Singer Madonna at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit for the opening of "PUNK: Chaos to Couture" in New York.
Madonna at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit for the opening of 'PUNK: Chaos to Couture' in New York.

Madonna has spoken about the full extent of her rape ordeal at knifepoint when she first arrived in the Big Apple.

Writing in the November issue of Harper's Bazaar, the American singer said: "The first year, I was held up at gunpoint.

"Raped on the roof of a building I was dragged up to with a knife in my back, and had my apartment broken into three times. I don't know why; I had nothing of value after they took my radio the first time."

Although "scared s***less and freaked out" by some aspects of the city, she remained "defiant" and hell-bent on surviving and on making it.

"It was hard and it was lonely, and I had to dare myself every day to keep going," she said.

She described her early years as a "rebel" and nonconformist, who "did the opposite of what all the other girls were doing" and turned herself into a "man repeller".

In the magazine, Madonna also writes about posing nude for artists to pay her bills when she arrived in New York. "I was poised for survival. I felt alive.

"Trying to be a professional dancer, paying my rent by posing nude for art classes, staring at people staring at me naked."

She also talks frankly about her time in England, when she was married to director Guy Ritchie: "It wasn't easy for me. Just because we speak the same language doesn't mean we speak the same language.

"I didn't understand that there was still a class system. I didn't understand pub culture. I didn't understand that being openly ambitious was frowned upon.

"Once again I felt alone. But I stuck it out and I found my way, and I grew to love English wit, Georgian architecture, sticky toffee pudding, and the English countryside. There is nothing more beautiful than the English countryside."

Back living in America, Madonna is a far cry from her hell-raising early career: "Ten years later, here I am, divorced and living in New York. I have been blessed with four amazing children."

Madonna is the world's top-earning celebrity raking in an estimated £80m ($125m) last year, according to the Forbes rich list.

The 55-year-old pop star beat into second place film director Steven Spielberg (£65m, $100m) to top spot, after her MDNA tour grossed more than £190m ($300m).