Celebrity adoptions are nothing new. Angelina Jolie, Meg Ryan and Ewan McGregor have all adopted children from developing countries. But it was Madonna’s decision to take David Banda from Malawi that captured the world’s attention and a torrent of negative headlines. Madonna has always thrived on controversy, so why did this particular episode backfire so spectacularly?
The adoption was a media circus from the get-go. Madonna’s arrival in Malawi, flanked by teams of security guards sporting oversized shades, reeked of an all-too-obvious attempt to re-brand the celebrity and boost a fledgling career.
The prima dona clearly acted first and thought later (if at all), fast tracking Malawi’s adoption system in the process. Revelations that the boy, David, had a father and grandmother were bad enough. But when Madonna left it up to her nanny to bring her new son home covered in a blanket, it came across more like child abduction than child adoption. And subsequent visits to the gym when the media were, instead, expecting Madonna to be at home with her new boy, sealed the daring diva’s fate from an image standpoint.
Madonna has since attempted to ‘justify her love’ and the adoption’s positive side in a series of carefully controlled, high profile television appearances. But , even on Oprah, Madonna’s image and reputation blunders continued as she revealed that David’s mother and siblings had died of AIDS. This shocker caused people lots of pain, considering the social stigma the disease still caries in Africa. Madonna either didn’t know about the impact her words would create, or didn’t care. For a woman in her position, I’m not sure which is worse.
Madonna’s image control has failed to present the adoption in the best possible light. But the master of spin has overcome far greater odds and bounced back. I, for one, can’t wait to see what rabbit she pulls out of the hat this time.
Hat tip to Zara Gibb for this.