Today we honor and celebrate a singer and activist who has made great personal growth. Enrique Martín Morales was born in San Juan, PR in 1971. He achieved his initial fame as part of the ever-changing line-up of Latino boy band Menudo. He released his first solo album in 1991, a Spanish disc titled Ricky Martin. After three more albums in Spanish, he released his international blockbuster, also titled Ricky Martin, in 1999. He has sold over 60 million albums over his career so far.
His early fame also brought some controversy. Martin performed at the inauguration of George W. Bush and invited the President to dance on stage with him. Over time his view of Bush evolved and he has since said, “as long as I have a voice onstage and offstage, I will always condemn war and those who promulgate it.”
Martin was also rumored to be gay since he first left Menudo. The rumors grew when he split with longtime female companion Rebecca de Alba in 2005 and again in 2008 when he fathered twin boys with a surrogate. He finally came out in 2010, stating, “I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am.” He immediately began working for LGBT causes and equality, recognizing the additional difficulties faced by LGBT people in the Hispanic community. His efforts earned him the Vito Russo Award from GLAAD; at the ceremony he publicly acknowledged his partner, economist Carlos González Abella for the first time. Reflecting on his long time in the closet, Martin told Larry King, “Everything about saying that I am gay feels right… if I’d known how good it was going to feel, I would have done it ten years ago.”
Martin created the Ricky Martin Foundation, which is dedicated to the well-being of children. He also collaborates with organizations that battle human trafficking. In addition to his GLAAD award, he has received the Leadership in the Arts Award, Billboard’s Spirit of Hope Award, ALMA Award, Vanguard Award, International Humanitarian Award by the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children, and the Hispanic Heritage Award.
He is a dual citizen of the United States and Spain. He obtained his Spanish citizenship (for which he was eligible through his Iberian grandmother) in 2011 to celebrate the efforts of Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in defense of LGBT rights.