After dealing with a breakup and her mom s cancer battle, the star is getting ready to wed

By People Staff
Updated February 04, 2006 06:00 AM

Brittany Murphy is in the mood to celebrate. And why not? She’s newly engaged – and her mom, Sharon, has been cancer free for more than a year now, PEOPLE reports.

On Dec. 31, Murphy accepted a proposal – along with a platinum Tiffany solitaire ring – from best-boy grip Joe Macaluso, 32, whom she met on the set of her 2004 romantic comedy Little Black Book. Almost instantly, “I turned into a big, gushy, happy bride-to-be,” says the 28-year-old actress and Edison, N.J., native.

As for Murphy s mom – with whom the actress and Macaluso share a home in L.A. – Sharon, 53, has been cancer-free for more than a year after undergoing a double mastectomy in 2004.

Between paging through bridal magazines and prepping to shoot Sin City 2 this spring, the actress spoke with PEOPLE’s Carrie Borzillo-Vrenna.

FINDING MR. RIGHT We both traveled 3,000 miles to find out that the love of our lives was just across the Hudson, where we grew up. (Macaluso is from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn; the pair started dating in the summer of 04, shortly after Murphy split with her then-fianc Jeffrey Kwatinetz, CEO of Hollywood talent agency the Firm.)

I just knew he was a nice guy – and devastatingly handsome. I asked him to go to the movies and dinner. It was the first time in my life that I ever asked someone on a date. He didn t want to be Rebound Guy, but I knew there was some connection there. We made it to date 17 without kissing. It s a true, old-fashioned romance.

THE WEDDING PLANNER I have a whole stack of bridal magazines. I m thrilled about it. When I was a little girl, I always wanted a winter wedding at the Plaza Hotel. I always loved the winter and snow in New York City. But we don t know.

HER MOM S BATTLE My mom is my earthbound angel. She is the strongest human being I know. (After battling breast cancer while Brittany was filming her breakout role in 1995’s Clueless, Sharon Murphy had a relapse in 2003.)

We watched Gilmore Girls every time she had chemo. If she was in the hospital for a month and a half, I was on a cot in the hospital for a month and a half. After the chemo finished, her incentive was to go to the Little Black Book premiere, which was so adorable.

Recently I went to London to film Love and Other Disasters (with Orlando Bloom and Gwyneth Paltrow), on the heels of spending every single day in the hospital for a couple of years. I went to London as a girl, and I came back a woman. It coincided with a crucial time in my life in every aspect: in love, in career and in health.

SHE’S FRIENDS WITH HER EX Jeffrey is an amazing friend of mine, one of my dearest friends in the world. (Murphy had previously dated Ashton Kutcher.) God has a way of placing me back in the same situation under different circumstances if I don t learn from it. So I try and learn the best I possibly can from every instance in life.

CHANGING HER TUNE I’m in the process of making an album right now. I’ve been writing music for many, many years. I grew up on a lot of jazz, and then I’m a complete hip-hop generation kid. (She recently recorded a single, “Faster Kill Pussycat,” with electronic dance- music artist Paul Oakenfold.) Paul is a friend of mine and he asked me to come to the studio. Twenty minutes later my vocals were down. It s an incredible song. STRUTTING HER STUFF I just walked the runway in Milan for Dsquared! For a 5′ 3 1/2″ girl from New Jersey from a working-class family, that was pretty thrilling.