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I stumbled across this story about Madonna and Whitney Houston yesterday– or maybe even two days ago. But I didn’t do much investigating so I couldn’t support the claim. Madonna has never been one of my favorites, so I was quick to dismiss it.  Plus, after she called her son the N-word on Instagram, with nary an apology, she’s been cancelled in my book.

But over the course of two days, I kept thinking about the story, occasionally scoffing at her words from back in the day.

Let me back up a minute and tell you what the actual letter said.

In the early nineties, Madonna wrote to actor John Enos stating that she was feeling a little low. She described it as a “foul mood” and being “so uncomfortable in my own skin right now.”

She said,

“I have made so many people angry that I’m being punished and basically made to be quiet and sit in a corner, whole other less interesting and exciting people are reaping the benefits of the roads I’ve paved. It’s so unequivocally frustrating to read that Whitney Houston has the music career I wish I had and Sharon Stone has the film career I’ll never have. Not because I want to be these women because I’d rather die, but they’re so horribly mediocre and they’re always being held up as paragons of virtue and some sort of measuring stick to humiliate me.”

She continues:

“Everything I do is so original and unique and I put so much of myself into it like my book and record and it’s only brought me heartache and pain.”

There is speculation that she’s speaking about her 1992 album Erotica and accompanying photo book Sex. Both were met with quite a bit of backlash.

Interestingly enough, Madonna also won her first Grammy in 1992. While we aren’t sure when the letter was composed, she said that “I don’t think I can play the game to be accepted. I’m too intelligent, I have too much pride.”

And then that she felt she was born in the wrong place and time and probably the wrong sex.

In addition to career woes, she explained that she didn’t have anything else going for her either.

“I feel like I have no career, no family, nothing permanent or tangible.”

But at the end of all of that, she, like Tupac later would, noted that because of her “black black black” outlook on life, she would be no good for John. (Tupac’s outlook was Black with a capital b though.)

Like I said, I didn’t think the letter was real until I saw images of it from the site which is set to auction it off and later, elsewhere on the internet.

I get that these were her private letters, they were written nearly thirty years ago and her friends clearly weren’t checking for her if they released them to the public, to make money. I get that when you’re feeling low and unsure of yourself, it’s easier to look outward and attack rather than address the work you need to do for yourself.

Sharon Stone spoke to all of that with a Facebook post when she learned of the letter.

Sharon is right. It’s a violation and we all have our moments of tweaking. God forbid anyone publish any of my diary entries. And to her credit, Madonna has been on a spiritual journey for some time, getting her life together.

But perhaps I’m still in my own petty season of maturity because while I know the letter should not have been leaked, the audacity of it still makes me roll my eyes.

What I think Madonna may still fail to grasp is the fact that she has always occupied a different lane and space than any other artist. While I’ll never take away what she has done for pop culture and pushing the boundaries of women’s expressed sexuality, I think it’s fair to say that for much of her career, until today, Madonna has relied heavily on gimmick and shock factor. Not to say that executing and getting people’s attention is not a talent. Marketing is an art in and of itself; but Whitney Houston was able to achieve what she did in her career based heavily on her vocal talent. She was thee voice. And even in her current state of being, she could still out sing Madonna.

I can’t help but think of White privilege reading this letter. I doubt that Madonna believed she could sing like Whitney, yet she wanted her career. My question is why did she feel entitled to it?

It’s true, Whitney Houston was marketed as an angelic, ethereal figure. It would be decades before we discovered she was more of an around-the-way girl. But I doubt it was done so she could appear as the antithesis to Madonna’s bad girl image. They were just different artists, each successful in her own right. And honestly, in the eighties and nineties when Black women were rarely even included in the conversation, the presentation of a brown-skinned Whitney Houston as refined, dignified, celestial even, was what Black girls around the world needed to see. It was bigger than both Whitney and Madonna.

I know there was no way that Madonna, in her late twenties, early thirties could have grasped such a concept. And I guess, in this exposed letter from Madonna, all of us can learn a valuable life lesson. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” “Stay in your lane, stop swerving.” Shine on your own terms. Never wish for anyone else’s life because you never know what they’re enduring behind closed doors, what purpose they’re here to fulfill or what the future will hold for them vs what it may hold for you. I’m sure, or at least I hope, today, Madonna is happy to be who she is, to have had the career and success she’s had, to have grown with the family she’s built and to still be around to enjoy it.

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