Madonna sparks discussion about ageism after being called 'unrecognizable' at Grammys

The "Queen of Provocation" recently appeared at the Grammys.

February 7, 2023, 8:11 AM

For decades, Madonna has been at the center of controversy.

“Here's what I've learned after four decades in music. If they call you shocking, scandalous, problematic, provocative or dangerous, you are definitely onto something,” she said at the 2023 Grammys.

PHOTO: Madonna speaks onstage during the 65th GRAMMY Awards at Arena, Feb. 5, 2023, in Los Angeles.
Madonna speaks onstage during the 65th GRAMMY Awards at Arena, Feb. 5, 2023, in Los Angeles.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

But the "Queen of Provocation" was the topic of conversation when she was picked apart on social media for her appearance, with some calling the 64-year-old singer "unrecognizable."

Advocates for the singer, like bestselling author Rachel Simmons, said the comments are based on ageism and discrimination that she says all women constantly face.

“It's so easy for us to criticize celebrities to blame individuals instead of to look at the culture,” Simmons told “Good Morning America.” “Women have to spend a whole lot of money and time on their appearance just so that they can be accepted by others. And that's not fair. That doesn't make for a fair society where everyone is treated equally.”

PHOTO: Madonna is seen performing in 2021 (L) and in 1990 (R).
Madonna is seen performing in 2021 (L) and in 1990 (R).
Getty Images

Last month, Madonna announced her international “Celebration” tour in 2023, which celebrates the pop star's greatest hits. The tour will include fan-favorites that have made the Billboard charts.

Madonna has been no stranger to pushing boundaries, from the “Like A Prayer” music video to her famous kiss with Britney Spears at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. And the singer has been vocal about aging in the spotlight.

“To age is a sin. You will be criticized, you will be vilified and you will definitely not be played on the radio,” Madonna said after winning Billboard’s Woman of the Year Award in 2016. “People say that I am so controversial, but I think the most controversial thing I’ve ever done is to stick around.”

Some applaud her longevity as inspiration and spark a new conversation about women and the beauty of growing older.

“Our children are learning to criticize women instead of the system that pushes women to engage in all kinds of exercises to make them look a different way,” said Simmons. “They are getting the wrong message about what it means to look beautiful and we have to tell our kids to resist that.”

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