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Madonna on the May 27, 1985, cover of TIME

Madonna’s 13th studio album, Rebel Hearts, due out Mar. 10, is a sure a sign of any of a long and productive career. But when she burst onto the scene 30 years ago, it wasn’t clear what the future would hold for the Material Girl.

The reason why was simple: Desperately Seeking Susan.

It took a mere three months, almost to the day, for Madonna to go from a small blurb in TIME (“She is 24 and has been hot in the music business for all of six months”; she was actually 26) to the cover of the magazine. At that point, her concert tour was stirring up young audiences nationwide, her first album Madonna had sold 2.8 million copies in the U.S. and her second, Like a Virgin, had done about twice that much. But the movie, made prior to her fame and released right in the middle of its first wave, tipped the scales. “As things are, Susan gives Madonna an audience she can’t reach with MTV or disco,” TIME commented. In fact, Susan was such a good fit for her that, for a moment, it seemed like she might switch focus:

Later in the story, she said that, while she planned to make more albums, the rock-star life was too grueling and that her ambition was to be a great actress. Of course, though she continued to add to her film credits, from A League of Their Own to Evita, that career change didn’t materialize. Three decades after that cover story, she’s still closer to a rock star than to anything else.

Read the 1985 cover story, here in the TIME Vault: Madonna Rocks the Land


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