But these days the Queen of Pop is much more likely to be attacked than appreciated: for years she has endured mockery of her refusal to dress demurely, her taste for younger men, and that one time she fell over on stage.
Amid this, it can easy to forget quite how influential she has been: without her, from music to fashion to the whole concept of celebrity, today's pop culture landscape would simply not exist as it is.
And that's not to mention the impact she's had on her on her fans, like my own teenage self, whose love for her I have channelled into a new novel, The Madonna of Bolton, which celebrates the impression she makes on a young working class man's coming of age in the Eighties and Nineties. So to mark the big occasion, here are a few ways in which her Madgesty has conclusively changed the world.
1. She laid out the template for the modern female pop icon
Long before Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, Madonna was the first female pop star to project an image of control, drive and fierce independence. For all her personal suffering (her mother died when she was five), she has rarely betrayed any emotional fragility. Rather, she has worn costumes that looked like armour, such as the famous corset designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier for the Blond Ambition tour.
And in the video for Express Yourself, a rousing anthem to female empowerment, she dressed in a man's suit and presided over an army of male underlings. 'I'm tough, I'm ambitious and I know exactly what I want,' she once said. 'If that makes me a bitch, OK.'
To read the other seven ways Madonna changed the world visit: nzherald.co.nz