The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

September 3, 2010

Inspired By Madonna

Once upon a time, I was obsessed with Madonna.

Okay, bear with me.  At first glance, this post will seem to have nothing to do with plastic or the environment or anything I normally write about on this blog.  But read on.  Connections will be made.  Oh yes, they will be made.

Beth Terry's Madonna magazine collectionSo anyway, I was obsessed with Madonna.  My close friends will tell you that that is an utter understatement. Back in the 90’s, I discovered eBay and ended up spending an embarrassing amount of money on every Madonna magazine I could get my hands on.  The picture on the left represents only a small fraction of my stash — what was left after I finally sold most of it back on eBay years later.  (Today, the only thing that remains is an unopened Sex book and this photo.)

I also went through a phase of making insane Madonna art. It’s all online, but I doubt you’ll find it. And believe me, you really, really wouldn’t want to anyway.

Here’s the thing:  I wasn’t obsessed with Madonna’s music.  I mean, I liked it okay.  It was fun and danceable in the beginning, if overly earnest and didactic  a bit later.  But I wasn’t one of those Madonna freaks that had to have every version of every single remix.  In fact, I cringed during her live television performances, even as I religiously watched each one, holding my breath and crossing my fingers that she’d be able to stay on key until the end of the song. And her acting? Let’s just not go there.

No, my obsession had nothing to do with her talent but everything to do with Madonna the person and persona:  driven yet scared; self-confident yet self-conscious; willing to take risks and then suffer the inevitable consequences of her more outrageous actions.  She made the absolute most of the limited musical talent she had.  I loved all her colorful transformations… even the one with a sporadic English accent.  

Madonna Human NatureOn the surface, Madonna was everything that I was not.  Her provocative outfits were the antithesis of my comfortable, sensible, blend-into-the-woodwork attire.  Her frank F-You attitude towards the world was like a challenge to me.  I wasn’t that way, but I aspired to be.  I got tattoos, but only in places no one could see. 

Yet as crazy as it may sound, Madonna has inspired me and my work more than any other public figure — more than any major environmentalist or feminist or activist or other “ist.”  She may wear PVC clothing, but she does it with total commitment in the moment, fully willing to reject that commitment in the next moment as she learns and grows.  She’s restless.  She wants to know more.  She wants to understand.  She’s greedy and maddeningly hard-headed.  She’s unapologetic when asked about her earlier missteps, insisting that the lessons she learned in the past have shaped who she is now. These are my projections of her, of course.  We haven’t chatted in so long, I’m not sure we’re even still friends.

Back in the day, I wanted to be Madonna, but not in the sense of dressing like her or copying her behavior or style.  Madonna is the most Madonna a person can be.  No one can compete with that.  What I wanted was to be as utterly me as I could be.  To be scared and yet do what I felt was right in the moment.  To put myself out into the world in as authentic a way as I could muster.   To be real even in my hiding.  To know who I was and my purpose in this world.  If that meant trying on different personas myself (and believe me, I tried on quite a few) then so be it.

Sometimes, when I have to give a presentation about plastic, or an interview, or approach a store employee, or write something that I think might be controversial or provocative, I think of Madonna.  I think of the Madonna who confronts life no matter how insecure she may feel inside.  People ask “What Would Jesus Do?”  Readers of this blog have joked that they ask themselves in the store, “What Would Fake Plastic Fish Do?”  Me?  I ask, “What Would Madonna Do?” I mean, if she were me, of course,

Years ago, I read an interview with Madonna that totally stuck with me, and I was excited tonight to find the exact quote that I remember on  (Thank you, Google.)

The last lines of her Rolling Stone interview, where she’s asked about coming across pictures of a boyfriend’s ex, are utterly inspiring. “Well, there’s a whole thing that happens,” she told the interviewer. “First I go, ‘Oh, she’s skinny and pretty.’ Then I think, ‘Oh, but I’m me.'”

I’m me.

I’ve been writing this blog for over three years, ever since I saw a photo of a dead albatross full of plastic pieces — a photo that changed my life — and I don’t see myself stopping this work any time soon. So when I feel overwhelmed or frustrated ( as I did Wednesday when the plastic bag ban was rejected) or scared, I think of the people who inspire me. I think of Madonna.  And I remember that all of these things, these feelings and challenges, are just part of who I am.  I’m me.

Who or what inspires you? Who are your role models? Whose life has captured your imagination and helped you realize what is possible? Who motivates you to do the best you can each day — to be the most you that you can be?

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10 years ago

Great post Beth. You never know who will inspire another person. I KNOW you inspire so many people and now I know we have Madonna to thank for that!

12 years ago

I’m inspired by Jane Goodall. I’ve always been a huge animal lover who feels like my life in incomplete without seeing or interacting with animals regularly. A large part of my motivation to live in a more responsible manner is motivated by animals and their needs. From reading Goodall’s books and about things she’s done I feel like not such a freak for caring so deeply for non-human beings and trying to understand and consider them, as well as people, in my decisions. I think a large part of it is similar to you with Madonna – someone that you can look to that gives you confidence to tap into what’s within yourself.

12 years ago

When I read that you were inspired by a picture of a baby albatross full of plastic I printed a picture of that on a piece of fabric (believe it or not, you can buy fabric you put in the printer) and then sewed it on to my reusable shopping bag over the logo. I hope everyone who sees it can be inspired by the picture that inspired you.

Lisa S.
12 years ago

What a fantastic, thought provoking post. I often think of the line from the movie Little Miss Sunshine to “Let Olive be Olive.” As crazy as all of us are, we need to unapologetically be true to ourselves. Even when it’s painful or awkward to watch (or live through).

12 years ago

Beautiful post, Beth. Thank you.

12 years ago

I have a pic of an albatross full of plastic hanging up in my office, probably the same one you mention in this post. :)
I am inspired by the ordinary people in my life who give selflessly to others.

12 years ago

This post is fabulous. You are so right. What I really want is that ability to be fully myself, so that whatever I’m doing, I can be totally there and know that I’m in my groove, you know? Ah! I sound silly, but I think you know. Great post. <3

12 years ago

Also, no wonder Madonna looks so great she follows a macrobiotic diet, which is so incredible for you

12 years ago

Alexandra, I too loved Slow Death By Rubber Ducky. If you happen to read, Exposed, by investigative report Mark Shapiro, you’ll read US Vs EU … how the European Union’s REACH law was passed albeit diluted by US lobbying forces like the ACC. But it did pass, and the EU has begun in earnest to protect their consumers and environment. Buy certain cosmetics in US, say a Revlon product, it will possibly have a different formulation, because the EU doesn’t allow certain toxins in their region; US does, at present anyhow.

12 years ago

Thank you, Beth — I never thought about Madonna. Now I see her in a new light. My inspiration for giving green cleaning and green living presentations comes from many areas, including the research flooding the internet saying what, say, triclosan may do….but here are three powerful motivators for me 1) I was once a newspaper photographer, chemical style, and we poured our spent chemicals down the drain! I asked about this practise, it was the mid 70s, and was told do this, 2) Dr. M. Emoto’s reverence for water, and especially his pre and post photoes of polluted water and water chanted over, and 3) the mystic poet, Rumi’s, quote “Let the beauty you love be what you do.”

12 years ago

I’ve always been inspired by Maya Angelou. She took so many different paths in her life. She was brave but she was real. She made mistakes. She knew the power of “acting as if”. She inspires me both to make the best of whatever I’m dealt, and to keep seeking out (and working for) the best in life.

Isle Dance
12 years ago

What a post! I was never able to understand the whole Madonna thing, but your take on it is really enlightening.

I’m definitely inspired by so much and so many…I try to take little bits and pieces to learn from all, wherever I go. But by no means am I perfect…I’m failing all the time…but I’m also turning around and trying all the time, so that’s what I try to remember.

Thanks for being such a great inspiration to all of us. Well done, once again!

12 years ago

You inspire me, Beth. That photo, seen on your blog, moved me to embrace your cause. The book Slow Death by Rubber Duck completed my activism degree. Have you read it? If not, please get a copy SOON. I wrote on my blog about your disappointment, which echoed mine, here on the east coast. Then I wrote a letter to the LA Times regarding failure of the CA bills, which would have so inspired the other states, and how wrong it is that $ from the American Chemical Council was responsible for the defeat. Blogs are really important in spreading the word, I’m sure you agree. All this has pushed me out of my comfort-zone, too. I have started a working group, under the aegis of the town’s Economic Development Committee, to examine how our town can go green and non-toxic. If the states will not do it, towns can lead the way, don’t you think? Again, thanks for all you do. I was a fan of Madonna too, by the way. I was in the music business and learned she’s used sharp elbows to get where she is. But I still admire what she has been able to achieve. Wish she would embrace some environmental causes …

knutty knitter
12 years ago

I just always wanted to be me. Strangely I still do. I have heaps of respect for some people and influences are definitely there. Gerald Durrell, Fred Hoyle, Clifford Simak etc, etc. As far as the conservation stuff – that was definitely Gerald Durrell. Which led to all sorts of other environmental stuff and on to my own responsibilities towards the earth. And I’ve been like that ever since (I was 9 when I started this journey). The only thing I found hard to understand is why everyone else didn’t think the same. That bugged me for years – and still does!

viv in nz

12 years ago

The person who most inspires me is one of your neighbors, my daughter Amanda. She turned me on to reducing the plastic and “things” in my life. Since she was about 8 years old she has made more sense to me than any other person. She is extremely kind, wicked funny and committed to living a real life. When I was appointed the Green Team chairperson in the hospital where I work, the first call I made was to Amanda asking her to help me figure out how to inspire everyone. I can help her with the “practical” things in life but she helps me with everything else.

12 years ago

I can’t think of anyone in particular.

But this post? This post inspires me for right now. And that is more than enough. So thank you for that.

eva harris
12 years ago

I have loved Madonna since day 1. We are the same age, we had kids the same times, I am outspoken, I seek spiritual lifting. I always look at her with some sort of parallel except she has a bigger bank account than I. Bottom line, if someone inspires you, take from it the inspiration and run. Don’t dwell on the obsession, that sort of comes with the territory.

12 years ago

Hmmm, I can’t think of one person in particular.

I did love the Lady GG quote when I read that article though, I can say the same thing every morning. but as far as who is my role model, I guess I haven’t come across just one yet. I will think on that.

12 years ago

I love this post Beth! :)

12 years ago

Now I know why I think of you as my SF sister. I love Madonna. I want to be like her and dance to all of her songs. She may not be the most talented horse in the barn but she is still here and stronger than ever. Long live Ms M. And Long live Beth Terry, daring enough to look plastic in the face and its shrinks…

Tread Softly
12 years ago

I love this post!

I’ve always adored female rock stars and many actresses, even the ones that don’t represent my favorite genres. When I try to explain Madonna love (or Lady Gaga love, for that matter), a lot of my friends roll their eyes. Thanks for putting words to this allure, and thanks for the awesome blog!

12 years ago

LOL! Thanks for this thought-provoking post Beth. Great quotes from both Madonna and Lady Gaga.

You are a shining example of someone who is so committed to a cause that it shifted your path in life. You are one of my mentors that I continually learn from and think about whenever I’m making choices about my own path in life. Thank you for all you do Beth, I’m glad that you’re who you are without all the fandangle.

12 years ago

Along the same lines–this from the recent Rolling Stone article about Lady G:

“When I wake up in the morning, I feel just like any other insecure 24-year old girl. Then I say, ‘Bitch, you’re Lady Gaga, you get up and walk the walk today.”

Linda Lancaster
12 years ago

I love this post and find it very thought provoking and now, I have a new mantra.