Madonna's Real Life
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 sleeveless 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 legs 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."