The Untold Truth Of Ricky Martin

The following article includes mentions of mental health struggles, homophobia, child abuse, and domestic abuse allegations.

It's been a hot minute since "Livin' La Vida Loca" was blasted from CD players throughout the world. Ricky Martin's most famous single remains synonymous with that odd limbo between the '90s and the dawn of Y2k. Indeed, the track, with its uplifting tempo and infectious lyrics, harks back to a seemingly simpler time before the advent of social media and TikTok dances (though if TikTok had existed in 1999, there's no doubt that "Livin' La Vida Loca" would be a twerkable classic). Considering Martin's apparent agelessness, it's hard to believe that it was over 20 years ago when he was first propelled towards superstardom.

Yet, Martin has been around for far longer than many realize. Since the early '80s, the popster has been releasing hit albums and accumulating a hefty bank balance to boot. Accordingly, Kiki, as he's known to his loved ones, amassed a huge fanbase, with stans obsessed with his myriad thirst traps. Martin's persona is not confined to one-hit wonders, however. He is also an acclaimed actor both on the small screen and in the glitz of the Broadway stage. Away from the cameras, he's devoted himself to charitable pursuits, as well as his four children.

A favorite among girls, moms, and the LGBTQ+ community, Martin has always cultivated a relatively clean-cut pretty boy image. Looks can be deceiving, though, and if some more recent unsettling allegations are anything to go by, he may have been a master of disguise, leaving fans feeling upside, inside out. This is the untold truth of Ricky Martin.

Ricky Martin's middle class beginnings

Ricky Martin was born in Puerto Rico to a Catholic family on December 24, 1971, per People. Raised in a middle-class household, his mom, Nereida Morales, worked as an accountant, while dad Enrique Martín Negroni was a psychologist. Despite his parents' analytical professions, Martin was drawn to creative pursuits. The entertainment bug bit him from a young age; as a child, he loved entertaining people and would perform plays for strangers on the street. Soon enough, however, he landed his first acting gigs and began appearing in commercials.

His debut professional appearance was in an ad for Orange Crush, followed by a Burger King commercial. Appearing on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" in 2020 (via Out), Martin revealed that it was his cousin who auditioned for the soda commercial; he just accompanied him. However, the casting team recognized Martin's star quality and went with him instead. "But it's ok, it happens!" he joked. "We love each other, it's all good." 

Both of these ads aired in the mainland United States, which helped to introduce the tween to the North American market. As Martin recalled to Rolling Stone, appearing in the aforementioned commercials led to him becoming a tad cocky. "It was good money: $1,600 the first day and residuals every six months," he said. "After that I said, 'Dad, I want to become independent.' He was like, 'What are you talking about?' 'Well, now I have money, I can pay for my school and books, and I want a bicycle.'"

He was in a teen boy band

After getting a foot in the industry via fast food commercials, which are often a gateway into showbiz for many aspiring stars, Ricky Martin then set his sights on singing. Accordingly, he auditioned for the Puerto Rican boy band Menudo, which is essentially an enterprise that specifically hires young boys before replacing the singers around the time they reach puberty, per HuffPost.

Initially, Martin wasn't deemed to be tall enough for Menudo and faced rejection in 1982, per People. But two years later, when he was 13, Martin was accepted into the group. And thus, the tween was thrust into the limelight. "Everything was so fast," he told the outlet. "One day I was riding my bike to the park, and the next I was performing in front of 200,000 people."

During this period, Martin even appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," where he left young girls in the audience swooning. Speaking to "60 Minutes Australia" decades later, he admitted that the fame went to his head, and he started acting like the "little god" fans perceived him as. Reflecting on the experience to NPR, Martin bitterly recalled that his every move was orchestrated by execs: "I was supposed to sing this song ... say whatever they told me to say and to wear the clothes that they told me to wear, and dance to the choreography that they told me to dance." He quit the band in 1989. Disillusioned with the entertainment industry, Martin moved to New York City to figure himself out, per People.

Ricky Martin struggled with his parents' divorce

When Ricky Martin was just 2 years old, his mom and dad called it quits. Initially, Nereida Morales and Enrique Martín Negroni remained the best of friends, and Martin has stated that his childhood was largely happy, per People. But at the height of his teen fame, his parents' relationship grew acrimonious as they began arguing over who would have custody of their child. He felt responsible for the acrimony, believing that his career drew a wedge between his mother and father.

To make matters worse, Martin was forced to choose which of his parents he wanted to live with. He recalled to People, "It's a terrible thing to ask a child." As a result, he grew estranged from his father, and his relationship with his mom soon grew hostile, too. Speaking with Ocean Drive magazine (via People), Martin said that he and Nereida would constantly argue, something for which he took on the blame.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Martin revealed that his mom had moved to the mainland U.S., but he wanted to stay in Puerto Rico, where his dad remained. "Even though I loved my mother with all my heart, I wasn't going to stop seeing my hero," he said. "So my mother gave everything up and came back to Puerto Rico." His father remarried, while his mom stayed single. It was the toxic aftermath of his parents' custody battle that in part led to Martin quitting Menudo, as the star revealed to People.

The singer-turned-actor started out on General Hospital

After leaving Menudo, Ricky Martin took singing and acting seriously. Making music as a solo artist, his self-titled album came out in 1991 (not to be confused with his eponymous, debut English-language record released years later), and his sophomore effort, "Me Amaras," was released in 1993, per Discogs.

The following year, Martin was introduced to U.S. television audiences when he was cast on long-running soap "General Hospital." It wasn't just Martin's good looks that led producers to cast him; his work ethic enamored the showrunners. "What I saw in Ricky was a focus and commitment to his work that is always authentic," the soap's former exec producer Wendy Riche told The Hollywood Reporter decades later. Playing sexy bartender Miguel Morez, Martin left fans swooning. Chatting to Soap Opera Digest in 2017, he paid tribute to Riche for giving him his first major role, enthusing, "I am here today because of you."

During a 2012 skit on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" (via the Daily Mail), Martin gently spoofed his stint as the singing studmuffin bartender. Playing "General Hospital" medics, when Fallon asked Martin about a patient's symptoms, he replied in riddles related to the lyrics of his hit songs: The patient's x-ray, Martin quipped, is "upside, inside out." In spite of his eagerness to parody the soap opera, the singer has remained grateful for the opportunities it opened for him. "It was my first gig here in America as an actor. Long time ago, long hair," Martin joked to Fallon in an interview. "It was a good time."

International fame came to Ricky Martin in the late '90s

The late '90s saw Ricky Martin reach monumental heights. With the release of his album "Vuelve" in 1998, he had a hit single with "The Cup of Life," which became a soccer anthem. The following year, he released his self-titled English-language debut. Per The Advocate, the album sold almost 661,000 in one week, and Martin garnered hordes of female and LGBTQ+ stans as a result. The record also spawned a worldwide No. 1 hit with "Livin' La Vida Loca," the song that would go on to be blasted incessantly throughout every mall in the country. According to Tidal, the track went on to sell over a whopping 8 million copies. "How crazy [it is] out there," he said to ET in 1999. "We're living la vida loca. Today, I'm releasing my first English album. ... It's amazing."

A year later, he released his second English-language album, "Sound Loaded," which scored another hit with "She Bangs." The sexually charged music video caused controversy (and also featured a young Magic Mike himself, aka Channing Tatum, as a hunky bartender). Chatting to New York Daily News (via Salon) about the vid, Martin said he was happy for men and women to "fantasize" about him.

Thereafter, Martin became a ubiquitous presence in popular culture, but it came at a price. "He has no life," pal Lilly Melgar told People. "Everything revolves around his career. Sometimes I wonder if that's really what he wanted. Everyone loves Ricky. But few people know Ricky."

His infamous Barbara Walters interview left him with 'a little PTSD'

Having worked hard to reach his way to the top (he joked to Rolling Stone in 1999 that "instead of grabbing America by storm, America caught me"), Ricky Martin was catapulted into the limelight. Due to his immense fame, fans were eager to find out more about the star. And, as with many celebs, he began to experience the downside of stardom via intrusive interview questions regarding his private life.

In 2000, Martin sat down for an interview with Barbara Walters that would go down in history for its intrusive nature. Walters repeatedly pressed Martin on speculation regarding his sexuality, telling her guest, "When you have the kind of stardom that you have, the rumors follow." When Martin dodged the question, Walters pressured him to come out as gay — for which she later expressed regret.

Opening up to People in 2021, the singer said that Walters' line of questioning had a profound effect on him. "I felt violated because I was just not ready to come out. I was very afraid," he reflected. "There's a little PTSD with that." What's more, Walters had put him off wanting to come out earlier. "The way it was treated, my sexuality with some members of the media, it was treated with a very shallow lens ... a very, very disrespectful [lens] at times. And I would get really angry," he told the Toronto Star, citing homophobic media portrayals as further evidence of the 2000s being an unsafe era for openly LGBTQ+ celebs.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Ricky Martin was a friend-turned-foe to George W. Bush

George W. Bush may have seemingly been the butt of every "Saturday Night Live" joke during his tenure as president, but when he was sworn into office in 2001, he had a surprising supporter. Ricky Martin joined in with the festivities and danced with Dubya during the president's inauguration ceremony. 

The move was highly controversial. Consequently, the singer's collaborator, Robi Draco Rosa, who wrote his hit song "The Cup of Life," condemned him and dismissed notions that Martin performing at the inauguration was an apolitical act. "Singing 'Cup of Life' at George Bush's inauguration is like playing the fiddle while Rome burns," Rosa stated, per ABC News. "This is a very partisan act. This is a president who would have people in his Cabinet who would obstruct the exercise of civil rights. ... This is a betrayal of everything that every Puerto Rican should stand for."

However, Pink News viewed Martin's presence at the ceremony as an inherently subversive act, calling it one of "the campest inauguration moments in history." Martin and Bush may have been buds in 2001, but years later, the singer would turn on the president. In 2007, he expressed his opposition to the invasion of Iraq by flipping the bird when uttering Dubya's name at a concert in Puerto Rico, per BBC News. "As long as I have a voice on stage and off stage, I will always condemn war and those who promulgate it," Martin declared.

The singer became a dad via surrogate

By the late 2000s, Ricky Martin had taken a little break from releasing studio albums, though he did offer some live releases. This hiatus from the music industry was due to Martin's longing for greater meaning in his life: he desperately wanted to start a family, per The Guardian. Accordingly, he welcomed his twin sons, Matteo and Valentino, in 2008 via surrogate.

Surrogacy unfortunately remains a contentious issue for some, with detractors deeming the practice to be an alleged form of exploitation, per The Guardian. Subsequently, Martin was criticized for using a surrogate mom. However, speaking to Vanity Fair in 2012, he said that he has a close relationship with the anonymous woman and rejected opposition to surrogacy as extreme conservatism. "I didn't rent a womb. ... I would give my life to the woman who helped me bring my children into the world," he stated.

In an interview with Out, Martin explained that he always wanted to be a father but felt that it would be impossible due to his sexuality. Surrogacy, therefore, was the only option for him to become a dad without coming under scrutiny for being gay. "Many years I dreamt of being a father, and many, many, many times I went through this grieving process of I am gay, I am a closeted gay man, and I'm not going to be able to be a daddy," he said. "Obviously adoption is an option ... but unfortunately for gay men it's very difficult to adopt in some countries."

Coming out on his own terms

There was speculation about Ricky Martin's sexuality for years, but he didn't feel comfortable addressing his private life in interviews. However, in 2010, he decided to live his truth and come out publicly as gay. In a post on his website (via People), Martin argued that it would be a disservice to his children if he were to keep dodging rumors about his sexual orientation. "To keep living as I did up until today would be to indirectly diminish the glow that my kids were born with," he wrote in part. "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."

Speaking with the Toronto Star around this time, Martin said that contrary to popular belief, he was not living a lie prior to coming out. Rather, the singer-actor explained, he simply had no time for self-reflection amidst the hustle and bustle of the industry in which he was propelled from such a tender age. "I was living my life at the moment, very fast," he said. "I started in the music business when I was 12 years old and I did not stop until 2003, until I took a moment to step out of the spotlight and really analyze what my life was about." 

The following year, Martin emphasized to The Guardian that it was paramount that he came out on his terms, as opposed to being forcibly outed by the media.

Ricky Martin: the Broadway star

From tween popster to soap opera hunk and then international superstar, there seems to be very little at which Ricky Martin hasn't excelled. Adding to his ever-expanding repertoire, not to mention his ability to adapt to various roles within the entertainment industry, Martin reentered the world of theater in the early 2010s. Per Rolling Stone, he'd acted on stage since the '90s, having starred on Broadway in "Les Misérables" in 1996. Thus, in 2012, he returned to the Great White Way, playing revolutionary Che Guevara in the revival of "Evita," according to The Guardian.

A return to Broadway was thrilling for Martin. "What I like about Broadway is that you are still entertaining," he told Digital Spy. "You're standing in front of an audience every night and the critics are not friends at all — and that's good for me as an entertainer because I want to grow. It also gives me the structure of remaining in one city so I can get creative in different ways." The Hollywood Reporter praised Martin's depiction of Guevara, noting that while he didn't embody the revolutionary's machismo, "his relaxed charm and dreamboat looks will yield few complaints." As reported by Billboard, Martin was a hit in the musical and producers elected to cease the show's run once he stepped down from the role.

Although it was Tony-nominated, the revival was not the financial success many had hoped; despite the production costing an eye-watering $9.6 million, it failed to recoup its investments following a 46-week run, per Playbill.

It was Insta love for Ricky Martin and Jwan Yosef

After his split from Carlos González Abella, Ricky Martin found love with artist Jwan Yosef. A sneaky Ricky slid into Yosef's DMs. "We were talking for like six months without me hearing his voice. ... We talked about art, nothing sexy," he joked to Andy Cohen on SiriusXM's "Radio Andy" in 2017. After chatting in their Insta DMs, Martin traveled to London, where Yosef resided, and the two met in person and fell in love. Before long, Martin popped the question, and he enthused that he wanted a grand, three-day wedding.

In 2018, Martin confirmed that the couple had tied the knot. "We exchanged vows ... and we've signed all the papers that we needed to sign, prenups and everything. ... He's my husband, he's my man," he gushed to E! News. The singer appeared thoroughly smitten with his new beau. "I call him the witchcraft, because I felt the spell, and then I was in his arms," the singer-actor sweetly said on "Behind the Music."

Martin and his hubby soon expanded their brood. Speaking with "60 Minutes Australia," the star said that he desperately wanted a daughter, a "daddy's little girl." On New Year's Eve 2018, Martin announced on Instagram that his wish had come true: he and Yosef welcomed daughter Lucia. The following year, the couple had a fourth child, son Renn. The loved-up twosome remain fiercely private when it comes to their family, but Yosef did post a tender snap of himself and Renn on Instagram in June 2022, declaring his elation at family life.

Ricky Martin is fighting human trafficking

Ricky Martin has been active in charitable endeavors for decades. One cause that's particularly close to the singer's heart is the fight to end child exploitation. Per the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, he was spurred into action after witnessing human trafficking in India in 2002.

Discussing his philanthropy with Out, Martin revealed that, as someone from a middle-class background who found fame and fortune as a mere child, he was blissfully ignorant of the evils of the world. However, becoming a star at such a young age, and thus traveling the world, also laid bare the misfortunes that less privileged children faced. "I was only 12 years old and I was exposed to all these different realities that I didn't know existed," he said of his work for UNICEF, continuing, "I got a call from a friend who was building an orphanage in India. I realized that what we're dealing with is modern-day slavery." Accordingly, he founded The Ricky Martin Foundation in 2004 to help fund initiatives that would protect children across the globe from human trafficking.

Clearly, whatever the singer witnessed in India had a profound, perhaps traumatizing, effect on him, though he has never delved into the details of the horrors he saw. In a 2010 interview with CNN, Martin reiterated the India story, explaining that he rescued three young girls from the streets, something that he described as "a rude awakening into the reality of human trafficking."

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

Rejuvenating his acting career

Many celebs have had their once-floundering careers revitalized by TV powerhouse Ryan Murphy. Jessica Lange, for instance, has admittedly enjoyed a career resurgence in her 70s thanks to Murphy, per "Radio Andy." And the media mogul helped to reignite Ricky Martin's love of acting on-screen. The "Glee" co-creator cast Martin in the show's Season 3 episode "The Spanish Teacher," whereby the singer-actor busts a move to raucous 2010s anthem "Sexy and I Know It."

Martin's collab with Murphy continued when he was cast in "American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace" as Antonio D'Amico, the titular murdered fashion designer's boyfriend. In an interview with Soap Opera Digest, Martin revealed that he spoke to D'Amico in an effort to bestow the role with the utmost respect and sensitivity. "We talked about very beautiful things, about the love that he had for Gianni, and that is something I really want to bring out," he said. "The love that they had was indestructible."

But the Emmy-nominated star didn't want this acting resurgence to end with bopping to LMFAO or appearing in true crime dramas. As Martin told People in 2021, he was keen to take on further roles, but felt that there was a lack of weighty acting gigs on offer for openly gay performers. "I love acting," Martin said. "I'm waiting for those scripts. ... I can play gay, I can play straight, I can play a serial killer. I can play Latin, but I can also play European. ... Just give it to me, man."

This multi-talented star has amassed a huge net worth

There's nothing lacking when it comes to Ricky Martin's bank balance. According to Celebrity Net Worth, the singer-actor is worth an impressive $130 million, as of this writing. That's not too shabby at all considering that "Livin' La Vida Loca" hasn't been blasted out of beauty salons in a hot minute.

Martin began amassing his fortune when he was barely out of diapers. Although many other members of his teen boy band Menudo did not reap the benefits of child stardom, Martin did. As he explained to Rolling Stone, Menudo, as well as his lucrative childhood commercials, gave him financial security. "It was an easy way: You join a band that's already a phenomenon, and learn," he said. "When you leave the group, you have the tools to do whatever you want — if it's school, you have money; if it's to stay in the business, you've done everything." Thereafter, the outlet noted, Martin had racked up sales of 15 million units from his solo albums. Once he broke into North America, he really saw the big bucks coming in. "Livin' La Vida Loca" alone sold over 8 million copies, per ET. In 2000, Billboard noted that Martin had made a total of 44 million record sales.

Thanks to his vast wealth, Martin has been living the high life. He and husband Jwan Yosef bought a swanky Beverly Hills pad complete with a huge sprawling garden (pool included), an artist's workshop, and even a recording studio that was in the works back in 2018, per Architectural Digest.

Ricky Martin's legal controversies hampered his comeback

2022 was supposed to be the year of Ricky Martin's musical comeback. The previous year, the Grammy winner embarked on a lucrative world tour with Enrique Iglesias, and by June 2022, he was ready to release his new EP "Play," having shared a teaser on Instagram. But this momentum was halted by some shocking allegations that no one would have expected from the squeaky clean mom-favorite. 

Mere days after posting the teaser, Deadline reported that Martin had been hit with a $3 million lawsuit from his former manager, Rebecca Drucker, who alleged that she "fiercely protected" her client from "a potentially career-ending allegation in September 2020." In addition to claims of creating "a toxic work environment," the singer-actor allegedly "completely and maliciously refused to pay Rebecca the millions of dollars in commissions that he owes her under their management agreement" and has been accused of threatening Drucker by urging her to sign an NDA relating to the supposedly damning allegation. The drama didn't end there. Just days after Drucker's lawsuit went public, Martin was issued with a restraining order in Puerto Rico, per AP News. According to the Puerto Rican publication El Vocero, the accuser reportedly dated Martin for seven months and made a domestic violence complaint when the star allegedly began stalking him after refusing to accept the breakup. The accuser has not yet been named, but there's increasing speculation that an alleged extramarital lover is responsible for the restraining order.

Per People, Martin vehemently denied suggestions of domestic violence, with his reps calling the accusations "completely false and fabricated."

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.