BECAUSE he rarely speaks publicly, there are many rumours about Carlos Leon, Madonna’s exboyfriend and father of her 13-year old daughter Lourdes.
That he and Madonna met while running in New York’s Central Park, for example. Not exactly: “She was running, I was on my bike,” Leon tells me in the fitness studio he shares with his personal-training business partner Jeff Bell in downtown New York. The “Belleon” studio has one running machine, lots of kettle bells and mirrors. Leon (44) is — well — inescapably hot: lean, muscley, in black vest and tight black shorts, with dark hair, a light beard and soft eyes.
I have accidentally become Madonna’s fitness stalker, and after Leon, I will meet her former trainer Tracy Anderson. Gwyneth Paltrow introduced Madonna to Anderson, although Madonna and Anderson’s professional relationship ended last year after a rumoured fallout, followed later by whisperings of a cooling between Madonna and Paltrow. Anderson has faced criticism for her business practices and methods, including recommending baby food (as eaten by Jennifer Aniston) as an effective, healthy way to lose weight.
But first Leon: he and Madonna had exercise in common of course, her physique as much hailed (toned! lean!) as it is criticised (stringy arms! dangerously thin!). Leon worked out from a young age; raised in New York by Cuban parents he spent much of his childhood roaming the city by bicycle. He won Mr Peanut, a children’s fitness competition, but if his “true passion” is acting, his personal training is all-consuming now.
“I live for working out,” he claims. “The sweating, it really turns me on — taking my body to a whole new level, then introducing new exercises.” He goes on, “Madonna and I worked out together when we were together. She’s always very curious of what’s new, what’s hot. She’s the type of person that will do anything exercise-wise.” As for her body, he says: “I think Madonna knows she sets the bar pretty high for people who see her image in the papers. But bear in mind she has a cook, a trainer, she appears on stage for two hours when she’s on tour. She makes her body her business, she really does.”
Madonna’s celebrity affected their relationship, he says, “especially with the paparazzi. I’ve learnt to quietly smile but it sometimes gets a little overwhelming, especially if you’re having dinner with your daughter. Lourdes doesn’t pay attention to it.” He and Madonna are “good friends.
Just as when we were together, the key is communication and compromise, being on the same page; if we weren’t it would be a problem, especially parenting our child. People think she’s dominating, but that’s a character she portrays, part of her. I was never intimidated by her. I know that in many people’s eyes I am ‘Madonna’s ex-boyfriend’ or the father of her child.
But I’m a regular guy, I hang out with my buddies, and on my roof with my dog and my girlfriend. I try to live a simple life.”
On the front desk of Tracy Anderson’s Tribeca studio, the flowers have ice cubes added to their water. Anderson is probably the best-known personal trainer in the world, with her own machines and DVDs. Madonna is a former client, Paltrow is her business partner (“and like a sister”).
Her workouts are “collections” designed for clients (who include Lady Gaga, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cameron Diaz, Jake Gyllenhaal and Courteney Cox) based around sinister looking cubes hooked to the ceiling and tortuous-looking pulleys. You can log on to “webisode” workouts targeted at specific body types, which will be updated every 10 days. (www tracyandersonmethod.com)
Growing up in Indiana, her mother ran a dance school and Anderson studied dance in New York where she saw other girls starve themselves and take suppositories to lose weight. Anderson’s ex-husband Eric (with whom she had son Sam), a basketball player, had a bad back and through the doctors she consulted, discovered the basis for her “method”: 3,000 moves which target small muscle groups and the “problem areas”.
Paltrow for example, had just had her second child, “was like, ‘I don’t want to be left with this’ (Anderson indicates her midriff ). I undress every woman and say, ‘Let’s get real’.” She has just launched a new postpregnancy workout.
Madonna was her client for three years. “I had worked with hundreds of women before her. Who wouldn’t be intimidated by her? But she took absolute orders from me and was the perfect student, though I had to give myself over to her schedule.”
Did they fall out?
“When you work with one person exclusively and they are a priority to you, how long is that sustainable? I had an 11-year-old son and he was sick of travelling and I was sick of being away from him.”
Are they still friends?
“There are different levels of ‘friends’. We don’t hang out. I’m not like, ‘Hey let’s go to a barbecue Madonna’, but we’re not ‘not friends’.”
Anderson denies the association came to an end because she had begun a relationship (still ongoing) with Philippe van den Bossche, former head of Madonna’s Raising Malawi charity.
She also says “most of what you read” about Madonna and Paltrow’s enmity is fictitious. What of Madonna and SJP’s skinniness? Is size zero really something to encourage women and girls to aim for? “I don’t think there’s any woman out there who if they knew they could get it, wouldn’t want it,”
Anderson says. “But it’s not about being size zero. You can be a killer size eight. I love to eat. My collections come with nutrition advice.” She defends her advocacy of pureed foods. “These are not ‘baby foods’,” she claims. “They are large amounts of fruit and vegetable in consumable portions. They are better for women than what they sometimes do: eat one week then liquid-cleanse the next, which screws up the body.”