The world’s most private and enigmatic star has chosen Grazia for her most revealing interview ever. She tells Louise Gannon about her marriage, her children and her darkest moments.
Madonna is laughing. Really laughing. Life, it seems, has never been better.
I’m completely and absolutely happy like never before, she say, “I never thought I’d be like this.” It seems that becoming a wife and mother has been the ultimate reinvention for the ever-changing icon. Talking exclusively to Grazia on Wednesday, in her only UK interview to launch her latest children’s book, Madonna is relaxed, open and eager to discuss absolutely anything from her daughter’s rage in clothes to her newfound passion for spiritual enlightenment, and the loneliness that tormented her at the height of her fame.
Our first topic is her marriage. Contrary to rumours circulating round the showbusiness world, her marriage to director Guy Ritchie, whom she wed in 2000, is not in trouble – although she does confess it’s not always easy. “We have had struggles,” Madonna admits with an honesty rarely displayed by a star of her magnitude. “We’ve both done a lot of pushing. But it is an ongoing straggle if you have two people who are used to having their own way, who want to do exactly what they want when they want, which is definitely a description of me and my husband. But I think if you are a strong person, you need to be with a strong person. There is a lot of fire in the relationship, but that’s the way we both like it. It’s what we both need.’
The rumours were sparked by reports that the pressure of trying for a brother or sister for Lourdes, seven (Madonna’s daughter by her ex, Carlos Leon), and Roccom three, has put a strain on the marriage. Madonna reveals she and Guy do want another child – but only if it happens naturally. She’s not so desperate that she’s haunting every baby doctor in the world in an attempt to conceive at the age of 46. ‘Look,’ she says in her throaty transatlantic voice, ‘everybody else has made a big deal about me wanting more children. And yes, it would be nice. But my attitude and my husband’s attitude is that if we have more then we do, and if we don’t, we don’t. We have two amazing children. I couldn’t feel more lucky or more blessed than I already do.’
Madonna is used to being misunderstood. The greatest female star in the world since the 1980s, every triumph and every mistake has been a metter or public record. We’ve lived through her incredible 20-year career, her famous lovers, her stormy marriage and devastating divorce from Sean Penn, seen her blonde (and brunette) ambition and witnessed every step of her insatiable quest for fame, money and sex. The very last thing we expected (and she candidly admits that was her sentiment too) was for this wanton, driven, career-obsessed woman to end up in her forties happily married with kids and giving away millions of her own hard-earned money to support a spiritual belief system called Kabbalah. It was her study of the ancient Jewish religion that inspired her to write a series of children’s book based on its reachings and moral beliefs. The latest tome is the beautifully illustrated Lotsa De Casha, the tale of a man who just learns that money just doesn’t bring happiness. The rich, successful merchand De Casha comes to learn that only by sharing his fortune with others, and putting other people before himself, will he find true contentment. It’s an ironic choice for the world’s most famous Material Girl, whose attitude to men and money defined a whole generation of hard-nosed 1980s women. But, she admits, there is a lot of her in her new book. In many ways it is a parable of her life.
‘Oh. I’ve certainly changed,’ she says with a wry smile, ‘I never thought this would happen to me. And believe me, the change is really quite recent. I think it really started when I became a mother and that is the first time you really have to learn about putting someone else first. It has taken me a long time to realise money doesn’t bring happiness. I spent 15 years of my life put thinking about myself, thinking about everything from the point of view of: “What is in it for me?”‘
It was after having Lourdes — or Lola, as she’s called by those closest to her – that Madonna realised her fame and fortune had made her unhappy. ‘What was wonderful about the money was that I could put a roof over my head and food in my stomach, but after that it just becomes unnecessary.
‘Then you begin to realise there are whole areas of your life where you are not happy. I was definitely lonely ten and 15 years ago,’ she admits. ‘There were whole chunks of my life where I was so lonely, and periods when I felt I didn’t have a friend in the world and wondered if it was ever going to be possible for me so have a relationship that was going so last. I did wonder if it was ever going to be possible to find a man who could handle me as well as a man I could handle. But then just when I wasn’t looking I found one.’
She accepts there has been endless speculation about the state of her marriage, even acknowledging the tumours that her obsession with Kabbalah,almost ended their relationship. ‘Oh please,’ she says. ‘People always want to say negative things about us. If it isn’t one thing then it could be another, but Kabbalah has been an ingredient in making our relationship this successful. I don’t force Guy to do anything. I couldn’t. Kabbalah is something we do together; we study together, we read books. It is a point of interest for us. You could say it’s a hobby we have in common and anything that makes you more aware of your behaviour – something that makes you stop and think and take responsibility for yourself – is going to make you and your relationship stronger.’
Madonna laughs again. ‘When I first met Guy. I couldn’t believe I had met someone as strong
willed as I was. But now I have accepted it and it is a major ingredient in the success of our relationship. Guy has a very forceful personality with very specific likes and dislikes. He doesn’t back down one iota if it’s something we disagree on but I respect that. I’ve definitely had an influence on him and he’s come around to looking in some things from my point of view but I could never say he was a pushover.’ Family life means everything to Madonna, whose own mother died from cancer when she was just five. She confesses that her and her children’s favourite way to kick back and enjoy themselves is to spend an hour or so dancing like lunatics together, inventing ridiculous disco routines and falling about laughing on the sofas. ‘Every day I make sure I have time just to be with my children,’ she says.
The very idea of Madonna cavorting in such a way seems completely bizarre but her public
persona is a million miles away fmm who she is at home. ‘I don’t value diamonds. I rarely wear jewellery. I’m perfectly happy to muck around in a pair of pants and wellies,’ she reveals. ‘Sometimes my daughter gets angry because I go to school with her, wearing my tracksuit and she says, “Please can’t you just wear normal clothes?” I think she wants me to be a Yummy Mummy but that’s not me.’
Guy also has his own views on his wife’s fashion. ‘He will sometimes laugh at what I wear, I’ll put something on and he’ll look at me and say, “Who are you going as. then?”‘
Madonna admits one of her greatest fears is that her children grow up to he spoiled brats. ‘That is not going to happen if I have anything to do with tt,’ she says. ‘Guy and I like to keep things simple. People are so generous and want to give the children presents but we don’t want them showered with gifts. We teach them value, and they know how lucky they are and they know how much they should appreciate things. But it is very difficult and it is something I do really worry about.’ The children are, naturally, fans of her books. ‘They love them,’ she says, proudly. ‘We read them together,’ Lotsa De Carsha is dedicated to just one person: Guy. ‘To my husband who gives me lotsa everything,’ reads the inscription. She grins when asked about it. ‘What can I say? The greatest thing he gives me is inspiration,’
And, clearly, true happiness.
© Grazia Magazine