Divas And The Courting Of The Gay Market: Madonna, Bette, Lady Gaga, And More

The Guardiam
Why Madonna’s Grindr contest is a savvy appeal to the ”˜pink pound’


Madonna has hit upon a novel way to connect with the potentially lucrative gay market, while continuing her more-is-more approach to social networking. Not content with flooding Twitter and Instagram with hashtag-riddled promos for her new album, she has announced a competition where five fans will win the chance to chat to her on Grindr, the dating app for gay people. This has to be the final frontier when it comes to pop stars embracing the pink pound short of, say, Kylie Minogue morphing into a human firework at Brighton Pride.

So what can we expect from Madge’s Grindr venture? If we’re to judge it from a Reddit chat she hosted in 2013, she’ll take to the app with all the ferocity of an early noughties singleton discovering Friends Reunited. When asked “what do I need to do to make you go on a date with me?” Madonna responded with “send photo”, a classic Grindr phrase she re-used six times. One fan wondered: “If you were a gay man, would you be a top or bottom?” Madonna hit back with: “I am a gay man.” It goes without saying that she would be a dom top.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that Madonna has embraced new technology, with mixed results. She debuted her latest music video, Living for Love, on Snapchat ”“ a move some thought a tad misjudged, because the app has been largely used by teenagers to exchange sexts ”“ not exactly her target market. Equally, her incediary approach to Instagram ”“ in which she altered photos of civil rights heroes ”“ has seen her come off as over-earnest and, crucially, out of touch. Partnering with Grindr may be the first social networking exploit that plays to Madonna’s strengths as brash, provocative and tongue-in-cheek.

It’s also the latest act in a tradition of female musicians courting gay fans. Bette Midler began her career performing in gay bathhouses, while Lady Gaga launched her second album, Born This Way, on the strength of a song in support of “gay, straight or bi, lesbian, transgendered life”. Everyone from Katy Perry to Christina Aguilera have featured gay couples kissing in their videos, while half of Britney Spears’s recent singles could have been been released by RuPaul.

It’s easy to be cynical about celebrities who seek to profit from a gay audience, especially when the likes of Katie Hopkins announces she’ll be a judge of G-A-Y Porn Idol. Perhaps unlike some celebs, Madonna has been a consistent supporter of gay rights. She’s been accused of borrowing from gay culture, but at least she did so before it was deemed cool. She is also an equal-opportunity appropriator: she was also one of the first mainstream stars to raise awareness about HIV, including an insert that promoted safer sex in her 1989 album Like a Prayer. Since then, she has criticised the decision to jail gay men in Malawi, lobbied for New York State to introduce same-sex marriage and protested against the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on gay leaders. By contrast, Britney Spears’s commitment to her gay fans has so far extended to describing them as “adorable” and “hilarious”.

If Hopkins doing a gay-club PA seems like Dolly Parton fronting an ad campaign for natural beauty, Madonna joining Grindr is very on-brand; after all, this is the woman who released a whole book of soft-core porn, Sex, in 1992. Personally, I’m excited to see where this brave new era will take us next. No doubt we’ll be streaming her next tour on Manroulette.

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