Madonna Got the Nickname ‘Madame X’ from a Major Celebrity

Madame X is both the name of Madonna’s most recent album and her associated concert special. During an interview, Madonna revealed a major icon gave her the nickname Madame X. The Queen of Pop also said another celebrity convinced her to use Madame X as the name of her album.

Madonna on a couch
Madonna | Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

Madonna didn’t always see eye to eye with a celebrity

Martha Graham was one of the most famous dancers/dance instructors of all time. Her techniques were avant-garde and revolutionary. It’s only fitting she taught one of the most famous dancers in pop music history: Madonna.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Madonna revealed she didn’t always see eye to eye with Graham.
“[Graham’s dance school] had a very strict dress code,” she said. “I, of course, couldn’t help myself, I broke all the rules. I refused to dress like everybody else. Shocker. And I kept getting called into [Graham’s] office.”

Martha Graham with a dancer dressed as a bull
Martha Graham | Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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Why Martha Graham called Madonna ‘Madame X’

Madonna said this quirk inspired Graham to give her the name “Madam X.” “[Graham] said, ‘I’m going to have a new name for you,’ and I said, ‘What’s that?'” the Queen of Pop recalled. “And she said, ‘Madame X … Madame X is the name of a spy, a secret agent. That’s what you are — because every time you come here, I don’t recognize you. You look like someone else.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, cool.'” The “Like a Prayer” singer told fashion designer Jeremy Scott this story, and Scott convinced her to name her album Madam X.

W reported that Madonna explained what the title of Madame X meant to her on Instagram. “Madame X is a secret agent,” she wrote. “Traveling around the world. Changing identities. Fighting for freedom. Bringing light to dark places. She is a dancer. A professor. A head of state. A housekeeper. An equestrian. A prisoner. A student. A mother. A child. A teacher. A nun. A singer. A saint.”

The way the world reacted to ‘Madame X’

Madame X charted highly. The album reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200, staying on the chart for two weeks. On the other hand, the singles from the album were not as popular. None of the album’s singles charted on the Billboard Hot 100. Madame X became the first of the Queen of Pop’s studio albums not to produce one single that reached the Billboard Hot 100.

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Madame X was also a success in the United Kingdom. The Official Charts Company reports the album reached No. 2 in the U.K. and lasted on the chart for five weeks. Meanwhile, the highest-charting single from the album, “Medellín,” reached No. 87 in the U.K. and stayed on the chart for one week. Madame X didn’t produce a Madonna single as popular as “Live to Tell” or “Like a Virgin;” however, the name of the album certainly has an interesting backstory.