If you picture Lourdes Leon, you’re almost certainly seeing her as a toddler, walking around with her famous mom. Yes, Madonna’s daughter used to be very much in the spotlight, but she’s chosen to keep her adult life much more private. So, when her mom posted a photo of her to Instagram in 2020, fans went crazy for the image — because Lourdes looks just like her mother.
Madonna has six children, with Lourdes being the first to arrive in 1996. After she split from her daughter’s father, Carlos Leon, the pop star married director Guy Ritchie. Together, they welcomed a son named Rocco on August 11, 2000. At a New Zealand concert in March 2016, Madonna gushed about her eldest son, saying, “There’s no love stronger than a mother for her son, and if I talk about him too much, I’m going to cry.”
Eight years after Rocco’s birth, the Ritchie family expanded to include another boy, David. But the singer and director adopted this son from Malawi after Madonna made frequent trips to the African nation. She first encountered David at Home of Hope, an orphanage where the young boy was battling pneumonia.
In a 2019 interview with Vogue, Madonna said that she sees a lot of herself in David. She explained, “What he has more than anything is focus and determination. I’m pretty sure he got it from me. He’s the one I have the most in common with. I feel like he gets me; he has more of my DNA than any of my children so far.”
David’s work ethic is what inspired Madonna to move with him and her three younger children to Portugal. In 2018 she told Vogue Italia that life in Europe would allow him to pursue a professional soccer career. “I’ve been desperate to get him into the best academies with the best coaches,” she said. “But the level of football in America is much lower than the rest of the world.”
Of course, David wasn’t the only one of Madonna’s kids to move to Europe with her. She also has a daughter named Mercy, who she adopted in 2009, a year after she divorced Ritchie. The singer had met the young girl on the same trip that introduced her to David. But she had trouble adopting Mercy — Malawi’s High Court initially rejected her request because she wasn’t a resident of the country.
But the Supreme Court eventually stepped in and gave Madonna the right to bring home her fourth child and second daughter. Later, Madonna attended the opening of Malawi’s first pediatric intensive care and surgery center, the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre in the south of the country. There, she told attendees why she fought so hard to adopt both Mercy and David.
“I met Mercy soon after I met my son David, but they were living in different orphanages,” Madonna said. “Mercy was suffering from malaria and David from pneumonia. And when I held each of them in my arms, I whispered in their ears that I would look after them. And I promised them that they would grow up into strong and healthy adults.”
Madonna adopted twins Estere and Stella in February 2017 and most likely made the same promise to the Malawi-born sisters. The little ones appear most often on Madonna’s social media, but that’s not to say the Queen of Pop doesn’t share photos of her other children, too. When she decided to post a picture of her eldest, Lourdes, in 2019 and, again in 2020, fans realized something — she looked a lot like her mother.
Personal trainer turned actor Carlos Leon met Madonna in 1994, and the pair embarked on what would become a three-year romance. Tabloids wondered if the pair were secretly engaged, but no one has said whether or not he gave her a ring. What we do know is that the former couple have a child together.
Madonna and Leon welcomed their daughter, Lourdes, in October 1996. It was a banner year for the pop icon. She had earned a Golden Globe for her performance as Eva Peron in Evita just months before having her first child. In fact, she announced her pregnancy to the world while filming the movie.
Unfortunately, Madonna and Leon’s relationship didn’t last for long after their daughter was born. The pair split just months after Lourdes came into the world but have maintained a solid co-parenting relationship. That meant Lourdes, nicknamed Lola, spent her childhood between her mother’s and father’s homes in England and the United States.
When she spent time with Leon, Lourdes led a pretty normal childhood. He told People in 2011 that the then-14-year-old Lola enjoyed riding bikes with him and watching movies, especially fantasies. He said, “She loves to watch Harry Potter. It’s a favorite of hers. […] Twilight is also pretty big at our house.”
Growing up in England — where she spent the majority of her childhood, according to Madonna — Lourdes became a fan of the local fashion. Her mom told U.K. newspaper The Sunday People in 2010, “According to her, she thinks people have more style in London, especially the boys.”
Carlos also made note of his daughter’s eye for fashion. He said, “Sometimes she will give me a hard time about my clothes. I wore a pair of jeans once, and they weren’t as skinny as I usually wear them, and she was like, ‘Oh my God, Dad, those pants are ugly. Please change your pants.’”
Lourdes’ keen sense of style meant that she got to pick the back-up dancers’ wardrobe for her mother’s tour when she was only 13 years old. And then came an even bigger opportunity — she and Madonna partnered up to design a teen-centric clothing line called Material Girl, full of ‘80s-inspired gear for girls Lola’s age.
At the launch, Lourdes gave all of the credit to her mom, a bona fide fashion inspiration. She told CNN, “This is about her and her style in the ‘80s, which was amazing.” Soon enough, the company expanded to encompass a line of beauty products, which Lourdes also collaborated on.
In spite of their joint venture, Madonna has also said that her relationship with Lourdes broke down when her daughter turned 13. The pair didn’t have a falling out — it was just that the “Like a Prayer” singer gave her daughter a cell phone when she became a teenager.
In the British Vogue interview, Madonna said that she had given cell phones to Lourdes and her eldest, Rocco, when they became teens. The singer explained that she wouldn’t be doing the same with her other kids. “I made a mistake when I gave my older children phones when they were 13,” she said. “It ended my relationship with them, really.”
Madonna went on to say their relationships weren’t totally ruined by smartphones, “but it became a very, very big part of their lives. They became too inundated with imagery and started to compare themselves to other people, and that’s really bad for self-growth.”
Becoming obsessed with a cell phone sounds like typical teenager behavior, though, as do other aspects of Lourdes’s childhood. As a teen, she went to LaGuardia School of Performing Arts in New York City, where she performed in school musicals. And she picked up her mother’s famous rebellious streak, too.
When Lourdes was 15, the paparazzi snapped photos of her smoking. Around the same time in 2012, Madonna sat down for an interview with Rock Center and said she might have to tighten up her rules. “I think I am [a tough parent], but honestly, I don’t think I’m as tough as I should be,” she said. “I think I need to be maybe tougher.”
Even then, Madonna said she drew the line at tobacco. She explained, “Cigarette smoking, I’m not very fond of — for anyone. I don’t approve of anyone smoking cigarettes — most of all, my daughter.” Even when the interviewer pointed out that the pop star had used cigarettes in her music videos, she retorted, “I don’t smoke. That’s just an accessory […]. There’s a difference.”
Madonna was perhaps able to keep a more watchful eye on Lourdes when the then-16-year-old took a summer job — on her mother’s MDNA world tour. At the time, Lola wrote a blog for the Material Girl clothing line’s website and explained how all of her friends were working over the summer, so she did too. Of course, her job was a little bit different.
As Lourdes explained, “Being in the wardrobe department meant me and a few other girls dressed the dancers during the show when they had quick changes. Thirty seconds to totally dress a sweaty dancer can be insane and provoke mucho anxiety. Doing this night after night was pretty cray, but I loved every minute of it.”
Will Lourdes follow in her mother’s footsteps, though? In Madonna’s eyes, her daughter is “insanely talented.” She told Vogue in May 2019, “I’m green with envy because she’s incredible at everything she does — she’s an incredible dancer, she’s a great actress, she plays the piano beautifully, she’s way better than me in the talent department.”
At the time, though, Madonna said that Lourdes lacked “the same drive” that she had in her rise to pop stardom. The singer said, “I feel social media plagues her and makes her feel like, ‘People are going to give me things because I’m her daughter.’” She also noted that Lola “grew up with money, and I didn’t. So everything is going to be different. But what can I do? I can’t fixate on it. I just have to do my best.”
But Lola has put her talent to good use. After graduating from the University of Michigan in 2018, she began a career of her own, albeit one a little more low-key than her mother’s time in the spotlight. The same year she received her diploma, Lourdes made her runway debut.
Lourdes had already made her modeling debut at 19, when she featured in an ad for Stella McCartney’s aptly named fragrance, Pop. At the time, the designer said she chose Madonna’s daughter for the job because she was an “independent, inspirational and free-sprited young woman,” according to E! News.
For Lourdes, though, it was a harder decision to take the Stella McCartney job. The then-19-year-old didn’t appreciate the attention as much as, say, her mother did. Lola told Vogue in 2016, “I have a lot of people judging my every move. It’s important for me to not let it rule my life.”
Lourdes continued, “I love when someone doesn’t pretend to be someone they are not.” So, after finishing her studies in musical theatre and dance at the University of Michigan, the fashionista could no longer hide her identity. And maybe that’s why she made such an eye-catching debut as a runway-walking model.
Lourdes surprised spectators in 2018 when she came stomping down the runway for Rio Uribe’s Gypsy Sport collection. She sported a seashell bra — a rather different look to her mother’s famous cone-shaped undergarment. The same year, she appeared at the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Awards wearing a piece from Luar, one of the night’s nominees.
The next year saw Lourdes grab another fashion opportunity. She starred in her first-ever fashion campaign for a major brand, Miu Miu. W magazine noted in January 2019 that picking Lourdes marked her out for bigger things, as “Miu Miu has a knack for casting of-the-moment It girls in its campaigns.”
Throughout her modelling career, one thing has been clear: Lourdes does bear a resemblance to her famous mother. On her daughter’s birthday in 2019, Madonna made an Instagram tribute to the then-23-year-old. In response, Oprah magazine’s DeAnna Janes described the post as “further proof that [Lourdes] is her mini-me.”
A second set of Instagram pictures drew further comparisons between Lourdes and her famous mother. The pair went to Jamaica in celebration of Madonna’s 62nd birthday in August 2020. And the singer posted stunning photos of her and her look-alike daughter, who wore a very ‘90s-inspired blue eyeshadow look with matching dress.
Unlike her mom, though, Lourdes doesn’t share anything on Instagram — or anywhere else for that matter. Instead, she makes a point to keep her private life her own. Lola doesn’t have any public social media presence as a result, which saves her from the virtual scrutiny that most celebrities face.
The paparazzi does occasionally catch Lourdes out and about, though. In October 2020 cameras captured Lourdes on a shopping trip in New York’s trendy SoHo neighborhood. The fashion magazine was clearly impressed how the model styled her brightly colored skirt with a simple black hoodie and sneakers.
And Lourdes’s fashion career continued into 2020, when she starred in a campaign for up-and-coming fashion label Miaou. Once again, her work drew comparisons to her mother’s. This time, though, it was a promotional video for the fashion brand, which looked very similar to Madonna’s “Cherish” music video.
In spite of all their similarities, though, it’s clear that Lourdes will tackle her career — whether it’s in fashion or anything else — in her own way. She proved that again in fall of 2020, when she starred in and choreographed the campaign for that season’s Adidas and Stella McCartney collaboration.
Lourdes expressed her excitement in participating in the eco-friendly campaign. She said, “My generation is sensitive to the needs of each other and the planet, and the state of the world affects us.” If that’s any indication of what the future holds for Madonna’s daughter, then, we can expect her to be just as creative and compassionate as her mother.