Madonna delivered an honest, unapologetic speech about her career as a music icon when she accepted Billboard’s 2016 Woman of the Year award this weekend.
The Grammy-winning entertainer, who was presented the award by out CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, highlighted music and media’s double-standard over celebrating male sexuality while condemning female sexuality—a constant theme of her career.
Early in the speech, though, she talked about starting out in New York in the late 1970s and the great struggles she faced—including losing gay friends to the start of the AIDS epidemic.
“People were dying of AIDS everywhere. It wasn’t safe to be gay, it wasn’t cool to be associated with the gay community,” Madonna said. “It was 1979 and New York was a very scary place. In the first year I was held at gunpoint, raped on a rooftop with a knife digging into my throat and I had my apartment broken into and robbed so many times I stopped locking the door. In the years that followed, I lost almost every friend I had to AIDS or drugs or gunshots.”
Through all that loss, she persevered. And to her haters over the years, she had an important message.
“Your resistance made me stronger, made me push harder, made me the fighter that I am today. It made me the woman that I am today. So thank you.”
Watch part of the speech below