Latino superstar Ricky Martin is known all over the world thanks to his monstrous dance floor fillers.
Tracks like Livin’ La Vida Loca, She Bangs, La Copa de la Vida and Shake Your Bon-Bon ensured Ricky became a global household name in the late nineties and he quickly sold over 60 million albums.
But it’s fair to say in the UK Ricky, 40, was always deemed the cheesy singer from the Latin world who wouldn’t get off our radio.
The Ricky that sits before you today is a very different man. He’s confident, positive and on a mission to do good.
In March 2010, after years of speculation from his fans and the media, Ricky decided to go public and confirm he was a gay man announcing on his website: “I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am.”
But if could have done one thing differently in his life, he reveals he would have come out of the closet YEARS before.
Speaking backstage on the set of Evita where he’s playing the lead role of Che opposite Elena Roger, the Puerto Rican born star says: “It felt amazing when I came out.
“And if I realised how amazing it was going to feel then I would have come out a long time ago. Sometimes I think about it and say to myself, ‘can I come out again?’. That’s how incredible it was for me. It was completely life changing.
“And apparently it’s been a good thing for other people with the fact that I shared my story. Being able to talk to parents, cousins, brothers, sisters, boys, girls, adolescents that are struggling themselves. Just knowing themselves. When I told me story apparently it made things easier for them. If I touched one persons emotions and it made things more liberating for them then I’m happy. It’s about self esteem and dignity at the end of the day. I had no idea what the reaction was going to be and I just did what I needed to do to feel free and happy and it’s been beautiful.”
These days Ricky’s on the brink of a comeback. He’s about to head back into the studio to start work on new music, he’s writing a children’s book to be released next year, he’s going to be a coach on the Australian version of The Voice early next year and he’s signed a big deal with NBC to develop a “dramady” TV sitcom which he will pilot later in 2013.
But first and foremost his job is being a father to his twin boys, Matteo and Valentino. The babies were born in August 2008 by a surrogate mother, Australian Liza Santolini.
He describes himself as a “single father” throughout our interview but says he’s loving fatherhood. “They’re amazing,” he beams. “And they’re growing up so fast. They’ve changed my life completely and I can’t imagine my life without them. “I’m always going to be a busy single father. I’ll do music and I’ll never stop on that. I’m writing all the time at the minute for the next album.
“It’s handy having twins too – especially with the children’s book because they can proof read it. I can multi task and I love everything I’m doing – I’ve always been full on and better working than not. The kids want me to be happy and I’m fine being this busy right now.”
Ricky’s one celebrity that isn’t afraid to use his voice. He looks up to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as his heroes and is nearly overwhelmingly enthusiastic during our interview to explain why he’s so committed to working with AIDS and human trafficking charities and spreading the word on safe sex education.
After a trip with a friend at the height of his fame in 2001 to India he started the Ricky Martin Foundation, a non-profit charity organisation aimed at eliminating human trafficking.
“A friend was building an orphanage and that’s when I was going to the streets and literally rescuing girls that were going to be forced into prostitution,” he says seriously. “The girls were all under the age of 10. This was in 2001 so I was a pretty big name then.
“These girls were babies – some were as young as six years old. That was the moment that changed my life. I couldn’t believe what was going on there. I came back to the States and researched it, learnt about the subject and created an area of my foundation that concentrated on sexual slavery in kids. I wanted to know where it happens, how it happens and how AIDS was involved.
“It was a lump in my throat that I needed to get involved in and try and help.
“If we as celebrities have an opportunity to use our voice then we should. Even if I plant a seed and get things out there and people hear about what’s going on then I’ve done some good. That’s what happened with me when I heard about the human trafficking. I heard about it and then decided I wanted to try and help.
“For many years I did it quietly without anybody knowing because I thought people would think I was doing it for the recognition. But then I realised that people will listen if I talk. I know many activists that do a beautiful job for many years but don’t have the platform that I have.
“Angelina Jolie is my hero when it comes to speaking out and having a voice. She’s taught Brad Pitt a lot about it and now they’re an amazing couple that fight for their beliefs.”
Ricky’s biggest project right now is spreading the word about how the Latin world is ignoring the threat of AIDS by failing to practice safe sex.
With MAC cosmetics he’s teamed up with Nicki Minaj for a VIVA GLAM campaign where 100 per cent of profits from the pair’s range going to men, women and children living with AIDS.
“A lot of people think AIDS is something that hit the world in the eighties – but it’s not,” he says seriously. “AIDS is a huge problem right now in Latin America especially and all over the world. The numbers are saying the opposite.
“For me as a Latin American it’s really awful. The numbers in Latin America are huge.
“The numbers of infected people in 2008 are more than that of the States. That’s alarming. And it’s because people in Latin America do not seem to talk about sex. Only 40 per cent of adolescents in the Latin world know that AIDS is contracted through sex. That must change.”
He continues: “They don’t use condoms – it’s as simple as that. And it’s really sad when people say AIDS is an issue for gays. It’s not just gay communities that are struggling with AIDS.
“Women, children, straight communities are struggling with AIDS. It’s everywhere. Denial is a very dangerous thing. And this power complex of grandiosity of saying it’s not going to happen with me. Or ‘I believe in God and he won’t punish me’ is not going to work. People need to talk about AIDS.”
Just as he’s leaving our meeting in his dressing room – which is scented with the most wondrous scented candle I’ve ever smelled – he reflects on where his life is at right now.
“Everything is so good in my life,” he says. “I don’t have to prove anything to anybody. I lived quietly before I came out for many years and it was exhausting. I stopped being myself and it crushed me because I was trying to please people all the time. This part of my life is about feeling and sharing. For many years I would lie and say yes to everything – but I wasn’t being healthy. I’ve learnt to say no and that’;s important.”
Ricky joins Nicki Minaj as one of the faces of MAC Cosmetics VIVA GLAM campaign – further information at www.maccosmetics.co.uk. Ricky appears in Evita on Broadway in NYC until January 26.