My Encounter With Mama Madonna
Written by
Jill Johnson
November 2011
Written by
Jill Johnson
November 2011

You may notice a mom theme creeping into my website. Funny how that happens when four little kids come into the picture. Although modeling and motherhood seem worlds apart—and in many ways they are—the more I write about these two segments of my life and the transition between them, the more I find overlap.

I know, seems like a stretch. Even in my mind, these two phases inhabit very different areas. The modeling memories are teeny gray specks buried way back in my brain, while motherhood is front and center, in full color, bellowing like an Imax movie through every waking moment of my day. And my night, for that matter, since there aren’t many sleeping moments with this brood under one not-so-big roof.

A conversation I had with my son yesterday illustrates perfectly how much distance there is between the old Model Jill and the new Mom Jill. I mean the young Model Jill and the old Mom Jill. A Madonna song came on the radio in the car. I can’t recall what song exactly, because the blaring mother of an Imax show is too distracting. My son asked, “Is this Abba?”

With a hint of superiority, in a rare moment when I knew more than my eight-year-old about something on the radio, I replied, “NO, this is Madonna!”

“Who’s that?” he asked.

“A very famous singer who was big when I was a teenager and is still big.”

“Have you met her?” he asked.

“No I haven’t met her,” I promptly replied, like that was a ridiculous notion. I guess he took note in the past, when a Guns-n-Roses or Def Leppard or Depeche Mode song came on, and I couldn’t help myself from trying to appear cool to my third-grader by telling him how I hung with those bands back in the day.

About 30 seconds passed, when one of those little specks in the back of my brain meandered up to the front where all the current thoughts—LAUNDRY! DIAPERS! FIELD TRIP!—were making such a ruckus. The speck nudged HALLOWEEN PARADE out of the way and said, “Hey, minivan-driving bedraggled lady, you met Madonna. Remember?” My memory dusted off an image of me looking like a Bond girl, in a shiny gold catsuit with a million dollars in diamonds around my neck.

Oh yeah! I had met Madonna. She’d hired me and a few other runway girls to model jewelry at a party she threw at her house in Miami. Can’t recall why—maybe some charity auction or maybe we were material girls living in a material world. Anyway, instead of pretending we didn’t exist—often the reaction when women, even insanely famous women, encounter models—Madonna walked over and introduced herself. She welcomed us warmly and made us feel as important as neighbor Sly Stallone who happened to wander by at the same moment. Classy. 

Later that night, she brought newborn Lourdes down the regal staircase and out on the terrace to show her off to the throng of partygoers. I remember pondering if she ought to parade the baby around like that, especially at 9 o’clock at night. 

Now, as a mom, I admit that I too have beamed with a babe in arms at more than one nocturnal soirée. My entertaining just happens to be on a different scale, so the parading is across the living room or circling the kitchen island, slice of pizza in hand. Either way, I get it, Madonna. Mommy pride.

So, there you go, a distant memory from glamourland sparked some musing about motherhood. My two lives are more closely linked than it would appear when I look in the mirror.

For more on this topic, check out my book project, From Vanity to Maternity, and let me know what you think.

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