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CNN PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

Profiles of Britney Spears, Madonna

Aired August 14, 2004 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Paula Zahn. If you had to use one word to describe Britney Spears' behavior over the last few years, it would probably be oops. First she splits with pop star Justin Timberlake. Then she says I do and I don't during a weekend in Vegas and now she's engaged to be married again. So the world wants to know what's up with Britney? Here's Kyra Phillips.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At 22, blonde and blue, she's the undisputed precociously seductive princess of pop. I love what you do

PETER CASTRO, ASST. MANAGING EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: Britney Spears became a superstar because she hit on a brilliant formula and that was, I will be the modern-day Lolita. I will have a nation of screaming, preteen girls wanting to be me and I will have a nation of horny old men wanting to sleep with me.

PHILLIPS: With that toxic blueprint, Britney Spears has planted herself in the pantheon of pop. She's Madonna's mini-me and the world can't get enough.

JOE LEVY, ASST. MANAGING DIRECTOR, "ROLLING STONE": Where's she going? Is she there? Is she dancing? Is she drinking Pepsi or Coke because she's supposed to be drinking Coke. No, she's supposed to be drinking Pepsi. Which is it? What was she drinking? Was it Pepsi or Coke?

PHILLIPS: Four number one albums, 12 top 10 singles, $50 million in record sales, with a net worth estimated at $100 million. She's a headline-breaking, scandal-making, lip-locking machine.

TOURE, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "ROLLING STONE" MAGAZINE: I was like, they did not just kiss! Yeah, baby! They kissed. It was good. It was good.

PHILLIPS: We met Britney Spears a little more than five years ago and from the start, her twist on the Catholic schoolgirl was rocked with controversy.

SUCHIN PAK, CORRESPONDENT, MTV NEWS: She hit that button where it was like, whoa, you know, wait a minute, you know, hit me baby, one more time. What does it mean? PHILLIPS: She danced with a snake, had sex with Justin Timberlake and as the years passed, only the jaded tabloid reader would be bored, but in the fall of 2003, in the wake of her fourth album's release, Britney buzz took a turn.

JESSICA SHAW, SENIOR WRITER, "ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY": Before in the zone, the problem was we were seeing a lot of Britney, but it was a lot of Britney in bad light. It was a lot of Britney acting out. She was flipping off the press in Mexico. She was drinking. She was smoking. She was out all night clubbing.

MICHAEL MUSTO, ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER, "THE VILLAGE VOICE": There was a lot of concern for Britney. Is she melting down in public? Is she out of control?

PHILLIPS: Britney's latest "In the Zone," hit the stores in November 2003. It landed solidly at number one. But despite a duet with her material mentor, reviews were mixed. 2.3 million in sales later, it's her lowest-selling album to date. Then in January 2004, the biggest news of the new year, out of the zone. She's walked down the aisle, and oops needs an annulment.

PAK: The Britney wedding, for a while I think we all forgot that we went to war.

PHILLIPS: But the pop tart's 55-hour Vegas marriage was just the beginning of the buzz ahead. With massive promotion, her Onyx Hotel tour kicked off in March. Four months later, a knee injury KOed the tour.

LEVY: The prospect of Britney doing the Onyx hotel -- you know what? Let's scale it down. We'll do it acoustic. I'll sit in a chair and we'll do "Baby, Hit Me One More Time." I don't think that was really going to work.

PHILLIPS: But wait, we're not done yet. On June 25th, another official announcement, yes, folks, she's doing it again.

JESS CAGLE, SENIOR EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: She shocked the world again. Suddenly she was engaged to a guy that nobody knew.

CHUCK CLOSTERMAN, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "ESQUIRE" MAGAZINE: If someone asked me what does Britney Spears do for a living, at this point I would say it's be Britney Spears.

PHILLIPS: She was born Britney Jean Spears on December 2nd, 1981, in the tiny southern zip code of 70444.

ALIX STRAUSS, BIOGRAPHER: Britney was born in Kentwood, Louisiana, which has a population of something like 2400, same amount of people that it takes to make Madonna happy. It's very all- American. It's blue collar. It's everybody knows everybody. You know, it was everything that it should be. It's back to the Andy Griffith show.

PHILLIPS: Britney's father worked construction. Her mother Lynne taught school. Money came and went, but one thing always remained.

DARLENE HUGHES, BRITNEY'S FORMER TEACHER: Britney's voice bloomed. She was so strong, and her voice was mature and developed and people would just stop and look with their jaw dropped.

PHILLIPS: She excelled in gymnastics, studied drama, studied tap and quickly developed a charm few could resist.

HUGHES: Britney was precious.

PHILLIPS: In the fall of 1989 eight year old Britney, now a third grader took her homework on the road and headed to Atlanta for a Mickey Mouse club audition. Casting agents found Britney too young. Lynn Spears left undeterred.

SHAW: She's not the kind of mom says you know what, that let's stay home and bake cookies together and go out on the swing set. She wanted her kid to be a star.

PHILLIPS: Months after the Disney audition, she landed an agent, Britney's first shot of fame came in the summer of 1991.

MUSTO: So she and mom came to New York and Britney almost immediately got a job in "Ruthless," an off-Broadway musical which was about a little girl who will do anything to be famous. It was a real stretch.

PHILLIPS: The off-Broadway run lasted six months and following her return to Kentwood, in April, 1992, Britney nabbed a slot on the ultimate talent show.

CASTRO: She was on "Star Search" and then that was sort of like the first glimpse of like, who is this precocious little talented kid?

PHILLIPS: Exactly one year later, the house of the mouse asked Britney to join the club.

MUSTO: Britney tried out for the "New Mickey Mouse Club" and this time she got on and actually she beat Jessica Simpson for the part. Jessica screwed up in a question and answer segment. It must have been about chicken of the sea.

PHILLIPS: Out of 15,000, seven had been chosen and in the end, the cast was a virtual who's who of future teen idols.

STRAUSS: You had Kerri Russell (ph). You had Christina Aguilera. You had J.C., Justin from 'N Sync.

SHAW: It was a very talented little gene pool going on with those Mickey Mouse ears.

PHILLIPS: And, boy, did they click.

T.J. FANTINI, FORMER DISNEY MOUSKETEER: I was there for the first kiss. What happened was that we all decided to go over to my house and we were hanging -- it was actually the night of the O.J. Simpson chase and we decided to play truth or dare, and one of the dares was for Justin to kiss Britney. And lo and behold, there was that first kiss.

PHILLIPS: Coming up, love in Louisiana, before Justin, before Colin, before Kevin, there was Reg.

REG JONES, HIGH SCHOOL BOYFRIEND: I was in love. I mean -- it wasn't because she was Britney Spears. It was because she was Britney.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: By 1993, 12-year-old Britney Spears was living a tween queen fantasy. Cast as the youngest member of Disney's all-new Mickey Mouse Club, the Louisiana native had found fame, a flame, and a best friend in the form of future nemesis Christina Aguilera.

FANTINI: They were best friends on the show. That's what I don't get. When we were on the Mickey Mouse club, they were the best friends. In fact they used to get notes from the producers that said, look, you guys can't keep dancing next to each other. The only time we see you on camera is when you're with Christina.

PHILLIPS: But in 1995, two years into the show's run, the Mouseketeers found out they would no longer.

STRAUSS: My guess is that she was devastated. I mean who wouldn't be? She was going back to Kentwood, Louisiana, for what? What do you go back there to?

HUGHES: Kentwood is a small town. There are a lot of dairy farms in the rural area. Downtown it's very peaceful. Everyone knows everyone else. They look out for each other. It's just a very calm, serene town that anybody should be happy to live in.

PHILLIPS Staying true to her roots, pop's future princess quietly resumed her life as an everyday student, and in the halls of Parklane (ph) Academy, a boy quickly caught her eye. His name was Reg Jones.

JONES: Before basketball games, we would talk. She played junior high. I played high school and we would talk just as friends for a while and then when she was a ninth grader I was a senior and I didn't have a date for homecoming, I was like, why not? And I asked her to go to homecoming with me and that's what started it all.

PHILLIPS: A standout athlete from a prominent local family, the 18-year-old quickly became Britney's first boyfriend.

JONES: They liked the fact that I was a little older, because I would sort of protect her a little more than the younger guys would, you know what I'm saying? I was in love I mean and it wasn't because she was Britney Spears. It was because she was Britney, you know? She was my girlfriend. We had great times together. Three years, got a lot of memories, a lot of good memories.

PHILLIPS: But the home-town romance hardly suppressed Britney's itch for the spotlight and in the spring of 1977, the 15-year-old recorded a demo.

STRAUSS: It was like this makeshift demo that they made at the house with a tape recorder and they sent it to Jive records. Jive records really liked what they heard. They brought her in. She sang two songs for them and they were just bowled over.

PHILLIPS: Overnight Britney landed a contract. Before the ink was dry, she said good-bye to Reg and Kentwood, Louisiana.

JONES: The only thing that sucks about when we broke up was it seemed like I lost my best friend, you know?

PHILLIPS: Britney's new home at Jive records would also be the crash pad of pop's latest fad: boy bands. And as Jive's Backstreet Boys were burning up MTV, the label quickly saw a potential bubblegum bombshell in young Britney.

CASTRO: Debbie Gibson had success. Tiffany had success. What if we do the same thing only give it sex appeal and see where it goes? I don't think they had a clue that it would become what it became.

SHAW: The record label wanted the video to be this kind of space-age Power Rangers kind of thing and Britney was like, no way. We are not doing this. She actually came up with the idea of do the whole kind of bad Catholic school girl thing.

PHILLIPS: In October 1998, the world got its first look at a brand-new pop star, part Pollyanna, part Lolita. Britney's debut unleashed a phenomenon.

CASTRO: "Baby One More time" was a single that was being sung by nine-year-olds, 19-year-olds, 29-year-olds and 39-year-olds.

PHILLIPS: The single spawned Britney mania, and on January 12th, 1999, her first album debuted at number one. Within a month, it sold two million copies and became a global smash.

TOURE: Then it was like, here she is again, and again and again. New video, new awards show performance, I mean, it was like suddenly it was her world and you couldn't get away from her.

PHILLIPS: Soon Britney joined red-hot boy banders 'N Sync on their sold-out tour. It was here that she would reunite with her Mouseketeer crush Justin Timberlake and in the coming months, rumors of a relationship only added to the growing torrent of media coverage, a downpour which grew in intensity when she posed provocatively for "Rolling Stone" in April 1999.

SHAW: I think parents started getting a little concerned like, wait a second, this isn't the sweet little pop star we thought she was.

PHILLIPS: Twelve months and 10 million copies later, album number two.

CASTRO: People expected a sophomore slump, and that did not happen with her. If anything, the snowball got bigger.

PHILLIPS: And the controversies intensified. In May 2000, Britney's sophomore disk rocketed to number one, but no sooner had the pop tart's red rubber suit hit MTV, double-D rumors began to circulate.

MUSTO: Overnight, she suddenly had gigantic bosoms and the press took note and everybody said, wait a minute, this doesn't look real. Britney's people insisted that she had simply hit puberty in a massively quick way and I believed it.

PHILLIPS: Coming up, Britney Spears gets into the zone, but is her toxic behavior out of control?

FANTINI: With some of the things that I have seen and heard, if you believe it all, I'm really worried about her.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: By the fall of 2000, pop's reigning princess was sitting on top of the world. Lucky in love, lucky in life, Britney's latest single seemed a fitting anthem for a 19-year-old whose two albums in two years had sold more than 30 million copies worldwide.

TOURE: At the time of "Oops," Britney was the lead character in the prime music genre of the day which was Christina Aguilera, Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync. There was a glut of them and Britney was the most popular girl in school and she was raking in the dough.

PHILLIPS: But Britney's winning streak did not mean she was raking in the awards and in 2000, a stunning loss signaled the start of a royal catfight.

MUSTO: I think when Christina won the Grammy over Britney for best new artist, that caused a little strain. There's an intense rivalry there and there's a lot of sniping back and forth.

SHAW: Christina has called her teeny bopper trash, and Britney called Christina scary.

PAK: I don't think they're friends.

PHILLIPS: Justin Timberlake on the other hand, had become a very good friend.

CASTRO: Britney Spears started professing that she was still a virgin after dating Justin Timberlake. No one knows really how long that lasted, but I think there was a point where she had not been a virgin anymore and she was still professing that and it got to the point where it almost became a joke, like, who are you trying to kid?

PHILLIPS: Avowed virginity aside, a storm in the tabloid pipeline was just around the corner when in September 2001, the celibate superstar sashayed her way across the MTV stage, a slave to a 10-foot python.

PAK: It's so classic Britney.

PHILLIPS: Two months later, album number three hit "Billboard's" number one.

SHAW: The album Britney was Britney Spears' attempt to sort of transition from being a girl into a woman.

PAK: She literally put it in the chorus line in case nobody got it.

SHAW: But the album didn't do as well as her other two. It sold four million copies, which is great by a normal pop star's standards, but for Britney, it wasn't the huge success that she wanted it to be.

PHILLIPS: Three years into their red had the hot romance, Britney and her boy toy seems to be at a crossroads as well.

SHAW: Oh my God. It was huge when Justin and Britney broke up. It was like the entire earth was shaking. Instantly people were like, why did they break up? Who cheated? Who got mad? Who did the breakup? What's going to happen for now?

MUSTO: And Justin did a video, "Cry Me a River" about how Britney supposedly betrayed him and Britney responded and it all became more fodder for the gossip columns.

PHILLIPS: In August 2002 Britney announced a six-month hiatus.

SHAW: That's sort of when Britney acting out began. Next thing you know, she's off, boozing it, clubs all night in Miami.

PHILLIPS: On August 28th, 2003, in the wake of her fourth album's release, Britney Spears returned, once again stealing the show at the MTV video music awards.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Had you ever kissed a woman before?

BRITNEY SPEARS: No, I've never kissed a woman before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you again?

SPEARS: Would I again? No, I would not do it, maybe with Madonna.

PHILLIPS: Her latest "In the Zone" landed in the stores on November 18th. One toxic tune later, the 13 tracks had sold 2.3 million copies, making it the lowest-selling album of her career.

SHAW: She was topless in "Rolling Stone." She was bottomless on "Esquire" and it sold magazines, but people were also thinking, you know what? Like, put on some underwear honey.

PHILLIPS: Instead she put on a wedding ring. On January 3rd, 2004, Britney Jean Spears became Mrs. Jason Alexander, 55 hours later, what goes on in Vegas...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we just received a decree of annulment. There is no marriage now.

PHILLIPS: ... stays in Vegas.

CASTRO: I think one reason that she went through this wedding debacle is because it was some desperate way for her to reconnect to her roots. He was from Louisiana, and let's do something crazy.

PHILLIPS: Speaking of doing something crazy, just six months after wedding number one, Britney Spears was doing it again, this time with 26-year-old Kevin Federline, a Los Angeles dancer who just happened to be expecting his second child with a not-so-ex-girlfriend.

CAGLE: She is head over heels in love. She says she kissed a lot of frogs, and she finally has found a prince and she found her happily ever after.

PHILLIPS: At 22-year-old, only time will tell if pop's princess has found her happily ever after. From teen titan to taboo temptress, the music, the marketing, the mania continues, and no doubt, for better or worse, so will Britney.

PAK: Are we going to be watching Britney 10 or 20 years from now? Absolutely. She's absolutely secured her place in pop history.

STRAUSS: Twenty years from now, where will Britney Spears be? She'll have done the Betty Ford thing I'm sure once. She'll have a (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CASTRO: But I don't think anyone listens or looks at Britney Spears' career and says, oh, yeah, it was all about the music. It's sex appeal. It's magazine covers. It's the naughtiness. It's the whole thing into one. It was Marilyn Monroe as a pop star.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Britney Spears is reportedly planning to get married in November. That's right around the same time she's due to release a greatest hits album.

ANNOUNCER: Coming up, her two-decade career has seen its share of makeovers. Now, she's astounding audiences with her softer side.

MUSTO: The only shocking thing left for Madonna to do was to become a spiritual person, and a kind of nice author of children's books. And that's exactly what she's done.

ANNOUNCER: The many sides of Madonna, when PEOPLE IN THE NEWS RETURNS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. She grabbed our attention two decades ago as the boy toy, the material girl who loved to shock and awe. Well, now in her mid 40s, Madonna is a married mother of two. She's even found religion and a new name, Esther. But has Madonna really changed all that much? Here is Sharon Collins.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHARON COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For 20 years, she's dazzled us. For 20 years, she's puzzled us. Ever the pop chameleon, Madonna has gone from material girl to mystic mom. She's now a married mother of two, a children's book author and a devoted follower of a mystical sect called Kabbala. As if the name Madonna weren't spiritual enough, she's even taken on a new Hebrew name, Esther. And with her latest stage show, the perennial superstar is celebrating more than two decades of transformations. It's called the reinvention tour. It's been selling out nationwide and although this 45-year-old diva has become more domestic over the years, she still knows how to electrify an audience.

MUSTO: Some people found the reinvention tour to be her most toned-down show to date, but there are the shocking images in there. There's Madonna being strapped to the electric chair at one point. So Madonna is still able to shock people.

COLLINS: And shock people she did. With last year's planned release of her "American Life" music video. The 4 1/2-minute clip featured explicit war imagery, graphic casualties and a fatigue-clad superstar tossing grenades. It was perceived as an antiwar message, just as the country was going to war. But amid concerns the message would be misunderstood, Madonna herself pulled the plug. Seemingly, it was a wise decision. The re-cut version was a constant on MTV.

MADONNA: I mean, at the end of the day I don't really mean for the record to be provocative and controversial, but I feel like I've had many revelations over the last few years and I feel the need to express that in song.

COLLINS: Through scandal, reinvention and redemption, she has always fascinated fans and critics alike.

NILE ROGERS, PRODUCER, "LIKE A VIRGIN": She's what I call a true star. Even after all these years, I still am curious as to, I wonder what she eats for breakfast now and that's because she's inherently interesting.

COLLINS: Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone was born to a homemaker and an automotive engineer on August 16th, 1958. The family lived in an unremarkable suburb of Detroit.

MADONNA: I won't say that we were poor but we definitely I would say lower middle class. I come from a really big family.

COLLINS: Named after her mother, a young Madonna worked hard to stand out in a family of six kids. Legend has it, she would dance and sing on table tops when the mood struck her. But tragedy rocked the world of this bubbly girl at a young age.

J. RANDY TARABORRELLI, AUTHOR, "MADONNA: AN INTIMATE BIOGRAPHY": Many people know that her mother died when she was five years old, but what people don't know is just how terrible that last year of Madonna's mother's life was for Madonna.

COLLINS: At Adams High School in Rochester, Michigan, Madonna lost herself in theater and dance.

MADONNA: I was more of a dancing kid than a singing kid. I mean, I sang in school choirs and I sang in school musicals but I was much more interested in dancing than singing.

COLLINS: Even as a teenager, Madonna Ciccone made sure she wasn't overlooked.

TARABORRELLI: She would do stunts as a cheerleader that would, by design, show her panties or she would wear flesh-colored panties while she was doing cheer so you would think she didn't have any on.

COLLINS: In high school, Madonna was a straight-A student, even then driven to succeed.

KAREN CRAVEN, MADONNA'S CHEERLEADING COACH: She was willing to practice a lot, study a lot. She wasn't a goof-off and she didn't slough off. She always worked hard.

COLLINS: That hard work landed her a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan, but one year of college was enough for Madonna. She was in a hurry to get on to bigger things, so in 1978, she arrived in the heart of New York's seedy Times Square with little money and no place to live.

MADONNA: I danced in a lot of companies in New York for years and realized that I was going to be living hand to mouth existence for the rest of my life.

COLLINS: As a fixture on the New York club scene, Madonna got an influential deejay to record a demo tape for her that featured a dance track called "Everybody."

MADONNA: People would hear me sing and say, hey, your voice isn't bad and I'd say, oh really? I mean I never had any training. I never wanted to be a singer. That's not how I started out.

COLLINS: The demo tape eventually landed in the hands of Seymour Stein, chairman of London's Sire records.

SEYMOUR STEIN, CHAIRMAN, LONDON-SIRE RECORDS INC: She was singing with all her heart and that's what came across. I was in the hospital. So I played it over and over again, and I really, really liked it. I wanted to sign her immediately.

COLLINS: "Everybody" became a hit on dance floors and in 1983 Madonna's self-titled debut was released. The single "Holiday" earned Madonna an appearance on "American Bandstand" and an infamous post-performance interview with host Dick Clark.

DICK CLARK, CEO, DICK CLARK PRODUCTIONS: What are your dreams? What's left?

MADONNA: To rule the world.

CLARK: There you go, ladies and gentlemen, this is Madonna.

People have said to me, how do you know when you say you knew she was a star? It wasn't from my listening, hearing, singing. I watched the kids and they loved her. She had some sort of a -- kind of a bizarre outfit on. She looked different and she was different and they loved it.

COLLINS: When Madonna's story continues, how she turned a steamy video banned by MTV into a marketing coup.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: By early 1985, Madonna's second album "Like a Virgin" and its number one single had catapulted her to fame. It also established her as an artist out to push the public's buttons.

TARABORRELLI: At beginning of her career, she was always one step ahead of her detractors in the sense that she made a decision to present herself with a tongue-in-cheek sort of wink and a nod, sense of irony.

COLLINS: In her critically acclaimed film debut "Desperately Seeking Susan," Madonna essentially played herself.

TARABORRELLI: You knew it was real. You knew that she really was this sort of boy toy material girl.

COLLINS: On the set of her "Material Girl" video, Madonna met the man she once called the love of her life. Sean Penn was an interesting choice for a woman who loved the spotlight.

TARABORRELLI: During this time in her life, she was constantly surrounded by the media and by paparazzi. She loved it. She'd worked very hard to get this kind of attention. Sean, on the other hand, as he explained to me, felt that it was a real intrusion.

COLLINS: So much so that more than once, Penn's fist landed on a photographer's face. But love won out and on her 27th birthday in Malibu, California, Madonna became Mrs. Sean Penn in a ceremony off limits to the media.

MADONNA: I didn't like the attention, the focus on the state of our marriage. I like -- I like attention when it's about the work, but not about relationships.

LARRY KING: And he didn't like it either.

MADONNA: No, he hated it.

COLLINS: And the critics hated them and the movie they did together "Shanghai Surprise." Their off-screen relationship wasn't faring much better. Four years into the marriage, things fell apart. Madonna filed for divorce on January 5, 1989 amid rumors of physical abuse. The breakup left Madonna emotionally scarred. TARABORRELLI: She wasn't used to failures. So that was a bitter pill to swallow. It was very difficult for her.

COLLINS: In March of 1989, Madonna released a fourth album, her most artistically mature to date. It spawned three number one singles including the self-penned "Like a Prayer." The song's video came complete with burning crosses and sexual innuendo, awakening the ire of religious groups.

TARABORRELLI: Madonna's always had sort of a love-hate relationship with the Catholic faith. A lot of what she was doing back in those years was to get attention and also to make a certain statement that these really are just symbols and that perhaps the Catholic faith is really about more than that.

COLLINS: The hype only added fuel to the fire of Madonna's stardom, a lesson the business-savvy performer would not forget.

Her 1991 video, "Justify My Love," was even too steamy for MTV. The channel refused to air the video and Madonna refused to reedit it. Instead she made the video available in stores, where it went on to sell more than half a million copies. Her detractors saw the successful turn of events as a thinly veiled exercise in shrewd marketing.

ALEK KESHISHIAN, DIRECTOR,"TRUTH OR DARE": I got the phone call the day that MTV banned the video and it was not Madonna gleefully jumping up and down, saying yeah, yeah, yeah, they fell right into it at all. It was a woman saying I've just spent three weeks of my life on this video and now it might not get seen at all and then she figures out what to do and that's what makes her a great business woman.

COLLINS: In the fall of 1994, Madonna released the romantic ballad "Take a Bow," appearing soft and vulnerable in the video. It was her most successful single ever, staying at number one for nine weeks. At the same time, a transformation was beginning to take place in Madonna's personal life. During the filming of "Evita," a role Madonna had lobbied after for years, she discovered she was pregnant. Her personal trainer Carlos Leon was the father. In October of 1996, Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon, affectionately known as Lola, was born. At age of 38, Madonna became a mother.

MADONNA: Every day I'm in complete wonderment of her.

COLLINS: Shortly after Lourdes was born, "Evita" was released. Madonna's work on her voice and her acting paid off. In January of 1997, she was rewarded by the Hollywood foreign press with a golden globe.

MADONNA: I just feel that what is happening to me is a perfect example that -- of, if you just keep on going and you put your mind to something, you can achieve anything.

COLLINS: Coming up, Madonna gets spiritual.

MUSTO: Madonna has embraced the Kabbala with a very vengeance. It has apparently dominated every aspect of her life.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: After more than 15 years in the public eye and almost as many incarnations, Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone emerged in the late '90s as a woman and mother in search of the deeper meaning of life.

MADONNA: I've studied Hinduism. I've studied Buddhism, Taoism.

KING: You believe in a supreme being?

MADONNA: Absolutely. But I also believe that all paths lead to God.

COLLINS: Madonna's new found spirituality came through on her 1998 release "Ray of Light." critics called the album, the best of her career.

TARABORRELLI: It sort of galvanized a great fascination and people became really interested in what she had to say because they know that -- they knew that she was saying something personal.

COLLINS: The new Madonna was a far cry from the hard-edged sexual expressionist of the early '90s.

TARABORRELLI: Popular conception about Madonna is that she has reinvented herself over and over and over again, and it's often put out there as a pejorative notion, in the sense that this is a woman who really has no identity.

STEIN: You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time. It's 19 years, come on! Give the girl credit. She's a star. She's, really, come on.

NIKI HARIS, MADONNA'S BACKUP SINGER: It's just a journey. I mean I think she is just like everybody else. She's a work in progress. She just happens to be playing it out in front of cameras.

COLLINS: In 1999, Madonna finally got what she wanted.

KING: You win the Grammy, let's say you win the Grammy -- I predict.

MADONNA: Please, God.

KING: Your lips to God.

COLLINS: "Ray of Light" won four Grammys. Her spiritual rebirth had been validated and one year later, Madonna announced she was pregnant for the second time. Guy Ritchie, an edgy British film director was the father. Rocco Ritchie was born in Los Angeles August 11, 2000 at the same time the title track from his mom's forthcoming album "Music" had planted itself on the billboard top 40.

MADONNA: I always want to write good music and I always -- every time I go into the studio, I always think God I hope I can keep coming up with the goods and somehow it just happens.

COLLINS: Madonna's private life was also flourishing. On December 21st, 2000, Madonna christened Rocco and married his dad the next day in Scebo (ph) Castle in Scotland. The marriage wasn't a signal however that Madonna was ready to settle down entirely. In June of 2001 at the age of 42, Madonna hit the road, touring for the first time in eight years. With guitar in hand, her "Drowned World" tour hit 17 countries in four months. It grossed a staggering $75 million and drew critical acclaim.

Unfortunately, for Madonna, critics weren't so kind when it came to seeing the pop icon on the big screen.

CASTRO: "Swept Away" was probably among the top 10 biggest bombs in the movie history. It was yanked after three weeks, which frankly was three weeks too long.

COLLINS: Acting under husband Guy Ritchie's direction, 2002's "Swept Away" grossed just over $600,000. Luckily however she had another career to fall back on. On April 22nd, 2003, "American Life" hit the stores and Madonna, the pop icon, returned. But the disc struggled to reach platinum. Could it be Madonna's music career was fading?

One year later, at the MTV music video awards, on-stage kiss with pop protege Britney Spears showed the material mom still knew how to shock her way into the headlines. Following the renewed interest in March 2004, Madonna launched her "Reinvention" tour, highlighting 20 years of chart-topping hits.

MUSTO: It was like the ultimate greatest hits collection of Madonna as done by a ground-breaking artist who's looking back and looking forward at the same time.

COLLINS: Ever evolving, ever-changing, but most surprising is the once material girl's attitude.

MADONNA: There was a time when I was more thoughtless about the things I said and was rebellious and I now feel differently about life. So just being provocative for the sake of being provocative doesn't really interest me.

COLLINS: What does interest her is a mystical sect of Judaism known as Kabbala.

MUSTO: Madonna has embraced the Kabbala with a vengeance. It has apparently dominated every aspect of her life. She's 1000 percent behind it.

COLLINS: And She also added one more feat to her long list of accomplishments, writer of children's books.

MUSTO: Madonna's children's books have done surprisingly well. I mean this was the woman who wrote the sex book, but here she is writing these sweet little homily-laden stories with nice messages about how you shouldn't gossip and you should do good deeds. COLLINS: With a seemingly limitless career marked by constant reinvention, the question that remains is what's her next incarnation?

STEIN: If you just look back at all the female superstars that have come and gone in the span of her career, I think it's just not a safe bet anymore to bet against her.

MADONNA: I think I've arrived at this place in the world for a reason, and that reason is way beyond and much bigger than fame and fortune and being popular. It's about helping people, and I hope that I can do that through my work.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Madonna is certainly spreading the word about Kabbala. She's even introduced Britney Spears to the mystic Hebrew faith. Spears can be seen supporting the symbolic red-stringed bracelet of Kabbala in her latest video.

That's it for this edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Coming up next week, it is the other presidential candidate, Ralph Nader. I'm Paula Zahn. Thanks for joining us.

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