Born on August 16, 1958, the third of eight children, Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone lost her mother to breast cancer when she was just six years old. "I became an over-achiever to get approval from the world," she explained later. She left the University of Michigan, where she was studying dance, after just three terms and hot-footed it to New York with $35 in her pocket. A regular on the club scene she worked at developing her vocal talents and soon signed a record deal. Success came in 1984 with Holiday and Like A Virgin. The latter's provocative video combined with the growing influence of MTV meant she was soon a global player in the pop world. For almost a decade Madonna set out to provoke, leading the Vatican to describe her Blonde Ambition tour as "one of the most satanic shows in the history of humanity". A series of bad film choices, including the risible Body Of Evidence, foiled her efforts to make it in the movie world. Following the luke warm reception of her 1992 book Sex - featuring the singer and a raft of other celebrities in the buff - the singer lowered her profile. She returned in triumph, however, with her Golden Globe-winning performance as Eva Peron in the film version of Evita. During filming in Argentina Madonna discovered she was pregnant by her boyfriend, personal trainer Carlos Leon. Their daughter Lourdes was born in October 1996, inspiring the Grammy award-winning album Ray Of Light. The singer had married actor Sean Penn in 1985, but the two divorced four years later. Madonna had always said she would never marry again but that was before she met British film director Guy Ritchie. "My head spun round on my body," she said of their first meeting. After the couple's son Rocco was born in August 2000 the two tied the knot four months later in Scotland's Skibo Castle. Their union wasn't to last, however. After eight years of madonna and director husband announced they were separating. The couple's divorce was finalised by a high court judge in London in November 2008 - one month after news of their split. While Madonna's 2002 outing in Guy's third film Swept Away garnered less than favourable reviews, her first children's book broke publishing records. Entitled The English Roses and based on the Jewish teachings of the Kaballah it was translated into 30 languages and released in 100 countries when published in 2003.Music aside, Madonna's religious convictions continued to dominate the headlines. First she changed her name to Esther, then she announced her support to the tune of £12 million - of a school to enlighten youngsters about Kabbalah teachings. And 2004 closed on a high, with her being inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame alongside such musical luminaries as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Queen, Michael Jackson and Elvis. The mother-of-reinvention went on to tackle yet more horizons, dabbling in clothes design for High Street store H&M. Music was still her priority, however, and she followed up her Confessions On A Dancefloor - the third best-selling album of 2006 with Hard Candy in 2008.Madonna's adoption of a baby boy, David Banda, from Malawi also captured the public imagination in 2006. Having fallen in love with the 18-month-old, she arranged for him to be brought to London amid enormous media interest. With the child's father still alive, however, she came in for criticism.In 2007, on a trip back to David's homeland, Madonna set eyes on three-year-old orphan Mercy James and instantly felt a special connection with the youngster. She began the process of adopting the child, and was finally able to welcome her into her family in June 2009, after winning an appeal against an earlier court decision that she could not adopt.