Madonna, Voguing & Cultural Appropriation


Madonna did something very similar to that of Cyrus’ twerking when she released the music video for Vogue. Voguing is a heavily creative and mind-boggling display of artistry that was originally performed by black, Latino gay men and trans women but Madonna appropriated this cultural phenomenon in a way that made it deeply associated with a white woman to the masses. With the voguing community having such a long history what with the legendary Love Balls, and being so amazingly visually dynamic and complex, it doesn’t surprise me that Madonna would want to look into this subject but it changed the way the art is viewed forever. In an article by Julianne Escobedo Shepherd for The Muse there is a quote from the producer, DJ, and ball scene vet Terre Thaemlitz a.k.a DJ Sprinkles put it on her song Ball’r (Madonna – Free Zone): “When Madonna came out with her hit “Vogue” you knew it was over. She had taken a very specifically queer, transgendered, Latino and African-American phenomenon and totally erased that context with her lyrics. “It makes no difference if you’re black or white, if you’re a boy or a girl.” Madonna was taking tons of money, while the Queen who actually taught her how to vogue sat before me in the club, strung out, depressed and broke. So if anybody requested “Vogue” or any other Madonna track, I told them “No, this a Madonna-free zone! And as long as I’m DJ-ing you will not be allowed to vogue to the decontextualized, reified, corporatized, liberalized, neutralized, asexualized, re-genderized pop reflection of this dance floor’s reality!”

Natasha Perkin


  1. This is ridiculous. Madonna brought light to the lgbt community for the masses by bringing the hottest vogue dancers along on the biggest tour in history at the time, those dancers were the most famous voguers of the time and for those of us thst were there, we still remember their names, they’re still cult celebrities because of her not hiding them behind her. Madonna is amazing, you only use her name to make your story look interesting, it’s not. Your idea of what cultural appropriation is is pathetic and wrong. Go read a book

    • Don’t appreciate the tone whatsoever. And no I didn’t “read a book” to write this piece. I used the internet; it’s the 21st Century. It’s widely known and accepted that Madonna appropriated and benefited in myriad ways off of black queer culture, while the people who created and built it struggled and are still struggling to get the recognition they deserve. White supremacy prevails. Also, your description of Madonna so gallantly bringing original Voguers on her tour reeks of white saviour complex.

  2. Were you even around to see the impact of vogue on popular culture?, the freedom and happiness for queer culture to be on the big screen, celebrated? … How old are you?, are you queer and what nationality are you?, do you even dance?

    • This feels really petty as this is a university blog. I am just trying to explore issues of cultural appropriation using quotes from people who were living in that context and felt the consequences of that appropriation. Everything I wrote came out of research and the mouths of the people affected. Take it up with them not me.

    • I was around to witness what Madonna did. And it most DEFINATELY WAS appropriation. She took something created by African-American and Latino LGBTQ youth, and pinned it to heterosexual whiteness. Intentional or unintentional is irrelevant. Madonna has been appropriating queer culture for pretty much her entire career. She’s not LGBTQ. Sjes a heterosexual, CIS gendered woman who used the gay community to promote her career. Lady Gaga, on the other hand, who is very openly bisexual, has has simply been a PART of the LGBTQ community, who also happens to be a performing artist. She doesn’t use LGBTQ people to get ahead the way Madonna did. Madonna, btw, is NOT part of the LGBTQ community. She just pretends she’s bisexual. Much the way straight girls in a bar use lesbianism to try to get attention. Madonna uses it as a way to attach herself to queer culture, so she can say she isn’t appropriating.

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