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Madonna Interview : People

Madonna - People Magazine / April 28 2003

Visitors to Madonna’s $6.5 million Beverly Hills mansion on a recent afternoon could stroll through and behold masterworks by Picasso. Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and … radiant artist Lourdes Leon, age 6. Alas, Lourdes belongs to the enfant terrible school of art, which has her famous mom clenching her teeth in frustration. “My daughter spilled apint paint on the bedroom rug,” says a stressed Madonna. ‘We’re not really sure how it happened. She was left alone for two minutes, and, well, it’s not pretty.” So where is her husband, British film director Guy Ritchie? “He’s upstairs, working on a script,” she says. “I’m much more the disciplinarian of the house, although Guy is getting more involved.” Then, flashing a playful grin, she adds, “I’d have to fire him as a dad if he didn’t get more involved. I can’t be the hard one all the time.”

Madonna, looking to soften her image? Chalk it up to motherhood, marriage – and mysticism. “I am in a very good place, it’s all good.” says the singer, dressed casually in a skeveles blouse and khaki capris and sipping an iced blended chai tea in her cozy music room. Which isn’t to say that she’s about to join, the minivan-driving Mommy and Me masses any time soon.
Taut and toned at 44, Madonna is still a master provocateur, posing for recent fashion photos with her leg stretched behind her head, filming (and then yanking) a controversial antiwar music video for a new album, American Life, and still generating tabloid headlines on two continents. But with two kids and a husband with whom she says she is “deeply” in love, it’s clear that Madonna has mellowed. A lot. “Barbie fashion shows are a big deal in this house,” she says, nodding at Lourdes, who is frolicking in the yard. “We get invited up to her room. She passes out tickets. The whole thing.”

When Madonna starts talking Barbies, even Skipper knows that something’s up. “She is softer, warmer, more compassionate, more open and more secure.” says Rabbi Eitan Yardeni, who has been tutoring the singer in Kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism, for seven years. “The transformation is amazing.” adds her friend and manager, Caresse Henry, a member of Madonna’s inner circle for 14 years. “It started with the birth of her daughter, but after she met Guy [in ’98], everything really changed.”

Has it ever. These days the pop star has adopted a laid-back domestic life-split between a 7,000-sq.-ft. L.A. home and a 1,200-acre estate in Dorset, England. “Our whole life is based around the children,” she says of Lourdes (whose dad is Madonna’s ex, personal-trainer-turned-actor Carlos Leon) and Rocco, her 2-year old son, with Ritchie, 34. “We get up with them in the morning. I get my daughter ready for school. I spend time with my son before he goes off to his daycare. Either Guy or I am always with them at dinner, and we spend evenings together.” And don’t forget the occasional sing-alongs with her husband. “Guy’s favorite thing to do is sit around the campfire and sing,” she says. “Kumbaya” it isn’t. “It usually involves beer.” she adds. “And we do the ballad of ‘Mattie Groves,’ a Scottish folk song about a woman who cheated on her husband and he killed her. It’s a nice little ditty.”

Don’t bother reading between the lines. Recent talk of trouble in the couple’s 2 1/2-year marriage “is totally absurd,” says Madonna. What about the tabloid report that Ritchie gave her a black eye, “So dumb.” She is quick to shoot down other rumors as well. Is she pregnant? “No. but I’d like to have more kids.” Doess, she hate London? “That’s just English journalists grumbling.” And come to think of it. why is the former Blonde Ambition star now a brunette? “I was born a brunette,” she says. “Every once in a while, I try to experience my natural hair color.”

More significant is the fact that Madonna is finally easing up on her famed yoga intensity. “I really pushed myself,” she says of her seven-day-a-week “obsession.” (She now practices four days a week.) “I could’ve been a member of Cirque du Soleil. It got to the point where I didn’t have a glass of wine and I had to go to bed early because everything was around my yoga.” Which isn’t to say that the star, who follows a macrobiotic diet, is any less disciplined. “Toast is a splurge on a macrobiotic diet,” she says. “And french fries.”

If fries count as an occasional indulgence, then TV and Web surfing are definite no-no’s. “I don’t have time for that tomfoolery,” Madonna says with a laugh. Though she’s a fan of Eminem and Missy Elliot, she has never watched American Idol nor had she ever tuned into NBC’s Will&Grace before agreeing to an April 24 guest appearance. (“For fun,” she says. “To say I did a sitcom.”) Instead the singer funnels much of her energy into the study of Kabbalah, which examines God, creation and the sole of human beings. So what’s a nice Catholic girl doing in temple? “Getting answers to my questions about life,” she say, “The core of Kabbalah is the same as Christianity, and that’s to love your neighbor as you love yourself. The difference, at least for me, is that Kabbalah gives me the tools to apply that to my life.” The philosophy has taught her other things. “The soul of everyone is good,” adds Madonna. “What’s not good is the ego. And all the ego is Satan trying to control you. Your job in life is trying to control the Satan in you.”

Since first visiting the Beverly Hills Kabbalah Center in ’96 with a friend, Madonna has become an avid pupil, along with Ritchie and Lourdes. “He understands there are laws of the universe one has to live their life by,” she says of her husband. “That’s the glue that will hold us together.”

Of course. there are-ahem-other factors at work as well. Sex in her 40s “is better than ever,” she says, then notes in mock horror, “0h my God! Is that going to be a caption? Oh well. I’m a very passionate person, and when you really love someone, the sex and love is going to be great.”

Not so great, on the other hand, was the public reception of Swept Away, the couple’s critically panned film that was pulled from theaters only three weeks after its release. “Everybody wants to know. ‘God. weren’t you really bummed out by the reaction?’
“Yes, I was,” she says. “But did it affect my relationship with my husband? No. If our relationship couldn’t have handled the failure of that movie, what would have been the basis of it?” Besides. she say, they had fun filming it. “Contrary to what people think,” she says, “I take direction very well.”