She's always liked them hot, young and Latin, but Madonna's latest boy toy has another special charm -- he was a Kabbalist before they even met.
Jesus Luz, 22, immersed himself in the religion while he was still a struggling model in Rio de Janeiro. Since the late 1990s, Madonna has been an avid follower of the movement, which stems from Jewish mysticism and equates God to a ray of light.
"Madonna must have thought she met God when she found Jesus," said a Kabbalah devotee in New York, noting that "Jesus Luz" translates from Portuguese as "Jesus Light."
Leonardo Reis, manager of the Kabbalah Center in Rio, helped Luz with his studies starting in July 2008, six months before Jesus met Madonna.
"All I can say to you is that Madonna is really, really happy with Jesus," Reis said. "When she found out he was into Kabbalah, they really started to hit it off."
Reis organized a special Shabbat dinner for the couple and their friends after they met at a Rio photo shoot last December. The dinner, complete with lit candles and guests clothed in white, was held at sunset in Madonna's luxe suite at the Copacabana Palace Hotel with its stunning views of the Atlantic.
Spirituality has always been a part of Luz's life. His mother, Cristiane Regina da Silva, 37, is a member of the "Evangelicals," a growing Protestant cult movement in Brazil. His father, an administrator at a public hospital in the Rio suburbs, says he decided to name his son Jesus because he admired the philosophy of Christ.
But four years after baby Jesus was born, the family split. Cristiane, a colorist at a tony Ipanema salon, raised Luz on her own in a gritty part of downtown Rio.
Still, she was determined to give him the kind of life she never had. By the time he was an adolescent, Cristiane managed to save enough money to enroll him in a private prep school and encouraged his modeling career.
Luz had star quality from a young age. At his prep school, girls sought out his autograph because of his intense blue eyes, said a former girlfriend.
Those eyes must have also been a hit with photographer Steven Klein, who chose Luz's picture from a stack of portfolio shots provided by model agent Sergio Mattos.
According to Mattos, Klein offered Luz and two other male models $100 each for a two-day shoot in Rio for W magazine. The models didn't know they would be working alongside Madonna until they arrived at the session in December.
After the first day of shooting, Luz went home to his mother in such a good mood that he insisted on celebrating.
"The first picture session with Madonna resulted in his coming home really happy," said Cristiane in an interview with a Brazilian magazine. "He even opened a bottle of champagne."
But not everyone in Luz's circle was joining in the fun. Shortly after the W shoot, Jesus dumped girlfriend Krishna Siqueira, a sultry model who introduced him to Kabbalah when they started dating last July.
"My mother gave Jesus letters of the Kabbalah for him to meditate on," said Siqueira, who like many of Luz's friends lost touch with the model after Madonna whisked him to New York this year.
Luz's move to the Big Apple has paid off. The boy toy, who is also devoted to macrobiotic cuisine and is fluent in English, is now a high-profile Ford Model who recently shot a Dolce & Gabbana's menswear campaign for fall/winter 2009-2010.
Although Ford Models refused to say how much Luz makes per gig, a Brazilian newspaper reported that he was commanding a $100,000 fee to appear at a local fashion show shortly after he started dating Madonna. Luz's earnings have also enabled him to finance his mother's recent move into an upscale apartment in Ipanema.
In New York, Luz is now a regular at hotspots like the Waverly Inn and earlier this month escorted Madonna to the Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute Ball, considered the city's society event of the year.
He's friends with Marc Jacobs and the famous designer's Brazilian companion, Lorenzo Martone, who has become a mentor to the young model. In March, Jacobs wrote a letter to US authorities to help Luz obtain a work permit here.
Every Saturday morning, Madonna and Luz attend services at the Kabbalah Centre in Midtown, and he spends his free time jogging in Central Park, reading Deepak Chopra and attending a school for DJs, friends say.
"His passion is electronic music," his best friend in Rio told The Post. "He is really working hard to become a DJ."
Luis Heitor Luz, Jesus' 46-year-old father, told The Post his son is firmly committed to the pop star. "I know he loves Madonna, and I wouldn't be surprised if they get married," he said. "People speak about the difference in their ages but this is nonsense. I was 23 and his mother was 14 when Jesus was born."
Although it was recently reported that Madonna and Jesus planned to wed in a Kabbalah commitment ceremony, a spokeswoman for the pop queen last week flatly denied the rumors.
But in Rio, a Kabbalist who knows the couple said, "There is no need for marriage. They are already spiritually joined."