When Madonna clears the air, she sure doesn't mess around.
In yet another sit-down with the media, the pop superstar explained why she thinks she hasn't been able to catch a break when it comes to the public scrutiny surrounding her decision to adopt 13-month-old David Banda from southeast Africa.
"I don't think people really give a s--t," Madonna says in Time magazine's Nov. 13 issue. "But when you throw in things like I'm a celebrity and I somehow got special treatment, or make the implication of kidnapping, it gets mixed into a stew and it sells lots of papers.
"But care? People don't care and the media certainly doesn't care. What they should care about is that there are over a million orphans in Malawi, and following me around is just a gross misappropriation of attention and money.
"It's just kind of a cocktail for disaster in terms of media perception."
Before she was accused of jumping on the adoption bandwagon, Madonna brought attention to the plight of African orphans during her Confessions tour this year, adopting a mock-crucifixion pose during her shows' finale while a ticker behind her counted to 12 million—the number of children on the continent orphaned by AIDS.
Alas, what the Material Girl mainly created was another controversy. Religious groups all over the globe protested the religious imagery, calling it blasphemy and speculating whether Madonna was in the middle of a spiritual crisis.
"Which is better," Madonna queried, "that I found out about an issue and instantly wanted to take action, or that it took me years to get my s--t together? Look, I could have joined the U.N. and become an ambassador and visited various countries and just kind of showed up and smiled…But that's not getting to the root of the problem—and, by the way, neither is building orphan care centers and giving people food and medicine. But it's a start."
And while Madonna's latest headline-grabbing actions are a far cry from the Truth or Dare days, when it was cone-shaped bras and simulated sex that got her into trouble, the singer wants you to know that, deep down inside, she's still not afraid to express herself first and worry about the consequences later.
"There is a part of me that is secretly enjoying pissing people off, because I know that when you're pissing people off you're often doing the right thing," the Ray of Light purveyor said. "What I hope I'm doing better now than I used to do is picking the right battles to fight, and not just being provocative for the sake of being provocative."
Speaking to those who have accused her of using her shiny celebrity scissors to cut through government red tape, Madonna said that she has never worked so hard for something in her life and has never been given such a hard time.
After taking David to a clinic in Malawi so he could be treated for pneumonia, "I just [kept] thinking, 'Oh, god, I don't want to get too attached because what if it doesn't happen?' '" Madonna recalled. "It was all very strange and weird, and I'd go to bed every night and think, 'Okay, whether someone else ends up looking after him or you end up looking after him, he's better off now than he was'…So the idea that people think I got a shortcut or an easy ride is absolutely ridiculous."
"It was one f---ing thing after the next, everywhere we went," she said. "So the idea that people think I got a shortcut or an easy ride is absolutely ludicrous.”
David's father, Yohane Banda, had placed his son in an orphanage about a month after his wife died. There has since been some confusion whether the 32-year-old farmer knew that his baby boy was being taken out of the country for good—confusion that Madonna has blamed squarely on the media.
"Now they're going into a village and terrorizing innocent people who live simple lives, terrorizing the father, terrorizing the children I already have," she said, adding that while she is used to the scrutiny, what's going on now is a whole new ballgame. "There are a lot of people who are indirectly being affected by it. That's the difference."
But overall, Madonna's mission has remained clear—at least to her.
"I'm saving people's lives," she said. "And whether I have earned the right to do it, or the respect of people who think I may not have the right to do it, is completely and utterly irrelevant."