As teenagers, Chanci Kasper and her friends looked at Madonna as an icon.

“She was a rebel. She was different,” said Kasper, of Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Thursday night, just in time for a birthday milestone, the four friends reunited at the BOK Center to finally experience Madonna in person.

“We’re all turning 40, so this is a gift for all of us,” said Kasper’s friend Jennifer Simpson of Broken Arrow.

Thursday was Madonna’s first time to perform in Oklahoma in her more than 30-year-long career.

And as Madonna descended in a cage as a dozen dancers waited, the crowd who had waited decades for her to perform in the state roared in approval.
Elaborate dancing and strong music drove fans to their feet as Madonna welcomed everyone: “Oklahoma! Are you ready?”
Loud cheering from the crowd was a clear affirmative.

The packed arena was full of adoring fans, many dressed in their finest fishnets, oversized hairbows and sparkles.

For many, Madonna’s appeal was overwhelming. She came into their lives when they were teenagers, an age when people are looking for a type of role model. For Katherine Yarnell of Beggs, it was Madonna’s strength that spoke to her.
“She has such a different style than other artists,” Yarnell said. “She’s not scared to be herself.”

That appealed to Jamil Gotcher, too. As a young woman, Madonna was a symbol of independence, and her highly catchy and danceable music didn’t hurt, she said.

“She represents my youth,” Gotcher said. “She represents freedom and bravery. She’s an icon.”

She was able to introduce her daughter, Jade Gotcher, to Madonna’s music.

“Our house was always full of music and dancing,” Jamil Gotcher said. “Like (Jade) said, she came out of the womb voguing.”
Madonna released her 13th studio album, “Rebel Heart,” last year. Her current tour continues through March.

The BOK Center made an event out of announcing the performance last fall, celebrating the chance to host her first performance not just in the city but in the state.

But this definitely was not Grant Vanderbilt’s first time to see her. He said he’s been to at least five Madonna shows. This time, he only had to drive from central Arkansas to see her. But dressed in a long pink dress with an enormous bow, he could hardly wait to get inside the arena to do it all again.

He got his start with Madonna in sixth grade, rifling through his cousin’s CD collection and coming across “The Immaculate Collection.” That thrill of the first listen is still strong when he hears her now.
“I loved it. It’s all I listened to for 10 years,” Vanderbilt said. “It’s exactly what I wanted to be.”

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