Kevin Mazur/Getty
April 06, 2015 01:30 PM

When Madonna began her pop-culture dominance back in the ’80s, Internet culture was far from a thing.

But as Her Madgesty’s reign endured in the decades that followed, the 56-year-old has weathered harsh criticism from anonymous online critics – and she says she’s developed a level-headed attitude toward her detractors.

“You can hide behind your computer or your phone and say whatever you want – you’re not known,” she tells Cosmopolitan in its 50th anniversary issue, out April 14, which features four covers of the multi-hyphenate star. “Could you say it to my face? Would you say it to my face? I doubt it.”

Her tough, no-nonsense attitude has long been part of her appeal, and she admits that’s helped her navigate the inevitable ups and downs that come with being in the public eye for so long.

Madonna on the cover of Cosmopolitan
Ellen Von Unwerth

“Popularity comes and goes. You need to know who you are, what you stand for, and why you’re here,” says the star, who also graced Cosmopolitan‘s 25th anniversary issue back in May 1990.

Having a strong sense of self certainly helped the mother of four when she recruited another strongly opinionated artist – Kanye West – to work on her latest album, Rebel Heart.

“It’s a little bit of a bullfight, but we take turns,” she said of their collaboration. “He knows that he’s walking into a room with a person with a strong point of view, and I do, too. I listen to what he has to say, take it in, and he listens to what I say and takes it in. We didn’t agree on everything, but he has good ideas.”

Madonna also weighed on how much has changed – or not changed – for women in the workforce, whether in the entertainment industry or elsewhere.

“Don’t be fooled, not much has changed – certainly not for women,” she says. “We still live in a very sexist society that wants to limit people. Since I started, I’ve had people giving me a hard time because they didn’t think you could be sexual or have sexuality or sensuality in your work and be intelligent at the same time. For me, the fight has never ended.”

Madonna
Ellen Von Unwerth

VIDEO: Madonna Opens Up About Working with Kanye West

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