The Interview: Oh, Ricky!
BY Jeremy Kinser
March 11 2012 10:25 PM ET
Born Enrique Martin Morales to a Roman Catholic family in San Juan, Puerto Rico, he began driving women and gay men wild as a member of the boy band Menudo. In 1984, Martin was recruited into the group to replace a departing member, and he would remain with Menudo for five years. In Menudo he was trained to make fans swoon, and he achieved teen idol status, selling out huge venues, appearing on magazine covers, recording dozens of albums — sometimes up to four per year — and starring in Pepsi and McDonald's commercials and appearing on television shows including The Love Boat.
Feeling stifled creatively, he left Menudo in 1989 and began a solo career that yielded four hit Spanish-language albums, a year-long stint as a bartender on the daytime drama General Hospital, and a turn in Les Misérables on Broadway, before a performance that would alter the course of both his career and contemporary music. In 1999, while still relatively unknown in the U.S., Martin performed a pelvis-gyrating version of "La Copa de la Vida" ("The Cup of Life)" to a standing ovation at the Grammy Awards. Months later the international chart-topping success of his self-titled English-language album and its inescapable lead single, "Livin' la Vida Loca," would usher in the Latin pop explosion, helping to prepare the lucrative U.S. market for Latin entertainers Jennifer Lopez and Enrique Iglesias. Martin was everywhere: MTV, Saturday Night Live, dozens of magazine profiles, even on the cover of The Advocate as the subject of a 1999 article that examined "Ricky fever." His level of stardom made a literal truth out of the title of his loca hit song.
"You have to be careful," he says now about playing to sold-out stadium crowds around the world. "It's not easy to deal with fame. I'm very lucky to be surrounded by amazing people who are raw and honest, who will say I'm wrong, and who will also congratulate me."
Martin seems to take his own celebrity and the accompanying power in stride. In March 2010 he ended more than a decade of speculation about his personal life with a simple message he posted on his website and linked to on Twitter. It read, "I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man."
He remembers a tweet he received after that, from a straight Latino father thanking him for coming out, saying it allowed him to better understand his own gay son. Martin was so touched that he sent the man a direct message back. "I wrote, 'Sir, you just made my day. Go and hug your child.'"
In the fall of 2010, just months after he came out, Martin published Me, a best-selling memoir that examined his colorful career and the secretive private life that led up to his decision to come out. Me explored Martin's romantic relationships with both men and women, and it addressed the infamous interview with Barbara Walters in which he refused to answer her questions about his sexual orientation. Martin says he hasn't read the book since it was published.