After putting incredible pressure on herself by saying that her Super Bowl halftime performance would be her toughest ever, she staged a spectactular show Sunday night that wowed veteran football fans - not to mention about 100 million people throughout the world. It was a landmark performance for the star, and a collective rejuvenation rite for the millions of Boomers who'd been listening to her for decades.
Her Egyptian-themed spectacle was on a scale to rival any scene in an old-school, ancient-history epic. (In fact, Madonna's opening outfit recalled Elizabeth Taylor's in the 1963 movie "Cleopatra," and she wore million-dollar diamond earrings she'd purchased at auction from Taylor's estate.) The number of tweets she inspired was epic, too - a record-breaking 10,245 tweets per second while she was on stage. Many of those tweets - and undoubtedly thousands of water-cooler replays the next day - talked about Madonna's stunning appearance, even at age 53.
How does she do it? It's not easy. In fact, it takes a tremendous amount of work, money and willpower.
A British reporter tried to replicate the workout for herself a few years back and wrote afterward, "It almost killed me." Last month, Madonna told Anderson Cooper that her workout had been "whittled down" to just "one and a half hours a day, five days a week." But even if she's scaled back (at least by her sky-high standards), Madonna's still doing a punishing routine cardio and Pilates.
As a result, the superstar has a body that's almost perfectly toned - the "almost" a nod to her muscular arms, which rival that of a Navy SEAL's. They're not all that attractive, which is probably why Madonna covered them during the Super Bowl show. Knowing your shortcomings, and de-emphasizing them, is essential for any star, especially as she gets older.
And she must have had some work done; no one's face looks as porcelain-smooth at 53. As with any first-rate cosmetic procedure, the change is so subtle that she looks completely like herself, only younger. She's also been smart enough to avoid the lip-plumping procedure that makes almost anyone who has it look like a grotesque porn star.
But there are other things besides workouts and surgery that make Madonna young for her age. She shrewdly use up-and-coming stars to work with her so she doesn't seem like a nostalgia act. At the Super Bowl, she was flanked by Nicki Minaj and M.I.A., two of the more outrageous young stars around today, for a performance from Madonna's new album. And she reworked an old favorite, "Like A Prayer," by singing it with "The Voice" co-host Cee-Lo.
Even smarter: She knows when to lay back and let others do the work. Although Madonna's an amazing dancer, even she can't do it the way she did it twenty years ago. So instead of wearing herself out during the instrumental bridge in "Music," she made way for slackline wonder Andy Lewis, who danced on a one-inch nylon web. (Slacklining, by the way, differs from tightrope walking in that the line isn't held taut.)
Sadly, it's impossible to imagine Hollywood legends like Marilyn Monroe (channeled by Nicki Minaj in her Super Bowl video) still being seen as sexy at age 53. By the time Monroe died at age 36, she was considered washed-up. Now, stars can be sexy at 53 - if they're willing to work hard.
And why shouldn't Madonna work hard? It's her job, and it pays her millions. There's no point in being envious of her appearance or talent, any more than it's worthwhile being envious of Picasso because we can't draw.
True, she's not perfect. She did stumble once on the Super Bowl stage, and she did lip-sync for part of the show. But otherwise, it was a landmark performance, both for Madonna and Super Bowl halftime history.
As MadonnaNation, a group of the star's fans, tweeted, "Madonna's Super Bowl entrance made us gasp with AWE!" Well, maybe that's a little breathless. But we agree.
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