FORCE OF NATURE
Timbaland, Pharrell, and Justin Timberlake to help craft her
boundary-burning record Hard Candy, Madonna sits down with Fanboy and
fashion maven Simon Doonan to discuss the state-of-the-art dance album, her new film that will save the world, and why Lourdes loves to shop with mom
Photographed by Tom Munro
Styled by Arianne Phillips
Wednesday, February 20, is quite possibly one of the most surreal
days of my life. Things get off to a wacky start when my cabdriver—I am
barreling toward JFK at some ungodly hour—insists on calling me “ma'am”
throughout the journey. In an effort to generate a bit of respect, I
tell him the purpose of my trip. “I'm off to L.A. today to interview
Madonna,” I say in a manly, confident kind of way.
“That's nice for you, ma'am,” he replies in a skeptical tone
revealing that he believes me to be not just a woman, but a thoroughly
The surrealism continues: On the plane, I make a complete spectacle of
myself by sobbing all the way through the 80-minute documentary I Am Because We Are.
Madonna produced this devastatingly powerful film to highlight the
plight of the orphaned and HIV-afflicted population of Malawi, in
southeastern Africa. If her goal has always been to engage the emotions
of her public, this may be Madge's most successful venture ever.
After a recuperative nap, I plug in Hard Candy, Madonna's
new CD, and indulge in a session of age-inappropriate jiggling. As I
groove and shimmy and sing along—“My sugar is raw/ sticky and
sweet”—and contemplate the increasingly multifaceted tour de force that
is Madonna Louise Ciccone, a serious thought occurs to me: Could it be
that Madge has made the transition from diva to deity?
My admiration for La Ciccone is long-standing. Her trajectory and
desire for glamour and self-expression have inspired and awed me for
more than two decades. What irks some writers about Madonna—her
discipline, her drive, her lack of self- destructive tendencies—is
exactly what makes me love that little spitfire more and more. By
clawing her way to the top, she gave me, and millions of marginalized
freaks just like me, permission to claw our way to the lower half of
the middle—and I, for one, am hugely grateful. In an era when downward
aspiration is applauded and rewarded, Madonna's thrusting, szooshy
positivity remains an exhilarating force.
This year, Madonnaworld is reaching a bewildering apotheosis that has
even die-hard Madge-ophiles like me reeling backward on our disco
roller skates. In addition to her documentary, she has directed an
independent movie titled Filth and Wisdom.
Girlfriend has also become a globally respected philanthropist. One
more hit song and she could beat Elvis' record for racking up the most
top-10 singles of all time. Diva to deity.
As I drive down Sunset to rendezvous with our lady of the cone bras, I
realize that I am insanely nervous. Even though I have met her, albeit
briefly, on a couple of occasions, I feel as if I am about to encounter
God—or have a colonoscopy, or both. I try to stay calm, but it's not
easy. I am a big, screaming gay fan who, if he doesn't get a grip on
himself, runs the risk of making Kathy Bates' character in Misery look like a happy, well-balanced enthusiast.
Madonna lives in an incredibly glam Gloria Swanson-esque Hollywood
mansion, and when I say lives, I mean lives! The chicly opulent decor,
the paintings (some of which, like my day, are extremely surreal), the
landscaping, and the bustling retinue reveal that Mr. and Mrs. Guy
Ritchie are totally large-ing it. We're talking Duke and Duchess of
The lady of the house appears in the doorway of her music room.
Catherine Deneuve said that as a woman ages, “Il faut choisir entre le
visage et le derrière.” Rough translation: She has to decide between a
big ass or a haggard face. Madonna never got the memo. She has both a
tight face and a tight ass. She is perfection.
ELLE: My cabdriver thought I was a woman and kept calling me “ma'am.” Do I look like a woman to you?
MADONNA: No. But maybe it's the Paul Smith shirt. [I look down and clock my hallucinogenic art-nouveau Liberty-print button-down and realize that she may be onto something.]
ELLE: Enough about me. Let's talk about your outfit. I want details.
Madonna's elegant at-home ensemble is a symphony in beige and cream:
Think Faye Dunaway in Network with a bit of Jean Harlow thrown in.
M: The heels are Miu Miu. The blouse is Diane von Furstenburg.
The cardigan is H&M, from my own collection. Undies? Can't
remember, 'cause I always cut the tags off. The pants are from River
Island, one of Lola's [Lourdes'] favorite shops on Oxford Street. I'm
having a high-low day.
ELLE: Do you ever go shopping incognito?
M: Lola likes us to do that. The incognito never really lasts
very long, because everyone knows I wear baseball caps. So I guess I
don't really have an incognito.
ELLE: What's the dynamic among your three kids?
M: Lola [age 11] rules the roost. She is extremely maternal
toward David [the much talked-about Malawian toddler, age two and a
half, the circumstances of whose adoption are clarified in Madge's
documentary]. He is the apple of everyone's eye right now. Lola is in
major competition with Rocco [age seven], but he's starting to fight
back. But when nobody's looking, the two of them still creep into bed
and cuddle. It's a closet kind of love.
ELLE: Who does the disciplining between you and Guy?
M: Oh, definitely me. Guy's a softie when it comes to our kids.
ELLE: How do you strike a balance?
M: Work is important to both of us. We have to be highly organized and navigate family responsibilities.
ELLE: When was the last time you took a family vacation?
M: Guy and I and the kids went to India over Christmas. We really got away from it all.
ELLE: Does he share your passion for Malawi?
ELLE: What's his favorite hobby?
M: Jujitsu. I don't get it—grown men throwing each other around. But he loves it.
ELLE: What do you talk about in bed?
M: None of your business!
CHECK OUT THE MAY ISSUE OF ELLE, ON NEWSSTANDS NOW, FOR THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH MADONNA.
SOURCE: ELLE Magazine