Just for kicks: Madonna reinvented as a soccer mom
As she turns 60, the Lisbon dweller and Italian Vogue cover star changes her image all over again
As anyone who has enjoyed living through the many detailed incarnations of Madonna might, I often ponder which is my favourite era. The original, Desperately Seeking Susan look was strong. But who can forget new-Mum-donna, Kabala-donna, Disco-donna or Lady of Manor-donna. I was also very into her prim Prada floral English tea-dress phase when she launched her children’s books (circa 2003): JK-donna?.But no good can really come of looking back, Madonna, much as Karl Lagerfeld, is not one for reminiscing. “Let me make this clear” she begins, as an opener to Xerxes Cook, the writer tasked with profiling her for Italian Vogue’s cover coup to mark this landmark birthday. “This is about my life in Lisbon. It doesn’t make much sense to talk about anything else does it?”
And so here we are, with the latest Madonna, Fado-donna perhaps? Nando-donna? For the cover story, the photographer duo Mert & Marcus spent a day with her at home in Lisbon as she took her charges for a horse and carriage ride (she is a keen horsewoman), skipped through mazes and struck Vogue-like poses in fields of wild flowers.You see, she’s not just a 300 million album selling pop star. These days, Ms Ciccone is more likely to found at the sidelines of her 13-year-old son David’s football match. “He’s wanted to play soccer professionally for years. I’ve been desperate to get him into the best academies with the best coaches, but the level of football in America is much lower than the rest of the world,” she explains of how she and her four adopted children came to be living in Lapa, the Kensington of Lisbon. Yes, the cone-bra wearing, whip-wielding, Britney Spears-snogging Madonna is now a fully fledged soccer mom. Mara-donna?
Is this Madonna the everywoman? The every-mom? The where-the-hell-is-the-boiler-man Madonna? “Lisbon is an ancient city and no one is in a hurry to do things,” she says. “You can have all the romantic notions you want, but once you are in a house and your staff doesn’t show up and the pipe starts leaking and you don’t speak the language, all of a sudden you’re like, f**k what have I done?”This certainly hasn’t held her back from making herself very at home in the neighbourhood. She describes experiencing traditional Fado (the beautifully haunting Portuguese folk music) – singers will play in their living rooms and guests can simply turn up to hear them, and join in, if you are indeed a megastar pop icon. Which I have on good authority has actually happened. While visiting a prospective local school for her children (David; Mercy James, 12; and twins Stella and Estere, 5) she rocked up complete with entourage featuring a man holding a parasol to shade her from the sun.
Lisbon, however, would seem to be a perfect backdrop for Madonna: Catholic iconography on every corner, a both mournful and exuberant Latin spirit and plenty of musicians to help her with her new Fado-inspired album. The city is also having something of a bubbling-under fashion moment. Lisbon is the new Berlin for any self-respecting hipster on a weekend city break.
While Madonna as Mum-donna is no new concept (her eldest daughter, Lourdes, still based in NYC, is 21), it is quite riveting to hear her lament over match fixtures and pick ups.
“Any woman who is a soccer mom could say it kind of requires you to have no life in a way, because things change from week to week and games change from weekend to weekend – sometimes they’re in the city, sometimes they’re not, and we would never know until Thursday night whether they’re on Saturday or Sunday, if at twelve o’clock or later.”She is equally as open when it comes to what she has learnt through the process of adopting four children from Malawi. “I was brought there because of the overwhelming number of children who have been orphaned by Aids,” she says.
“My original reason for being there was to do whatever I could to help these children. I felt it was my duty of service as I was living a privilege life in a privileged position. That’s how I met my son David and the rest is history. I did jump in in a very naive, idealistic way, and I learnt lots of lessons and I got burnt in many ways too. But after being there for 13 years, I’ve figured out how things work and what the best way to make self-sustainable help last and be as efficient as possible.”
Madonna recently undertook a trip to celebrate the first anniversary of the children’s hospital she established through her Raising Malawi charity. Say what you will about celebrity philanthropy, but she has clearly had an impact on one of the world’s poorest countries, which had never had a dedicated paediatric hospital before.“I want my children to be loving, compassionate, responsible human beings. That’s all I want. If they happen to be the next Picasso or Cristiano Ronaldo, then great, that’s just the cherry on the cake.”
- ©The Daily Telegraph
Madonna, photographed by Mert & Marcus, interview by Xerxes Cook for Vogue Italia, on sale from August 1.
Photographs and interview courtesy of Vogue Italia.