Hello, adoring fans. Good-bye, poverty. Within two years, she was the queen of pop music, rich, and growing richer. By 1992, Ladies’ Home Journal proclaimed Madonna and Oprah Winfrey the country’s richest female entertainers, and said the singer had earned more than $20 million a yeah since 1986. To tat add a $60 million deal she cut with Time Warner (her Maverick Records, a joint venture, is one of the hottest labels going) and clearly this woman isn’t going to be standing in line at the bank.
With money came perks like expensive real estate. Madonna owns a home in Miami, a new one in Los Angeles (having put her pink Hollywood Hills estate up tor sale), and a cavernous New York apartment now on the market for roughly $7 million.
At the same time as her singing career was flourishing, Madonna’s movie career bounced up and down like the blip on an EKG. From 1985’s Desperately Seeking Susan to last winter’s Evita, there was an odd mix of stinkers (Shanghai Surprise) and successes (A League of Their (hwn). She herself has suggested, “I don’t think I’m a bad actress. I think I’ve been in a lot of bad movies.”
As for men, her track record sounds like a train timetable (arrives at… leaves at, arrives at… leaves at). The woman who once cracked that she considered losing her virginity at 15 “a good career move,” has had a tough time finding a permanent partner. Her marriage in 1985 to actor Sean Penn (“opposites attract,” she later explained) dissolved into competition for the spotlight, public fighting (they were known as the Poison Penns), and divorce within four years. A fling with Warren Beatty went nowhere. At one point there were intimations that she was involved with comenienne Sandra Bernhard (later, Madonna told an interviewer, “I’m not a lesbian but I thought it was undignified to say so…my attitude is what if I am? Do you have a problem with it? It’s irrelevant”).
Of personal trainer and aspiring actor Carlos Leon — Lourdes’ 30-year-old father— Madonna has said there’s no need to get married because “I’m perfectly happy with the way things are.”
in fact, forget about guys for the time being — Madonna has declared little Lourdes “the love of my life now.” Everything revolves around the baby, from her New Year’s resolution (“I’m never going to do anything selfish ever again. That’s what I decided the day my daughter was born”) to amateur self-analysis (Lourdes will “heal a lot of the pain I felt growing up without a mother”).
But this is, after all, the Mother of Reinvention, who can rifle through images the way the rest of is rifle through a closet. She’s been blond, platinum, dark-haired; clothed by Frederick’s of Hollywood and John Galliano; appeared as pigtailed milkmaid, straightlaced schoolgirl, sassy spitfire, Marilyn clone. and retro Latin legend.
So is doting mom just another makeover? “My having a child is not for public consumption,” she announced to USA Today. “It’s not a career move. It’s not a performance to be judged and rated. Nor is my role as a mother.”
And she’s had a few things to say, too, about suggestions that she’s very deliberately manufactured her images and her life (brother Martin calls her a “marketing genius”).
“Look at Robert DeNiro,” she once sniffed, “or any great actors who completely reinvent themselves for their roles in their movies. When he does it, it’s looked at as art. When I do it, it’s looked at as evil and manipulative.”
Madonna claims she has no regrets — only that “I made mistakes and I learned from them.” She has a baby daughter she adores, a stratospheric bank account, a movie career that’s seemingly on the up-swing, and a face familiar in the most isolated yurt in Mongolia. That must be satisfying for a woman who once said she wanted to rule the world.
And after all these years, she also finally seems to be living a key line from her song “Secret”: “Happiness lies in your own hands.”