The Interview: Oh, Ricky!
BY Jeremy Kinser
March 11 2012 9:25 PM ET
Witnessing brutality and exploitation around the globe spurred Martin to action. He recalls in particular a trip to Cambodia, during which he saw photos of a young girl being sexually exploited.
"I had a breakdown when I saw those images," he recalls; his face is now flushed, and there's anger in his voice. "I was like, 'Fuck, I'm out of here.' I hate seeing that man seducing that little girl. I just hate that."
Martin says one of his mentors grabbed his hand to calm him. "He said, 'Ricky, please hold on tight and focus. If you can just save one life from the sexual exploitation, you will have won. It will have been worth it.'"
Martin continued to educate himself about the human trafficking epidemic, his foundation even spearheading the first research on the subject ever conducted in Puerto Rico. "Crime is so organized and under the radar," he says. "It manifests in so many ways. Human trafficking can be sexual exploitation or child labor or organ trafficking. I realized that while the majority of human trafficking is through selling drugs, there's also sexual exploitation within the world of drug trafficking. With every child that is a victim of one type of trafficking, there's a big chance that he's been a victim of another kind."
Martin plans to build a series of child development and prevention centers for at-risk youth, beginning with one in Loíza, Puerto Rico. "There are 13- and 14-year-old boys and girls selling drugs," he says. "We're creating this holistic center to open the doors to all the kids. We also want to protect the mothers."
Though his commitment to the Evita redo and his foundation are significant, they pale next to his devotion to his twin sons, Matteo and Valentino. The boys were born via a surrogate mother in 2008. It was Martin's desire, after years of avoiding discussion of his sexual orientation, to live an honest life with his children that led him to come out two years later. "I don't want my family to be based on lies," Martin told Oprah Winfrey in 2010, during his first interview after coming out. "I want to be transparent to them."
"Every decision I make and everything I do is based on their needs," Martin says about his sons, now age 3. "I don't want to sound cliché, but they teach me new things every day."
"Valentino is mister peace and love," Martin says. "He loves flowers and nature. If I ever wonder where he is, he'll be somewhere behind the bushes covered in mud. He's just at one with nature." Martin pauses briefly, then decides to continue. "I know this sounds crazy, but I think he meditates. He goes under the water." Martin imitates being submerged in a tub of water. "I'm like, He's gone. He's traveling right now. He's very Zen and noble." Matteo, Martin says, is a little more demanding. "He's more alpha and a leader. He's like, 'You don't do that, this is what you do.' He tells his brother what to do and what not to do."
Martin is very much a hands-on father and raises his sons with the help of his mother, who frequently travels with him, and Rose, their nanny. Martin's sperm was joined with eggs from a donor he selected from a book; the fertilized eggs were then implanted into a different surrogate mother. Neither woman knew Martin was the father. When it's suggested that his sons have inherited his good looks, he smiles. "I ate a lot of protein," he says, laughing. "I don't know if that worked, but I was very healthy-eating and resting for a whole month before I got the cup."
The boys have already become accustomed to life on the road. Martin took a sabbatical from touring during their first year and maintained a stable home life while he wrote Me and recorded his most recent album, 2011's Música + Alma + Sexo. When Martin went back on the road to support the hit album, he took his sons along.
"Every other night we were on a plane," he recalls. But the two boys quickly developed a large surrogate family while on the road. "It was amazing because they'd walk through the venue or arena. The crew was building the sets and they'd stop what they were doing and smile and say, 'Hi Valentino, hi Matteo.'" Martin pauses again and lets out a breath before adding, "They are tools of healing, of love, these two. The crew would go back to focusing on their work and dealing with their stress, but those five seconds with the kids were very beautiful for them."