In an industry notorious for overnight stardom and fleeting fame, Madonna has proven that she's here to stay. Over the past two decades, she's won three Grammy Awards, sold nearly 200 million albums worldwide, released more than 25 Top Ten singles, and received a Golden Globe award for her starring role in the musical film Evita.
As critics and fans alike have noted, a large part of the singer's staying power is due to her chameleon-like ability to repeatedly transform her image. The queen of reinvention first achieved fame in the eighties as a pop star and controversial sex symbol and has since gone through many incarnations. Now happily married to British screenwriter and director Guy Ritchie and the mother of two children, Lourdes, 8, and Rocco, who will be 5 this month, Madonna is a devoted follower of Kabbalah, a branch of Jewish mysticism, and a bestselling children's book author. Her fifth book, Lotsa de Casha -- the lighthearted story of a wealthy merchant who learns that money can't buy happiness -- was released in June.
The theme of Lotsa de Casha reflects Madonna's own journey from Material Girl to soul-searching mom. "There's an autobiographical aspect to all the children's books I've written," she says. "Hopefully, I've translated some of my experiences into tales that kids can understand." To an outsider, Madonna seems to have it all -- riches, fame, success -- but there came a time in her career when she sensed something was missing: "There was a turning point in my life when I realized that all the money in the world would not bring me lasting happiness and fulfillment," she says. "When I realized this, the next question was, 'What will?'" The performer's perspective shifted in that moment of self-discovery: "I found that sharing what I am blessed with is the road to feeling good. Now whenever I feel down, I ask myself if I'm being selfish in some area of my life."
But Madonna isn't simply writing about the importance of service and charity; she is actively instilling these values in her own family. "Being married and having children made me realize how making the world a better place starts at home," she says. "I regularly remind my children how fortunate they are to have the things they do and encourage them to share. My daughter goes to children's hospitals to read my books to other children, and as she and my son get older, I'm sure they will become more involved in community service." Madonna also recognizes the importance of modeling compassion as a parent: "The best way to teach them about sharing and giving is to do those things myself and set an example."
Madonna applies the same dedication and determination that brought her fame as a performer to motherhood. "I owe my continued success to several attributes -- discipline, focus, tenacity, willingness to compromise and collaborate, patience, and commitment," she says. She notes that "these values can all be applied to parenting." Still, she's the first to admit that being a superstar mom is often more than a one-woman job: "Meeting the demands of my career and those of parenting is a big balancing act, but I'm able to do it with the help of my husband, an incredible staff, and the ability to go for long periods of time with-out resting. Multitasking and a steel-trap memory are also essential," she adds.
Another quality that Madonna thrives on is the ability to laugh. In Lotsa de Casha, for example, the rich merchant lives in a castle called "Flasha de Casa" that's located on the "Muchadougha Mountains" -- details designed to elicit giggles from her young readers. "Humor is essential for teaching children," says the entertainer, whose beloved books as a child included Winnie the Pooh, Charlotte's Web, and The Little Prince. "Children have to understand that being a good person doesn't mean you can't have fun." Her family gets a kick out of reading her stories as works in progress. "They influence me enormously," she says. "My husband is an endless source of inspiration, and my daughter was my favorite guinea pig."
What message does Madonna -- the ever ambitious achiever and spiritual seeker -- hope kids (and their parents) will take away from her books? "Never be afraid to ask the question why. You can never advance in life unless you ask why. Curiosity and the desire to know more are the keys to growth and wisdom." This sounds like promising fodder for a future children's book, and Madonna's pen is poised. In fact, she has some good news to share with her youngest fan base: "I look forward to writing many more."
Madonna's Lessons in Literature
Title: The English Roses
Moral: Always have an open mind and get to know others before making a judgment about them. If you don't, jealousy can prevent you from seeing their best qualities.
Title: The Adventures of Abdi
Moral: Life is full of trials and tribulations, but if you believe in yourself, learn from mistakes, and always maintain a positive attitude, your perseverance will pay off.
Title: Yakov and the Seven Thieves
Moral: Have faith in the good will of all people because anyone can change for the better. If you look beyond your selfish desires, you can make the world a more loving place.
Title: Mr. Peabody's Apples
Moral: Don't underestimate the power of language. Choose your words wisely and always seek the truth, for spreading rumors can truly hurt someone.