, "Could it be that Madonna is in deadly earnest here? If so, her film is more risible than we had any right to expect; a primped and simpering folly, the turkey that dreamed it was a peacock.") Madonna offered this on the subject of Wallis Simpson's appeal:
"When women are perceived as powerful and doing something they aren't supposed to be doing, they are often portrayed as sexual predators. They said that because they couldn't understand how she won a king. She wasn't conventionally pretty, she had the body of a teenage boy, she was divorced twice, and by the time she married the king she couldn't have children. What did she have to offer? She's not pretty, fertile, or a virgin, so she's useless. I was actually told once by a Japanese woman that there's a phrase for women who are past the marrying age: 'stale cake.'"
Madonna: The Director's Cut [HB]