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Ricky Martin

Honorary man, prideful soul

Ricky Martin is no ordinary Hollywood celebrity. Sure, his voice has graced the Billboard charts more than a handful of times, and his looks have earned him love from women around the world. However, Ricky Martin is a celebrity not only with hit songs and looks, but with a compassion for others, an admirable devotion to his work, and a sense of self-pride that radiates in everything he does. Martin has had to fight to get to where he is today, both concerning his personal life and his career.

It’s the year 1999. Ricky Martin is one of the biggest names out there. He has just released Livin’ La Vida Loca which shot up to #1 and stood there trending on the charts for weeks. The world was falling in love with the sensuous style of this Latin pop star. But beyond all the success and the Grammy nominations that followed, Martin was going through a tough time internally. He wanted to be true to himself, but was afraid of rejection and a possible downfall in his career. In a 2000 interview, Barbara Walters famously pressured Ricky to come out as homosexual. He refused, and didn’t deny or confirm the allegations that had been spiraling in news headlines for months. Years and years went by as he remained quiet about the subject. Then in 2010, his silence finally ceased as he published a letter coming out to his fans on his website.

These years in silence and reflection made me stronger and reminded me that acceptance has to come from within and that this kind of truth gives me the power to conquer emotions I didn’t even know existed,” he expressed in the heartfelt letter.

In the end, being true to himself won over the fear of criticism. He pushed past the internal struggle, the rumors, and the criticism to allow himself to unleash his full unapologetic self to the world. And it paid off! He continues to release songs and star in productions, unscathed by his big reveal many years ago.

Just last year he released Vente Pa’Ca featuring Maluma which went hot on the Billboard Chart at #5. The song was hugely popular, prompting Ricky to release an English version as well. Before that, he had dropped an album titled A Quien Quiera Escuchar in 2015 that won a Grammy for Best Latin Pop album. This success is not fresh or new: Martin always seemed destined to have a future in music. He started singing at just 12 years old when he landed a spot in popular Latin boy band Menudo—He auditioned three times before they finally chose him to become a member. His success only blossomed from there as they toured for the next five years across the globe. Menudo made him a teenage millionaire, but he says that it also kept him grounded and created the humble personality he maintains today. “It was five years of discipline… That band definitely helped me keep my feet on the ground,” he admitted. After leaving the band at the age of 18, Martin took advantage of his new-found fame and went on to continue following his dreams. He released his first self-titled solo album in 1992, Ricky Martin. The release became a gold record in Puerto Rico, Argentina, Chile, Mexico and the United States. Ricky then completed a sold-out tour across South America and not too long after that released his second album Me Amarás.

Martin’s status in Latin countries had grown to be quite legendary. His tours sold out almost instantly, and his albums were leaving fire streaks across the charts. However, he had not hit stardom in the United States yet. That all changed at the 1999 Grammy awards when he performed his hit song La Copa de la Vida. The song had been chosen as the official World Cup soccer championship anthem that year so it was already wildly popular. But when a leather-pants clad Martin hit the stage and started shaking those hips and flashing that smile, it was over for America. They had joined the rest of the world by falling under the spell of this international Latin pop star. The performance was one of the most talked about Grammy performances and still remains to be today. It increased sales of his fourth album Vuelve by 500 percent! Ricky, ever so humble, didn’t seem to care as much about the sales as he did about sharing his passion for music.

“I was] glad to let 2 million people all over the world in different cultures know who I am and what kind of music I make,” he said, looking back on the incredible performance.

Now, after seven years as a proud gay man, Martin is starring in his first gay role as Antonio D’Amico, fashion designer Gianni Versace’s former lover, in FX’s American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, premiering in 2018. To him, this means a lot to be able to portray someone who he can identify with in terms of sexuality, and the quiet struggle that comes with it. “We’re going to go mainstream with a story that talks about homophobia, that talks about hate, that talks about indifference,” he explained. “It’s something that I really wanted to be loud about.”

To Martin, the relatability factor is all too real, as he said that he would often get emotional on set while filming. “[Filming] took me back to eight years ago when I was in the closet and it just moved me,” he admitted. Despite the emotional tides he deals with on set, he’s proud of the show and how it will give an insider’s look into Gianni Versace’s life. The murder of Versace on his own front steps rocked the whole world when it occurred back in 1997. D’Amico was the first to run to his lover’s side when he found him shot dead on the steps to his Miami mansion. They had been dating for 15 years before his partner’s life was taken. The show will explore the relationship between D’Amico and Versace, Versace’s personal life, and the events leading up to his murder.

Ricky Martin’s sense of pride doesn’t only stem from the embracement of his sexuality, but also from his country and culture. Ricky grew up in San Juan, Puerto Rico and spent the majority of his life there. It wasn’t until he graduated high school that he left to pursue his career. For Martin, that is still home. Due to this, it’s no surprise that he had a very strong reaction to the recent devastating news about Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria led its monstrous tirade right through Martin’s native country, leaving the whole island without power. Homes were damaged, lives were taken, and property was destroyed due to this disaster. Although Martin lives in Los Angeles now, he felt the pain of his people.

“I don’t sleep. I’m in creative mode, trying to see how we can bring love and hope to my people in Puerto Rico,” Ricky Martin confessed.

He started a crowd fund on YouCaring.com that has since raised over 3 million dollars. He has been on The Ellen Show twice since the hurricane to raise awareness and convince people to donate, with both appearances showing an increase in donations. He also got to help on a personal level by gathering up basic supplies and necessities and loading it into a FedEx plane. He then travelled to Puerto Rico and helped hand out the supplies to those in need one by one. Martin believes that helping the people of his country is no sacrifice—Puerto Rico is a huge chunk of his heart.

Philanthropic work clearly holds no restrictions when it comes to Martin’s outreach. He has not only helped raise money for Puerto Rico, but has taken part in countless other organizations as well. He has previously won the 2005 International Humanitarian Award from the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children as well as becoming a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. He even created his own foundation, the Ricky Martin Foundation, to help children that fall victim to human trafficking. He became passionate about this subject while on a trip to India about ten years ago. He primarily went to India with his friend to help him build a new orphanage. That’s when his friend suggested that they go to the slums to rescue girls who had been forced into prostitution and pornography. Ever since then, Martin’s eyes were opened to the cruel world of human trafficking, and he’s been dedicated to raising awareness and stopping it ever since. Through the Ricky Martin Foundation, they raise money to fund research about human trafficking. The more they learn, the more they can educate people about it and how to avoid becoming part of this terrible system. They also opened an educational institution called Centro Tau that was built with the help of partnerships with Nuestra Escuela, Inc., Iniciativa Comunitaria, Inc., and Sociedad de Educación y Rehabilitación de Puerto Rico (SER de Puerto Rico). The center is located in Loíza, Puerto Rico and provides a platform for “social action to combat all forms of oppression against children.” They strive to help children achieve their full potential through the use of the school’s nine classrooms, library, an area of childcare and development, an amphitheater, administrative offices, biosocial offices, and recreational areas. Martin has said that he won’t give up when it comes to fighting for these children in need. “I’m not going to stop,” he said while in Cambodia speaking to survivors of trafficking, “All of you are my heroes. You are a gift of my life.”

To help Puerto Rico you can donate at:
YouCaring.com/RickyMartin

To help stop human trafficking donate at:
Rickymartinfoundation.org

By Aaliyah Pasols