By Liz Smith
Tribune Content Agency

“EVEN STRONG women have moments of weakness and vulnerability. I have my nervous breakdowns. I just have them privately.”

That’s Madonna talking to Cosmopolitan’s Sergio Kletnoy. Truer words were never spoken. Madonna is one star who never begs her audience for love or even, in most instances, a gentle understanding of their nostalgia — I’m not doing an oldies show, get it? She expects her fans to change and grow older, as she has, and realize that to be true to yourself, you have to satisfy yourself, before you can satisfy others. (She’ll never be satisfied standing in a gown, crooning ballads, a la Marlene Dietrich. So get over that much-loved fantasy! I have.)

Given that Cosmo was seen as a breakthrough of sorts for feminism, Kletnoy asks Madonna if she sees herself as a feminist?

“I was influenced by writers such as Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Carson McCullers — women who didn’t take the path most traveled. I wasn’t thinking, ‘Oh, they’re feminists and I want to be a feminist.’ I was just thinking, ‘They’re strong women, and I want to be like them. I wasn’t categorizing or labeling. But I was certainly grateful they existed as role models.” Madonna also cites Martha Graham, Lee Miller and Frida Kahlo as others who “didn’t fit into what society expects women to do.”