Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ stylist recalls scandalous 1984 VMAs performance: ‘They tried to destroy her that day’

Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ stylist recalls scandalous 1984 VMAs performance: ‘They tried to destroy her that day’

Maripol tells Yahoo Entertainment she was worried that the scandalous performance might be an act of career suicide for her young client. “I was right there. I saw it happening. I saw what [MTV] did, and I can tell you that they tried to destroy her that day,” she says. “They went under her skirt with the camera; they were trying to intimidate her.”

Madonna at the first MTV Video Music Awards, in 1984. (Photo: David McGough/DMI)

But of course, the stunt instead catapulted the singer to superstar status.

“Madonna had to break through; I knew she was going to make it big, because I could see how ambitious she was, in a very genuine and sweet way. The wedding outfit did help. I knew that [VMAs] day that she had made it,” adds Maripol. “Every journalist was rushing, running, going, ‘Oh my God, who is this girl with the white outfit rolling and crawling on the floor, with crosses in her ears and her name is Madonna? And she’s singing about being like a virgin?’ They were shocked, yes.”

Madonna performing on the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall. (Photo: Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)

Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ album art, 1984. (Photo: Sire Records)

Madonna had been listening to visionary stylist Maripol — a French-expat artist, jewelry designer, photographer, film producer, and NYC girl-about-(down)town — long before her self-titled debut album came out a year before the first annual VMAs. “Whatever, yes — I did create a legend,” Maripol chuckles.

So, was that the unofficial beginning of the underwear-as-outerwear trend? “No, that was the beginning of the fact that I’m French! I was less puritan than anyone else, and I was always taking my clothes off, unfortunately,” Maripol laughs. “After that, Madonna actually made an appointment to come see me in my loft, because she wanted me to create her look. … I was the art director of Fiorucci, and I thought that she was the perfect person to carry around my style. And it was perfect for her as well.”

Maripol’s involvement in Madonna’s early career opened many doors for the singer. For instance, there was the night that Madonna, at the time still a total unknown, performed at Fiorucci’s 15th anniversary soiree — a booking that Maripol, the art director for the trendsetting Italian boutique in the late ’70s and early ’80s, had to fight for.

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Perhaps Maripol had reservations over the fact that she never really got full credit for her pop-culture influence; when mall shops ripped off and mass-produced her designs, she ended up broke. “If only I would have been smart, if only you could copyright the look — which I don’t even know if it existed back then — I would have been a multimillionaire, for sure,” she says. “I did go bankrupt because everybody copied me, every single industry. But genuinely, it doesn’t matter. I swear I don’t care. I became a freelance stylist to survive, and then I had a kid. I bankrupted in 1988 and had a kid in 1990. I’m very happy; I have a beautiful son now.”

Eventually the chameleonic Madonna changed her style, many times over, and while Maripol was involved with some of Madonna’s later looks — the sleek bustier outfit in the Marilyn Monroe-esque “Papa Don’t Preach” video and the rubber dress from the “Express Yourself” video’s milk-lapping scene were both Maripol creations — eventually Madonna moved on to other stylists and designers. But Maripol, despite some ups and downs, still has a bustling career, and says she harbors no resentment toward Madonna. In fact, in many ways she’s relieved to not have grapple with the intense fame that Madonna has experienced ever since that fateful performance at the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards.

“I’m very happy for [Madonna]. And you know what? In a way, I got the freedom to walk around in the street, and she doesn’t have that,” Maripol muses. “And I think it’s very difficult for her to not be able to have that freedom. Once you lose that freedom, does that make you more happy in life? I’ve always kept good relation with her and I really wish her the immense best — and I will get my claim of fame eventually.”

Incidentally, Madonna has repeatedly claimed that her sexy 1984 MTV Video Music Awards antics were the result of her losing her shoe midway through the performance and then rolling on the floor to cover her gaffe. Original VJ Mark Goodman, who interviewed Madonna four months before her wild VMAs debut, tells Yahoo Entertainment with a chuckle that he thinks that story “sounds like a load of crap! … She was young, she was new, but she was completely self-possessed. She was always completely clear on what she was doing.”

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