Born Enrique Martin on December 24, 1971 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Addresses: Record Company--Sony Music, 550 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022-3211; Fan Club--Ricky Martin International Fan Club, P.O. Box 13345, Santurce Station, San Juan, Puerto Rico; Fan Club-Ricky Martin International Fan Club, P.O. Box 13345, Santurce Station, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

On the edge of the new millennium, Puerto Rican pop sensation Ricky Martin almost by himself gave Latino music an international face. An electrifying performance at the 1999 Grammy Awards launched Martin into worldwide super-stardom. As Entertainment Weekly's Andrew Essex reported, "his leather-pants, electro-pelvis version of 'La Copa de la Vida' single-handedly goosed a very dull [Grammy] telecast, earning him a standing ovation." It earned him a legion of fans, as well, who quickly snapped up copies of Martin's CDs the next day.

Born Enrique Martin on December 24, 1971 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Ricky was not an overnight success. The only child of Enrique Martin, a psychologist, and Nereida Morales, an accountant, who were divorced when Martin was two, he began his climb into stardom at age eight by acting. In 1983, at age 12, Ricky, after auditioning three times, was finally accepted as a member of the Latin boy band, Menudo. Menudo's manager, Edgardo Diaz, told Time, "He [Martin] was small, not a big singer, and his voice was not so good then. But we thought he could learn a lot by being with the group." For the next five years Martin toured dozens of countries with Menudo, including Spain, Italy, Guam, and Japan.

At least one ex-member of Menudo has publicly described his experience with the group as, in Essex's words, "abusive, exploitative, and unsavory." In spite of this, Essex continues, "[Martin] focuses on the lessons Menudo instilled in him: 'I learned what discipline was. For me, it's been easy to forgive.'" However, Martin did tell People's Peter Castro and Lynda Wright that, "our [the band's] creativity was stifled we were told [the songs we wrote] were no good."

And because Martin constantly was on tour, his family relationships especially with his father suffered. As Martin recalled in People, "When my dreams started coming true, my parents started fighting. I had everything I ever wanted, but my family was falling apart." His father, Martin continued, "wanted me to choose between him and my mother. How do you ask a child that?" Castro and Wright wrote that in 1985, "[Martin] so resented his father that he changed his name from Enrique [to Ricky]." It would take almost ten years for father and son to repair their relationship.

Acting, Accidents, and Albums

In 1988, Martin left Menudo, graduated high school, and moved to New York City. In 1992, Martin moved again, this time to Mexico City where he restarted his acting career. Martin earned an Heraldo the Mexican Academy Award for his work in the film adaptation of Alcanzar una Estrella (Reach for a Star), a Spanish soap opera. Also, in 1992, Martin signed to Sony and released his first solo album, entitled Ricky Martin. Sony Music CEO Tommy Mottola saw the future of Latin pop music, telling Time's Christopher John Farley, "The heart and soul of the music will be able to break down barriers easily. It's undeniable." Also undeniable was Martin's burgeoning popularity. After a sold out tour of South America and being named Billboard Video Awards' Best New Latin Artist of 1993, Martin released his second album, Me Amarasand moved to Los Angeles, California.

In 1994 Martin earned a role on the ABC soap opera, General Hospital. Martin told Hispanic magazine reporter Rosie Carbo that, "For me, General Hospital has been an incredible way of learning and growing as an actor. I look at it as training school that's going to help my acting career [however], I think this will even help me in my musical career." Martin's confidence continued to grow with his performance as "Marius" in the Broadway play, Les Miserables. Martin also continued to record music and in 1995 released his third album, A Medio Vivir.

As Martin began to grow ever more popular, he became aware of being stereotyped. As he told Essex, "It's all about breaking stereotypes. For me, the fact that people think Puerto Rico is Scarface, that we ride on donkeys to school that has to change." Martin began to break stereotypes by becoming Puerto Rico's national tourism spokesman, by voicing Hercules for Disney's Spanish-language version of the 1997 animated film, Hercules, and by releasing his fourth album, Vuelve. Vuelve hit number one in 22 countries on the strength of the smash single, "La Copa de la Vida" (The Cup of Life). In 1998 this single became the anthem for soccer's World Cup, thus raising Martin's international popularity. It also became the anthem for Governor Pedro Rossello's campaign to have Puerto Rico named United States' fifty-first state. However, Martin did not authorize the use of the song. Martin's then-manager Angelo Medina told Billboard's Karl Ross, "Music doesn't choose sides. It belongs to everyone." And that's the message Martin wanted American audiences to embrace. However, it would take a memorable performance by Martin at the 1999 Grammy Awards for the United States to open its arms.

Created a "Loca" Audience

Martin performed "La Copa de la Vida" (The Cup of Life) at the 1999 Grammy Awards. Martin told Billboard's John Lannert and Carrie Bell, "[I was] glad to let 2 million people all over the world in different cultures know who I am and what kind of music I make." Audiences were glad too. About two hours into a boring show, Time's David E. Thigpen wrote, "[Martin] performed the musical equivalent of CPR." Martin's performance and leather pants gave the Grammy audience something to remember. Joey Guerra of the Houston Chronicle quoted one record store manager as saying, "Ever since he appeared on the Grammies, [Martin's albums have been] blowing out the door. I don't know what those leather pants did. It just like turned everybody on." According to Rolling Stone, Martin's Grammy appearance, "increased sales of Vuelve by 500 percent." In May 1999, Martin released Ricky Martin, his first English-language album. Reporters, fans, and critics alike asked Martin why he had apparently left behind his Latin roots. As Entertainment Weekly's David Browne commented, "The danger of leaving behind one's home turf, especially for world-music artists lies in the loss of [their] identity." The Latino community inferred no sense of abandonment though, when in October 1999 they awarded three Ritmo Latino Music Awards to Martin. The Ritmo awards, known as El Premio de la Gente, are sponsored by Ritmo Latino music stores and are the Latino music equivalent of the People's Choice awards. As Martin told USA Today's Arlene Vigoda, "I will never stop singing in Spanish, but this a communications business, and it's all about getting closer to cultures." Martin further stated when he accepted the 1999 World Music Award for Best Selling Latin Artist that, "To create music is to unite countries." Martin then went on tour throughout the summer of 1999, telling Vigoda, "I need the immediate reaction I get from performing my music [to a live audience]." Vigoda further quoted Martin as saying, "I want to do this forever. I don't want to be the hit of the summer, and hopefully, with a lot of humility, we can talk in 10 years and I'll still be here."

Martin retained the Latin quality of his music while displaying diversity, including a duet with pop music icon, Madonna. As St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Kevin C. Johnson commented, "before anyone can accuse Martin of selling out by singing in English, there's a Spanish version of 'Livin' La Vida Loca' and 'Bella,' where Martin flip-flops between the two languages." Cultural barriers aside, it was his (American-language) duet with Christina Aguilera, "Nobody Wants To Be Lonely," two years later that created a greater stir for the singer. The song was originally released as a solo track on Martin's Sugar Loaded album of 2000. The duet version, released afterward, took off on the music charts, gaining over 30 slots on Billboard's Hot 100 early in February 2001. Interestingly the recording never entered the retail market as a single, and an extra CD containing the track was later included as a premium with the Martin album. The release of a sensuous video featuring both singers encouraged sales also.

Confronted Sex Symbol Image

Clearly it was not only his energetic music that led to Martin's millions of recording sales, but also his image as a leather-pants-wearing sex symbol. When asked by Rolling Stone's David Wild if he felt comfortable with that image, Martin--who refused repeatedly to discuss his sexuality in pubic--replied, "Sex symbol is equal to no credibility. That's something I don't want to fight with. Sexuality and sensuality are completely different things. Sensuality is something that you're born with. Am I sensual? Well, a lot of people say I am. But sexuality is something I leave for my own mirror. I don't share that with anyone."

After five years of English-language recordings, Martin released the Spanish-language Almas del Silencio, his first non-English album since Vuelve. The album made its debut at number 12 on Billboard's Top 200 and at number one on Billboard's Top Latin Albums, selling more than 65,000 units. It was the biggest Latin-language album debut in the history of the Nielsen SoundScan tracking system. A single from the album, "Tal Vez," hit number one in six countries, including the United States.

Fame and fortune aside, Martin's commitment to humanity sometimes overshadows his talent. After establishing the Ricky Martin Foundation in 2000, he came forward in 2002 in support of Nacho Cano's SABERA Foundation for street children and abandoned women in India. His foundation in 2003 launched a program called People for Children to fight forced child labor and child prostitution and in 2005, the foundation became aligned with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to publicize the cause of human trafficking. Martin visited Thailand that year where he joined with Habitat for Humanity in a tsunami relief effort. He has been awarded the Billboard Spirit of Hope Award in 2002 and the Chairman's Humanitarian Award from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in 2003.

by Ann M. Schwalboski

Ricky Martin's Career

Began acting at age eight; joined Latin pop band, Menudo in 1983 at age 12; was dismissed from Menudo, 1988; released first album, Ricky Martin, 1992; released second album, Me Amaras, 1993; resumed acting on the popular soap opera, General Hospital and on Broadway in Les Miserables, 1994; released third album, A Medio Vivir, 1995; provided voice for Hercules in the Spanish language version of the Disney film, Hercules, 1997; released fourth album, Vuelve, which included the smash hit, "La Copa de la Vida," 1998; performed at 1999 Grammy Awards; released his first English-language album, Ricky Martin, 1999

Ricky Martin's Awards

Best New Latin Performer, Billboard Video Awards, 1993; Best Actor, Heraldo Award, 1993; MTV Video Award, 1999; Best Debut of the Year, Billboard Award, 1999; Male Pop Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, Video of the Year, Ritmo Latino Music Awards (El Premio de la Gente), 1999; Grammy Award for Best Latin Pop Performance, 1999; Best Selling Latin Artist, World Music Awards, 1999; best music video for "She Bangs," Latin Grammy Awards, 2001; Billboard Spirit of Hope Award, 2002; favorite Latin star, American Music Award, 2003; Chairman's Humanitarian Award from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), 2003; Latin pop album of the year (male) for Almas del Silencio, Hot Latin Track of the year and Latin pop airplay track of the year, both for "Tal Vez," Billboard Latin Music Awards, 2004.

Famous Works

Recent Updates

April 27, 2006: Martin won the Billboard Latin music award for Latin dance club play track of the year for "I Don't Care/Que Mas Da (Dance Remixes)". Source:,, April 30, 2006.

Further Reading



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