Twenty years removed from her brother's tragic death, Donatella Versace is more comfortable in her own skin than she's ever been and seems sick of others trying to tell both her story and the story of her family. Especially because when they do, they often get it wrong, according to Donatella, at least. Following the 20th anniversary of Gianni Versace's murder, this past July, a new batch of documentary specials, news stories, and, most notably, Ryan Murphy's American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace have purported to give audiences the inside story of what happened. Versace, meanwhile, has been on her own tear of candid interviews; in her latest, which also touches on her struggles with addiction, her love life, and succession plans, she drops a stunning detail about the days following Gianni's murder that none of the books, documentaries, or fictional takes have included before: Madonna was there.
'After identification, I drove to Gianni’s villa on Ocean Drive. Madonna was waiting for me inside,' Versace tells fashion journalists Michael Ebert and Sven Michaelsen in a new no-holds-barred interview with Ssense. 'I will never forget that she was trying to comfort me during these hours. There were FBI agents everywhere in the house. They interrogated each of us and opened all the drawers, a nightmare. My brother had just been murdered, and we were being treated like suspects. But that’s probably what FBI agents have to do.'
Of course, American Crime Story did show its take on the exact moments Versace describes. They were pivotal scenes, and, obviously, Madonna wasn't anywhere to be found in their telling. Had Ryan Murphy known that the Queen of Pop was there, he surely would have figured out a way to include her in the narrative (after all, he managed to controversially shoehorn the Kardashian sisters into the anthology series' first season, about O.J. Simpson, even though the then-young sisters were only tangentially related).
The reason for Madge's presence? Somewhat amazingly, this wasn't widely known by the public before, though it had been hinted at. On the day of the murder, Donatella was in Rome preparing for an upcoming fashion show. Madonna was in a recording studio, presumably in Los Angeles, working on her album Ray of Light. During interviews about the making of the album, producer William Orbit revealed that indeed Madonna was one of the first people Donatella called, on the very same day she recorded the vocals for the album track 'Swim.'
'We were recording ‘Swim’ on the day Versace was murdered,' Orbit told Q magazine in 2002. 'Madonna was very friendly with him and his sister, Donatella, who was in the street, distraught, on her cell phone to Madonna. But she did the vocal, which is probably why it has such an emotional impact.'
The Huffington Post e-mailed Orbit earlier this year for elaboration on the story, and while Orbit declined an interview he did write, in an e-mail, 'There’s quite a story around that.' Quite a story, indeed.
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