Madonna Recalls Hearing Her Career 'Was Over With' After 'Like a Virgin' Performance on MTV

Madonna was once told that "Like a Virgin" would not make her, but break her.

While appearing on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon Wednesday, the Queen of Pop, 63, remembered the harsh words her then-manager Freddy DeMann had following her now-iconic performance of "Like a Virgin," at the very first MTV Video Music Awards in 1984.

Reflecting on the release of her sophomore album Like a Virgin that year, host Jimmy Fallon pointed out that music producer Nile Rodgers wanted her to drop "Material Girl" as the album's lead single, but "Like a Virgin" was used instead.

"I don't know why they chose 'Like A Virgin' because I thought it was quite controversial," Madonna told the host, 47. "It turned out that the controversial thing wasn't the song itself but my performance at the MTV Awards, the first MTV Awards."

She continued, "I walked down these very steep stairs… and I got to the bottom, and started dancing around, and my white stiletto pumps fell off," which caused her white wedding dress to flip up and expose her butt as she reached to grab the shoes.

At the time, showing that much skin was scandalous in itself, the star said.

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Singer Madonna during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Singer Madonna during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty

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"Those were the days when you shouldn't show your butt to have a career," Madonna joked. "Now it's the opposite… I didn't even know my butt was showing!"

After the accident, when the performance wrapped, the pop legend said her manager told her backstage that her "career was over with."

"Wow," Fallon replied.

Madonna at the MTV Video Music Awards, 1984
Madonna at the MTV Video Music Awards, 1984

Courtest Everett Collection

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But instead of derailing her career, the history-making performance of "Like a Virgin" catapulted Madonna to new heights as she pushed the limits for artistic expression on stage, though such audacity was unconventional at the time.

"Like a Virgin" became Madonna's first of 12 No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 and, in 2014, 30 years after the performance, MTV called Madonna's performance "one of the most important and most unforgettable VMA performances ever, if not one of the most iconic pop performances of all time."