Madonna birthday: How pop icon became a body-positive fitness icon for women

The pop icon has been an inspiration to women the world over

Rachel Hosie
Sunday 16 August 2020 11:00
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At the age of 62, Madonna remains more powerful than Instagrammers, celebrities, and musicians a third of her age.

The pop icon’s influence on fashion and music is well documented, but Madonna has also been a huge inspiration to many when it comes to fitness and self-acceptance.

11 years ago, Madonna was heavily criticised for her muscular arms. “Nothing says ageing gracefully like an overly worked-out pair of monstrously sculpted and bloodcurdling veiny corpse arms,” read an article on TMZ at the time.

And in 2012, Piers Morgan said: Grotesque. Why would any woman want to look like a caveman? I’m serious.

But Madonna never bowed to any of this scrutiny of her body, embracing her strength, fitness and right for her body to look however she wanted it to.

What is deemed attractive when it comes to body shape is ever evolving - largely thanks to social media fitness influencers, the strong, sporty look is now deemed in vogue, with many women aspiring to achieve toned physiques and strength rather than particularly slender figures.

“I think it’s funny how we promote strength and female empowerment yet in the particular era Madonna was most famous, it wasn’t the fashion to be muscular,” 23-year-old dancer and personal trainer Amie Barlow, from London, tells The Independent.

“It just goes to show that society can determine what we find attractive and aesthetically pleasing!”

Whilst it is unlikely Madonna ever gave much thought to what anyone thought of her body or what was considered “on trend,” her influence on younger women is undeniable.

Despite the criticism the pop icon received for her arm muscles, for many women, she’s an inspiration, both for building guns of steel and for refusing to bow to the negativity she received.

Laura Hoggins is a London-based personal trainer known for her biceps, and she says Madonna has always been an inspiration to her.

“I’m proud of my physique and I work hard on it,” Hoggins tells The Independent. But it’s not always deemed as being feminine.

I’ve grown up listening to Madonna and as an 80s baby, I’ve watched her physique evolve over the years. She’s always looked ‘toned’ to me, and as I’ve started training myself, I understood what it takes to achieve the incredibly athletic arms she owns today.

She’s always been very open about her passion for the gym, training five or six times a week. Strength has no size or age limit. I hope I’m still training at her age.

She’s always been outspoken and has strong conviction for what she believes in, she’s a female under huge physical criticism daily, and she stands up and is defiant and proud of her body.

“Madonna has definitely been a role model for me characteristically and a positive physical influence.”

Some people have criticised the pop superstar over the years, claiming she promotes yet another hard-to-reach physical ideal for women, and it has often been pointed out that Madonna has had the benefit of working with top trainers and making exercise a part of her career.

However others stress that Madonna has inspired them to become healthier and love their body despite what others may think.

I love to see every single shape celebrated and I feel Madonna has led the way for so many women to feel empowered, fitness influencer Carly Rowena, from Norwich, tells The Independent.

And of course, it is perhaps for her toned arms that Madonna is best known – while bulging biceps have long been associated with masculinity, that is finally starting to change.

“Arms are an area that can really display change quickly, not to mention highlight strength and ability,” explains Rowena, highlighting that we should remember even Madonna’s arms will look different at different times.

“I also think it’s important to mention that arms can look more or less muscly depending on the angle, lighting and position being used.”

Without trying, Madonna has become an inspiration to women the world over for her body positivity, self-confidence and fitness.

Contrary to Piers Morgan’s opinion, it turns out many women do in fact want to look like cavewomen.

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