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Madonna Interview : People

Then again, she has always been her own best navigator. One of six children born to Madonna Ciccone, a homemaker who died when the future star was only 5, and Tony, 71,a former auto engineer, Madonna Louise Ciccone grew up outside Detroit and moved to New York City in 197S after dropping out of the University of Michigan. “I thought everything was about having everyone adore you,” she says. “I came to New York dreaming of becoming a professional dancer and somehow I fell into music. Everything following that was like, ‘Oh my God! What’s happening to my life?’ You get caught up in that.”

Madonna - People Magazine / April 28 2003

The next two decades in Madonna’s life are well documented: the tumultuous four-year marriage to Sean Penn in the mid-’80s, the romance with Warren Beatty, the nude photos in her ’92 Sex hook. Throughout “I wondered if she would meet the man who would help her have all the things money couldn’t buy” says pal Henry. ‘I wondered if she’d let someone in.”

Enter Richie, whom Madonna met at a garden luncheon hosted by Sting’s wife. Trudie Styler. Having split from boyfriend Carlos Leon two years earlier, Madonna was instantly drawn to Ritchie, the London-bred son of John, a retired advertising exec, and his ex-wife, Lady (Amber) Leighton. “He had an incredible light around him,” she says. Plus, “he was not intimidated by me. I felt the sparks. He did too.”

For the next year, Madonna says, “we did everything we could to make it not happen.” Why? “You go into denial,” she muses. “You say, ‘Oh, I’m not ready for that.'” But eventually they dropped the act, and in August 2000 they welcomed Rocco. Four months later they married at Scotland’s Skibo Castle. “My wedding was a great day,” she says. “A fairy tale.”

Not that marriage has always been happily ever after. “I think it’s a lot different than what we expected,” she says. “Guy and I have done a lot of growing up in the last few years, and we understand that marriage is about having shared goals. We have things we each want to do, but we’re clear that partnership comes first.” M do the kids. “She’s definitely a hands. on mother.” says choreographer James King. “We’d be in the middle of rehearsal on the Drowned World tour and, say, in the middle of doing ‘Holiday,’ Lourdes would come in and Madonna would stop everything and ask what kind of day she had at school.”

Even if Swept Away was just that, Ritchie and “the Misses” continue to collaborate unofficially. Just as Madonna reads every draft of Ritchie’s scripts, she played him numerous versions of each song on American Life. It was Ritchie who bought Madonna her first acoustic guitar three years ago. “It was like a whole new world,” says Madonna about composing on guitar. “I’m a late bloomer, but hey, better late than never.” The songs on her lush new album explore her personal evolution as a result of marriage, motherhood and Kabbalah, or as she says, “the nitty-gritty and what is important. “The title track, she says, is a reflection on the meaning of her own success. “I symbolize the American dream, someone who came from nothing and then supposedly had everything. But did I? Is the American dream everything? I think the answer is no. There more.”

Not only that, but the former Material Girl – whose personal fortune is estimated at more than 530 million – says she has changed her tune. “Don’t get me wrong. It’s fabulous I have these beautiful homes and paintings,” she says. “But the most important thing in life is love. I know it sounds corny, but everybody knows it’s true.”

As warm and fuzzy as that sounds, the “American Life” video is considerably less so. Just before it was set to air on VH1, Madonna pulled the video, in which she is shown lobbing a cigar lighter shaped like a hand grenade at a President Bush lookalike. Yanking it “was probably the right thing to do,” says Rick Krim, an exmitive vice president at VH1. Given the recent Dixie Chicks brouhaha, he adds, “we’re in a volatile state and this clip probably could have ignited some of those reactions.” For her part, Madonna says she had a change of heart about the video after the war in Iraq began: “Children, brothers, wives and sons were over there and people at home were worrying about them,” she says. “I’d he putting salt in their wounds.”

For now, Madonna is looking ahead, hoping to make another movie – “There’s a completely original musical I want to do, a bit of an extravaganza” – and trying not to scrutinize herself too closely. “Every once in a while, I see a little wrinkle on my face and I go, ‘Bummer,'” she says. “But whenever I look in the mirror and get a little too critical of myself I go. ‘Stop it.’ I’m not going to get caught up in thinking you have to stay eternally young and perfect. I am what I am.” Thus far, she says she hasn’t undergone any plastic surgery or Botox, but “never say never. Is plastic surgery for me? I don’t know. I don’t like the idea of someone putting you to sleep and then taking knives to you.”

Nor is she wild about frequent press speculation that she is having another baby. “My pregnancies are always a bit more tension-filled than other people’s because I spend the first five months hiding them. When everyone does find out, it’s a hailstorm.” Both children were delivered by cesarean. “Eww,” she recalls. “Neither of them were pleasant experiences.”

Now, well, it’s dinnertime, and Lourdes and Rocco are sitting at a stainless-steel kitchen table munching pasta that’s been whipped up by a personal chef. “How is it?” she asks. “Good,” they both reply. Lourdes, Madonna notes, “is 6 going on 16.” It’s an age her mom remembers well. “At one point I only cared about clothes and boys and french fries,” she says. “I’ve grown. I’ve discovered things I had no idea of when I was in my 20s.” Among then, the value of inner peace – and the fact that fashion trendsetting is best left to those with more youthful Blonde Ambition. “I don’t want people to dress like me anymore,” she says. “Now I want them to think like me. Dress like Britney Spears and think like me, and everything will be fine.”

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