The Transformation Of Ricky Martin From 13 To 50

Some kids are destined for fame from a young age — and Ricky Martin was already grabbing attention onscreen as a 9-year-old, thanks to a series of commercials he shot while growing up in Puerto Rico.

In his autobiography, Martin revealed that he never got to actually see his own early work, because the ads were only aired in the United States and Mexico. But the young boy was very happy with his $1,300 paycheck, as well as the residuals. "It was an amazing job! I was doing something I genuinely enjoyed, and on top of it all I was getting paid well — I couldn't have imagined anything better," Martin added. "A whole new world had opened itself to me."

He kept getting hired and shot 11 commercials in the space of a year and a half. "Those commercials gave me my first brush with fame," the singer recalled, explaining that people would notice him in the street. "In those days, I got a kick out of being recognized." Of course, Martin had no way of knowing that his face would get more and more recognizable over the next few decades. Keep reading to see how this child star transformed into the "King of Latin Pop."

Ricky Martin joined a world-famous boyband

Ricky Martin had been a fan of the boy band Menudo for a long time before he was invited to audition for them. "Menudo was an obsession— it was all I could think about," the singer wrote in his autobiography, explaining how it had been his dream to perform with them. "Between the ages of ten and twelve, I could barely sleep just thinking about how badly I wanted it." Although they initially turned him away for being too short, as Martin revealed to Rolling Stone, his passion eventually won the managers over. "Maybe you're not the best singer or dancer, but you wanted it so bad," they reportedly told him. "That's why you became a Menudo."

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Menudo was the brainchild of producer Edgardo Díaz, who first created the band in 1977. A 12-year-old Martin joined a revolving cast of young singers, since the members of Menudo joined as young teenagers and left as soon as they turned 16. The group had a massive fanbase in the world of Latin music: They appeared in movies and TV, performed huge concerts, and their albums sold 60 million copies worldwide.

Although other former members have since accused the band's manager of overworking and exploiting them, Martin has defended their extreme schedules. "We were respected and treated like kings," he told Rolling Stone. "What I remember of Menudo was respect, a lot of work, discipline and a family atmosphere."

He almost quit the industry

After leaving Menudo, Ricky Martin decided to take some time for himself. "I didn't know if I wanted to stay in the business or go back to school," he recalled to Rolling Stone. "One day I said, 'Mom, I'm going to New York for a vacation. I'll be back in ten days.' Never came back."

During his time in New York, he made enough money from autograph sessions to pay for an apartment in Long Island City and do nothing but spend time with his friends. "I needed some anonymity, to get to know myself," Martin reflected, explaining that his life had been taken over by Menudo for the last five years. "I needed my personality back, to find out what I liked and hated. So those ten months in New York were phenomenal."

He spent his time painting, reading, and planning what college courses he might want to take. The young pop star was even accepted into New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, per his autobiography, but his head was turned away from college by a visit to the theater in Mexico City with a friend. "I got the goose bumps again," he recalled. "That night I saw the acting and said, 'I can do that.'" As it turned out, one of the actors of the play they saw was leaving and the producer — one of Martin's friends — talked him into replacing him. Martin had been bitten by the showbiz bug again.

The singer then became a soap star

After starring in a Mexican telenovela titled "Alcanzar una estrella II," Ricky Martin crossed over to American TV and appeared in "Getting By" in 1994 and "General Hospital" in 1995. His "General Hospital" character, a playboy bartender targeted by the mob, was a fan favorite, per The Hollywood Reporter. But it wasn't always fun for Martin to speak English onscreen.

"The part on General Hospital did not come without its fair share of challenges," he recalled in his autobiography, sharing that the role had felt like a real breakthrough. "And although my role on General Hospital could have been a great gateway, I never felt entirely comfortable during the time I was on the show." Being one of the few Hispanic actors on American TV took a toll on his self-confidence: "I didn't feel that I jelled [sic] well with the rest of the cast, and there were many times when I felt misunderstood, insecure, as if I would somehow never be able to fit into that world," Martin wrote.

His accent was a particular source of shame as soon as he got to Los Angeles, where everybody recommended that he take speech classes. As Martin commented, people would make jokes about his pronunciation. "I started to feel that my accent was horrible," he reflected.

He went solo but signed a bad deal

As a solo artist, Ricky Martin's debut album sold 500,000 copies worldwide, but his success was spoiled by a dodgy deal. As he recalled in his autobiography, Martin had caught the eye of someone at Sony Music while he was working in soap operas. "Obviously, I was ecstatic," he noted. "The idea of making a record that would be just mine, on which I could freely express myself as I wanted, was my dream come true." He had to work on the album and "Alcanzar una estrella II" simultaneously, which was exhausting, but the pop star was ready for his time to shine.

"I was so excited about getting back into the music world that I didn't care what the conditions were," Martin wrote, reflecting on the process. "It was a mistake — a huge mistake," he added, explaining how the record executive "took advantage of my ignorance and gave me a deal that offered me something like one cent of royalties for every record sold." 

Although the singer later considered this contract outrageous, he was still happy about kicking off his own career the way he wanted to.

Ricky Martin dated women for years

Although Ricky Martin later came out as gay, he spent decades in the public eye dating women like Rebecca de Alba. Martin had an on-off relationship with the Mexican TV host until 2002, as he told People. "Sexuality is one complicated thing," the singer insisted, explaining how confused he had been. "When I was dating women, I was in love with women. It felt right, it felt beautiful." He went on to declare that the chemistry between he and his various girlfriends had been real, adding: "I wasn't misleading anyone."

As he later told The Guardian, Martin didn't think these relationships were a lie. "What people were expecting from me was not who I was, and I forced myself to believe that what they wanted could be my truth, my reality, and I went after it hardcore," the pop star reflected. "If I had spent a quarter of the time that I spent manipulating my sexuality in front of a piano instead, I would be the most gifted piano player of my lifetime."

De Alba herself later said that Martin's sexuality was "no surprise" to her in an interview with Yordi Rosado. "What does it matter if you happen to fall head over heels in love with a person who has another sexual preference, but is faithful and respects you?" she asked, per AllVipp.

He had kids via surrogacy

When Ricky Martin decided that he wanted kids, he chose to work with a surrogate and had a pair of twins that he named Matteo and Valentino. He announced their birth through a statement to People in August 2008. "The children, delivered via gestational surrogacy, are healthy and already under Ricky's full-time care," a representative for Martin declared, adding that the pop star was "elated to begin this new chapter in his life as a parent" and would be taking time out from his life as a world-famous singer in order to take care of the twins.

As Martin shared in an interview with Oprah, the surrogate mother had no interest in being part of the children's lives. "Because I'm a very spiritual woman, and I've never felt closer to God than that moment where I can give the gift of life to someone that cannot do it on his own," she reportedly told the singer. "I said, 'You are the one,'" Martin recalled. 

He also spoke about being a single dad in his autobiography, discussing the "light, transparency, and unimaginable beauty" the twins had brought into his life. "Regardless of what may happen in my love life, I already possess the most beautiful love of all — the love of being a father," the singer wrote.

The star came out in 2010

Ricky Martin officially came out to the world in 2010, posting an emotional declaration on his official website: "I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am," he stated, via ABC News.

As Martin explained in the post, the birth of his sons had forced him to be honest with himself and the world. "To keep living as I did up until today would be to indirectly diminish the glow that my kids were born with," the pop star wrote. "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."

Rumors about Martin's sexuality had been circulating for years and Barbara Walters had even asked him about them to his face in a TV interview, which he later described as very uncomfortable. "When she dropped the question, I felt violated because I was just not ready to come out. I was very afraid," Martin told People, 20 years after his interview with Walters. "There's a little PTSD with that."

He got married in secret

In 2018, Ricky Martin revealed that he had secretly married artist Jwan Yosef in a private ceremony. "We exchanged vows," the singer told E! News, confirming the life milestone. "We've signed all the papers that we needed to sign, prenups and everything." Although they hadn't thrown a huge celebration yet, Martin assured his fans that a proper wedding was coming soon. "I'm a husband, but we're doing a heavy party in a couple of months, I'll let you know," he insisted.

The couple shared the story of how they met on "Behind The Music," revealing that Martin had slid into Yosef's DMs. "I met Jwan through Instagram, believe it or not," the pop star shared, revealing that his eye had been caught by the other man's impressive artwork. "And then when I saw his face, I said, 'Okay, this is over. What a beautiful man.'" 

The pair kept messaging online for six months before they met face-to-face in London. "When I got out of the car and I saw him, I said, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute, I think this is the man of my life and I think I am going to marry him,'" Martin recalled.

Ricky Martin made a return to acting

Although Ricky Martin didn't have the best experience on American soaps in the '90s, his acting career didn't end there. Over the years, he began appearing on the small screen again through guest appearances on shows like "Glee" and he was nominated for an Emmy for his turn on "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story." He even stepped into the world of theater again when he starred in "Evita." But as he told People in 2021, the opportunities weren't rolling in the way he wanted.

"I love acting," Martin insisted. "I'm waiting for those scripts, for those great 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. I am ready. Just give it to me, man. Give it to me." He also speculated that his sexuality might have held his acting career back, as executives had warned him. "I don't know if I'm not getting parts because I'm gay," the singer reflected, adding that it would be depressing if that was the reason. "I'm going to keep working until life is different."

"I just want to tap into anything that has to do with acting. I love theater, too," Martin said. "I want to tell a story. That's what I want. I want to tell an important story, and I want to change the way people see life in general towards some more optimistic way."

His nephew accused him of domestic abuse

Ricky Martin made headlines in 2022 when he was accused of abuse by his 21-year-old nephew, who claimed they had been in a relationship for seven months. As the Puerto Rican outlet El Vocero reported, the singer was served a temporary restraining order. 

"Ricky Martin has, of course, never been — and would never be — involved in any kind of sexual or romantic relationship with his nephew," Martin's attorney told Variety, adding that it was a "disgusting" lie. "We all hope that this man gets the help he so urgently needs. But, most of all, we look forward to this awful case being dismissed as soon as a judge gets to look at the facts."

His nephew has since dropped the court case against Martin. After Sanchez's case was dismissed, Martin posted an official statement on his Instagram calling him "a troubled individual making false allegations with absolutely nothing to substantiate them." His lawyers also stated that Sanchez had been the one who asked for the case to be thrown out and that he hadn't been under any outside pressure. "Truth prevails," Martin wrote alongside the post.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).