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Ricky Martin: Profile

July 30, 1999
Copyright © 1999 THE PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

Ricky Martin, U.S. pop music's hottest new star, has been a household name in Puerto Rico and throughout the Spanish speaking world for almost a decade.

"He's already huge everywhere else," Joanna Ifrah, Martin's A&R director at Columbia, told Rollingstone, "but no one had heard of him here."

Ricky Martin's performance at the Grammy Awards in February changed the way American audiences view Latin music. Pentagon City Mall employees, outside Washington D.C., have noted the difference. "I've always liked Latin music," Mike Miller, assistant manager of Sun Coast Motion Pictures, commented, "even before this Latin music craze." This is a "craze" that has taken the mainland by storm. "His good looks are a major asset," The Wall music store employee, in the same mall, Rossette Kasem said, "I don't think he would sell if he wasn't so good looking and couldn't dance."

Christopher John Farley wrote for Time magazine, "Puerto Rico is where it starts. It is an island inhabited by the descendants of black slaves and Spanish conquistadors; here cultures collided, rhythms intermingled, and salsa emerged, inspired by Africa and Europe, and by New York City."

Puerto Rico is also where Enrique Jose Martin Morales started. He was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico December 24, 1971. Ricky Martin had always wanted to be a star. He joined the Puerto Rican singing group Menudo when he was 12 years old. As a member of the young pop group, he made his initial claims to fame. Traveling the world, from Italy to Japan, he received a hands-on education in show-biz.

Menudo is also how many people first identify with the young artist. When Martin's name emerged last February, an employee of the Sam Goody music store realized they were referring to a former member of Menudo. "Usually young artists are washed up by now," Tracey Sahr commented. "He has overcome the odds, but I don't know how he did it."

Ricky Martin's ambitions were not only to sing, but to act as well. After leaving Menudo, he starred in a Mexican soap opera. In the mid-90's he acted in daytime TV's General Hospital. Ricky Martin also appeared on Broadway in Les Miserables. He has released five CD's since 1991. He released Ricky Martin (Spanish) in 1991 and has now gone on to release Ricky Martin (English) in 1999.

This multi-talented artist has become a force to be reckoned with. It is especially difficult for businesses to ignore the selling power of Ricky Martin with his enthusiastic fans screaming and making known not only his physical presence but his economic prowess as well. Ricky Martin is now the spokesperson for Puerto Rican tourism.

Ricky Martin recently said, "It is very important for me to stay close to my culture- I am doing it in English because it's all about communicating. This is the communicating business. I've done it in Portuguese, I've done it in French... I'm having a really good time once again, [but] I'm not going to stop singing in Spanish."

His fans in Puerto Rico are applauding. "I love Ricky Martin because he is wonderful," Norma Morales said, "As a Puerto Rican, I am proud of our Ricky." Morales also commented on the influence that Martin still has in his home-town. "I like that Ricky sings in other languages, I know this opens more doors for him... the change of language (in his album) hasn't affected him in Puerto Rico." His nickname among friends and family is "Kiki". He has two older brothers, two younger step-brothers and a younger step-sister. He is also involved in several charities in Puerto Rico, such as SER (an organization to help people with physical limitations) and Centro Sor Isolina Ferrè (a community center in Ponce and San Juan, to promote education and community involvement).

Ricky Martin's success in the mainland United States was followed up by the release of an English language CD on May 18. Fifteen years ago, he didn't speak English, now he is capturing hearts with it. Because Martin crossed the language barrier, non-Hispanic fans are more willing to embrace his music. "He's a sexy man," Ashley Sadler, from Detroit Michigan said. "I saw him on General Hospital and I liked him." But Sadler hasn't been interested in buying Martin's Spanish CD's. "I don't speak Spanish, I don't think I could handle it."

This reservation is not prevalent among fans though: sales of his Spanish CD Vuelve increased after the Grammy Awards by 500 percent. It also helps that Ricky Martin is currently single; this is another aspect of his image that makes his fans go wild.

Ricky Martin has crossed many barriers with his use of multi-lingual lyrics. He has been able to reach a market that now spans the globe. Once Ricky Martin became a household name for non-Hispanic Americans, his music took on a more universal message: although you may not understand the lyrics, you can still dance to it... and "Kiki" does.

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