I grew up listening to country music in Kentucky in the 1970s and switched over to pop, new wave, and dance music in the 1980s. While I recall hearing about Menudo, I didn’t know much about the Puerto Rican boy band.
I also grew up watching NBC soap operas, especially “Days of Our Lives” and I recall, in the 1980s, how obsessed people at Murray State University were with “General Hospital” on ABC.
Since I wasn’t a fan of Menudo and I didn’t watch “General Hospital” in the mid-1990s when the character Miguel Morez, a bartender and singer, was on there, I missed my first two chances to fall under the spell of Ricky Martin.
That’s okay because when he hit the Grammy Awards stage in February 1999, I took notice, along with the other 187 million people around the world that might not have known Ricky Martin.
Even though “Livin’ La Vida Loca” and the follow-up songs, the hot videos, and the non-stop touring would propel him to super stardom, I really didn’t get to know and really admire Ricky Martin until I recently read his autobiography, “Me”.
The book came out in late 2010, the same year that he admitted to the world on his website, in March, “I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am.”
I won’t give away all of the details of “Me” because I highly recommend you reading it. But, for someone sitting on top of the world and that could have anything they wanted, I’ll say that I was most impressed with Ricky’s down-to-earth attitude and his commitment to making the world a better place for those that he loves and for the people he’ll never meet.
Enrique Martín Morales was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Christmas Eve in 1971. While his parents divorced when he was young, he remained very close to both of them.
As a child, he would sing into wooden spoons in kitchen along with popular rock groups Journey, REO Speedwagon, and Led Zepplin. Even then, he knew he wanted to entertain. Thanks to the encouragement of his parents, he got into television commercials and it became profitable.
He had multiple auditions to join Menudo, one of the most successful bands in the history of music. Interesting enough, it wasn’t his lack of talent or his age that kept him from joining the band, it was because he was too short!
Ricky became a member of Menudo in 1984 and stayed with them until 1989. Touring the world as a pre-teen and a teenager was grueling, but it taught him the importance of working hard and being committed to his craft.
As a 17-year-old, in the summer of 1989, he left Menudo and headed back to Puerto Rico. On his 18th birthday, he finished school and then made one of the biggest decisions of his young life less than two weeks later.
He moved to New York City in January 1990 and enjoyed living life out of the spotlight and even considered giving up show business. While in the “Big Apple”, Ricky visited friends in Mexico City and was drawn back into the entertainment business.
He did theater work that led to a soap opera role that was made into a movie that won him the Mexican equivalent of the Oscar. That led to a successful tour of the music inspired by the movie, which was about six boys in a band.
This renewed his love for music. He signed on to Sony Music and released his first two Spanish albums in 1991 and 1993. Together, those albums sold 1.2 million copies and produced six hits on the Billboard Latin chart with three of them reaching the Top Ten.
As excited as Ricky was to be sing again, he realized he should have checked that music contract out better because he got “robbed” — earning only about a penny from each album sold!
He continued to sing and tour and then moved to Los Angeles to act. Before landing at “General Hospital” in 1994, he was on a short-lived series called “Getting By”.
Outside of the United States, Ricky hit it big with the release of his third album, “A Medio Vivir” in late 1995. Ricky’s book states the album went on to sell more than seven million copies world-wide and it produced one of the biggest hits of his career around the world, “Maria”.
Ricky writes that when a record executive first heard the song, he said, “Are you crazy? You have ruined your career! I can’t believe you are showing me this. You’re finished — this is going to be your last album.” It goes to show what some record company people know!
As Ricky’s star continued to rise, so did the scrutiny about his private life. He was hot, young, Latin, and single. But, Ricky would not talk about his private life to reporters and so they’d speculate and start rumors.
You didn’t have to get too far into “Me” , (page 5), to learn about the real Ricky Martin, the man he kept hidden from the world because of fear. Ricky writes that he wanted to “end the secret” and “I accept my homosexuality and celebrate the gift that life has given me.”
One of the things that I admire most about Ricky is that he said the book was about his life and his coming to terms and honestly admitting to the world who he was. In the book, he’s a perfect gentleman. While he talked about his affairs and falling in love with both women and men, he didn’t name names!
While he admitted these things in 2010, throughout his career in the 1980s and the 1990s, he didn’t talk about his private life.
In 1998, he released his fourth album, “Vuelve” early in the year and it sold more than seven million copies around the world and would go on to win the Grammy Award for Best Latin Pop Album. Also, he recorded and performed “Copa de La Vida (The Cup of Life)” for the 1998 World Cup.
He would add English lyrics to that song and perform it on the Grammy Awards in February 1999 and the superstar, who had already conquered the Latin world with his music, became a household name in America.
That led to his first English album. “Ricky Martin” in 1999 that sold 22 million copies worldwide. Even in the U.S., it sold an incredible 660,000 copies in its first week out.
The first single, “Livin’ La Vida Loca” topped the charts in America and all over the world.
At more than eight million copies sold, “Livin’ La Vida Loca” is one of the best-selling singles of all time!
Ricky was on the cover of “Time” and “People” and was named “Artist of the Year” by “Entertainment Weekly”. He continued to tour to promote “Ricky Martin” while recording the follow-up album, “Sound Loaded”, and was being pulled in a million directions.
At the 1999 performance at the Grammy Awards, Ricky met Madonna.
When they were recording “Be Careful (Cuidado Con Mi Corazón)” for the “Ricky Martin” album, she gave him some good advice, “Ricky, stop doing interviews. Everybody knows who you are.” However, he continued saying “yes” to everything that his people and the record company asked.
The scrutiny about his private life continued to mount after a March 26, 2000, interview with Barbara Walters before the Oscars, in which she was relentless in her questioning him about whether he was gay.
In 2010, Barbara told the “The Toronto Star”, “In 2000, I pushed Ricky Martin very hard to admit if he was gay or not, and the way he refused to do it made everyone decide that he was,” Walters said. “A lot of people say that destroyed his career, and when I think back on it now I feel it was an inappropriate question.”
The gossip about his personal life and the pressure of a tour of more than 100 dates forced him to lose control. He finally took Madonna’s advice and put himself and his emotional state first.
While in Australia in late October 2000, he cancelled his next concert in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which was only the second cancellation of his career — the other was because of illness.
In “Me”, Ricky talks about how he met, by chance, a Puerto Rican, who was living in Bangkok, Thailand, in 1998, that would become a spiritual adviser to him. That man prompted Ricky to go to India. He went back to India, to Calcutta, in late 2000, and that trip opened his eyes to world of human child trafficking — selling children, as young as four-years-old, into the sex trade business.
Ricky has always been a humanitarian and in 2002, he started the Ricky Martin Foundation, and two years later, added “People for Children”, to raise awareness about the trafficking and sexual exploitation of children around the world.
Ricky was instrumental in the relief efforts and the rebuilding of Thailand after the December 2004 Indonesian tsunami that killed about one-quarter of a million people. And, he was in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after a January 2010 earthquake that killed around 159,000 people.
In the book, Ricky never boasted about Haiti or Thailand, about raising awareness of child trafficking, or his organization just to say, “look at what I’ve done”. You can definitely tell he is a great person and humanitarian.
If you’d like to know more about The Ricky Martin Foundation, here’s the link to the website: http://www.rickymartinfoundation.org/en/
Ricky spent the last part of “Me” talking about his beautiful twins boys, Matteo and Valentino, who were born in August 2008, to a surrogate mother. It was heart-warming to hear how he kept the pregnancy a secret to keep the media away from the boy’s mother during the pregnancy.
And, he just gushes when he talks about how he wants the boys to be free to live their life without fear and with compassion to everyone they meet.
That song, “The Best Thing About Me Is You”, was released in late 2010 and reached #1 on the Billboard Latin chart.
Ricky Martin is undeniably hot. And, once you read “Me”, you’ll know he’s the kind of person any person would be lucky to call a “friend” and someone who any man would be lucky to call “husband”.
After reading “Me”, I know Ricky Martin much better and I wish him and the boys the very best in life.