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5 surprising moments from Anderson's talk with Madonna

By Lisa Respers France, CNN
updated 3:13 PM EDT, Fri October 4, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Madonna says her new project is one of the biggest things she's ever done
  • Her "Art for Freedom" project is inviting the world to share their thoughts on the concept
  • The singer has very personal reasons for reaching out

(CNN) -- Always outspoken. Always challenging the system. Always a champion for freedom.

Anderson Cooper's conversation with singer, actress and activist Madonna about her "Art for Freedom" movement yielded not only a sense of the passion she has for it, but also revealed a few things about the woman who has both scandalized and intrigued the world with her refusal to be anyone other than herself.

Here are five things we learned from Madonna:

1) This project is the most important thing she's done besides raising her kids

By providing people a vehicle in which to express their thoughts on freedom by sharing their photographs, videos, music or other media, Madonna feels an incredible sense of responsibility. And just as she does not take her role as a mother to her four children lightly, she also feels an incredible sense of responsibility for "Art for Freedom."

Over her long career, Madonna has been a genius at reinventing herself. Take a look back at how her style has evolved over the years, starting with this shot of her as she was first emerging on the music scene in New York in December 1982. Over her long career, Madonna has been a genius at reinventing herself. Take a look back at how her style has evolved over the years, starting with this shot of her as she was first emerging on the music scene in New York in December 1982.
Madonna: Through the years
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Madonna: Through the years Madonna: Through the years

"This is a situation where I have put in I don't know how many man hours," she said. "I've poured my own money into it. Steven Klein [the photographer who is working jointly with her on it] has done the same. We've done it for no financial gain, (and) also not to promote any product in particular. The only reason we're doing this is because we want to shed light on subjects that need to have light shed on (them)."

2) She worries about humanity

One of Madonna's main concerns, she said, is "that the world we are living in is collapsing to a certain extent, and that civilization as we know it is caving in on itself."

"I think 95% of that reason is that we are at a very low level of consciousness, and we do not know how to treat each other as human beings," she said.

3) You are proving her point right now

The singer has such a strong belief in the transformational power of creativity and art that she wants others to be able to have that voice. So those wishing to participate need only to click on the "Art for Freedom" website because, as Madonna points out, the Internet is how the world now communicates.

"That's how we reach one another," she said. "We watch things on Youtube, we listen to music on iTunes, and we connect to feelings, we connect to situations. We are inspired to change, we gain strength, we are horrified...This is how people are reached through art, through creativity."

4) Madonna doubts that some of the great artists would be able to make it in these times

It goes without saying that the music icon is squarely against censorship and political correctness. After all, this is a woman who was slammed by the Vatican in 1989 for her "Like a Prayer" music video with its imagery of the stigmata and burning crosses as well as her nude coffee table art book titled "Sex." But today's artist must contend with issues such as being perceived as "brands" and being judged for their personal lives - all of which she feels would probably have hampered the creativity of some of the legends like John Lennon and others.

"[The late R&B singer] Marvin Gaye was an incredible artist," Madonna said. "But his personal life was pretty in question if you really put him under a microscope. I'm not sure how far he would get in this day and age."

5) She has very personal reasons for rallying for freedom and the disenfranchised

Madonna has been a vocal advocate for gay rights, used her celebrity to bring attention to the issue of poverty in the African nation of Malawi through the charity Raising Malawi and paid tribute to Malala Yousufzai, a Pakistani girl shot and critically wounded by the Taliban because of her advocacy for girls' education. She said she feels so strongly about fighting against oppression and conformity because she's been there.

"I'm not saying this to feel sorry for myself, but I wasn't very popular," Madonna said. "It's just in my nature that I wanted to challenge the system."

Watch Anderson Cooper 360° weeknights 8pm ET. For the latest from AC360° click here.

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