Madonna has never been one to conform.
In high school, "I wasn't a hippie or a stoner," she tells the May issue of Vanity Fair, on newsstands April 8, "so I ended up being the weirdo. I was interested in classical ballet and music, so the kids were quite mean if you were different. I was one of those people that people were mean to. When that happened, instead of being a doormat, I decided to emphasize my differences."
It's a philosophy the superstar, who turns 50 in August, has kept all these years. After all, she says, "if your joy is derived from what society thinks of you, you're always going to be disappointed."
In VF, Madonna shares that when she started on her album "Hard Candy" (out April 29), she didn't know what sound she wanted. "I just knew I wanted to collaborate with Pharrell (Williams) and Justin (Timberlake)." It took time to get comfortable: "It's not like we hit it off right away. Writing is very intimate. You have to be vulnerable and it's hard to do that with strangers."
The Material Girl seems to have evolved into a woman who embraces giving. Her 90-minute documentary, "I Am Because We Are," is screening at the Tribeca Film Festival in April. The movie focuses on Malawi and its orphans. In it, she explains how she learned about the African nation and why it has meant so much to her.
Her son David, 2, is from Malawi. After months of controversy about his adoption, the process was completed last year. The family, including husband Guy Ritchie, 39, daughter Lourdes, 11 and son Rocco, 7, is based in London. Having children has influenced her interest in Malawi. With children around, "you realize you are being imitated. … So you start to second-guess everything you value, and the suffering of other children becomes much more intolerable."