Madonna seems to have been pretty lucky with the men in her life. OK, Sean Penn didn’t work out too well. But the material girl benefitted from the high profile accorded to both parties in the Warren Beatty-Madonna relationship. Her marriage to Guy Ritchie may have failed but she appeared little scathed by it and Ritchie continued to tell the world he loved his ex-wife. However, she’s been luckiest perhaps with the father of her daughter Lourdes, or Lola, – New Yorker Carlos Leon.
Madonna’s brief liaison with Leon ended before Lola was a year old. It’s easy to imagine that a young man able to say he’d fathered a child with the world’s best-known female entertainer might milk the opportunity for all it’s worth. Carlos was only 29 when he and Madonna conceived Lola. Many men in Carlos’s position would have jumped at the chance to grab some limelight, run after fame and cash in on their luck and fertility.
Carlos, however, has conducted himself with admirable dignity and seems to be an exemplary father to his daughter and a good friend to Madonna. (Listen to Carlos Leon talking about his relationships with Lola and Madonna.)
Of course it’s impossible to know what really happened, or what happens now, between Madonna, Lola and Carlos. Yet all the evidence suggests he’s a man with his head screwed on and who has some sound values.
After meeting Madonna and becoming her personal trainer, then lover, and then father of her first child, Carlos continued to work, running a fitness business. He has rarely spoken to the press and when he has spoken his words have always been circumspect, positive and respectful of Lola, Madonna and Madonna’s partners.
Carlos’s professional life is mostly about health and fitness. He has designed fitness centers for luxury apartment buildings, approving the idea that people should be able to keep fit in their own homes rather than travelling to a gym. He likes exercise spaces to have “a warehouse kind of feel, hardwood floors – very cool.”
Partly because he’s so fit he looks pretty good and at 43 is a handsome man with smouldering Cuban looks. That may explain why he has also been offered parts acting in films, work he is keen to develop in the future.
Besides fitness and acting his other great love is, of course, his daughter. He says he has a good parenting relationship with Madonna and sees Lola often. “She’s at that point” he said when Lola turned eleven, “where she can call me and say ‘Hey Dad, what’s up? What time are you going to get me?’ It’s really cool. We talk every day.” These days of course Lola is a teenager, due to turn 14 in October 2010, and has a busy life which includes launching a new range of clothes for teenaged girls, called – unsurpringly – Material Girl. Nevertheless she is often seen out and about with her dad, both of them looking the epitome of New York cool.
Lola is, he says, a well-grounded kid despite the spotlight she’s grown up in and the huge fame and wealth of her mother. Carlos thinks Lola’s sane approach to life owes quite a lot to the example he sets her as a father: “Look at me and the way I live – I ride my bicycle, I walk, I don’t have a driver. That’s how I keep her grounded. Her mom does a good job too – she’s not that person that everyone thinks. She’s very laidback and cool.”
He’s proud that he and Madonna have maintained a cordial relationship, both parents clear that this is best for Lola’s wellbeing. He says he is friends with all his ex-girlfriends and is not someone who bears a grudge in any circumstances. All in all, he sounds like a well-balanced man with a good degree of integrity.
He also has a sense of humour and doesn’t bother taking himself too seriously. Commenting on repeated press reports that’s he short he protests jokingly: “I’m not that short! I’m 5’11…..OK, maybe not that tall!”
He would attribute his character to a large degree to his own Cuban-American upbringing. He had, he says, an “amazing” childhood. “I was very lucky that I had a Cuban dad and mom, surrounding me with Cuban music and dancing.” He appreciated his parents’ down-to-earth values and enjoyed the mix of Cuban culture and New York life in which they raised him. He is however “a die-hard New Yorker!”
If Carlos Leon is proud of his culture, his parents and his daughter he should also perhaps be fairly proud of himself. He’s handled a potentially difficult job of co-parenting with Madonna in a way which does him credit.