Not since Elvis has a pair of hips caused such a stir. Former Menudo cherub Ricky Martin went into the February 1999 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles an unknown, shook his bon bon, and came out a bona fide celebrity.
Following that, Madonna
begged to duet with the leather trouser-clad heart-throb, his single La Copa De La Vida
– the 1998 World Cup theme – appeared on every radio station playlist, and his trademark grin became a magazine cover staple.
But before that fateful night, Ricky was livin' la vida loca
the United States and Britain. His first four albums sold a collective 15 million copies, though it wasn't until 1994 that he caused a ripple in the US, sending housewives into a tizzy as singing bartender Miguel Morez on Emmy-award winning soap General Hospital
Born Enrique Martin on December 24, 1971, Ricky grew up shuffling between divorced parents Enrique, a psychologist, and mother Nereida. Though much of his growing up took place on tour with the "revolving-door" boy band Menudo, whose stars are forced into retirement around puberty and replaced with younger models, Ricky's success caused a major rift in the family. During short tour breaks, Enrique Sr wanted his millionaire son to choose between his parents. Ricky chose mom, though after a stint as a US soap stud, the burgeoning star reconciled with his father, saying "I hated the estrangement and couldn't live with it any more."
Having left Menudo aged 17, Ricky floundered in New York taking acting and singing lessons before relocating to Mexico where he became a soap star and made his musical theatre debut. In 1991, he recorded his first solo album, which sold 500,000 copies worldwide, an unheard-of feat for a Latin debut artist.
A successful follow-up album, Me Amaras
, surfaced before Ricky relocated to LA where he landed his General Hospital
role. Leaving the show in '95, he shifted gears to play Marius in the long-running Broadway musical Les Miserables
Two Spanish albums followed, the latter of which, Vuelve, featured La Copa De La Vida. His eponymously titled English-language album, featuring the ubiquitous Livin' La Vida Loca, sold 20 million worldwide and its success was considered a benchmark for the Latin crossover wave that included Marc Anthony, Enrique Iglesias, and Jennifer Lopez. In 2000, he released Sound Loaded, featuring catchy single She Bangs. In 2005 his tenth album Life hit the shops.
Three years later, in 2008, Ricky became a dad, when twin boys Matteo and Valentino were delivered via gestational surrogacy. He took a career break to throw himself into the role of single parent, saying: "I'm so happy. Everything they do, from smiling to crying, feels like a blessing. This has been the most spiritual moment in my life."
In June 2009 he revealed he was back in the studio working on his eagerly anticipated 11th album – his ninth studio album – but on the subject of his love-life, Ricky remained guarded.
Rumours about his sexuality abounded. Previously, the six-foot singer had been linked with Argentinian tennis superstar Gabriela Sabatini, former MTV House Of Style host Daisy Fuentes, actress Lilly Melgar, back-up dancer Adriana Biega and Mexican model and TV host Rebecca de Alba. But while over the years even American interview queen Barbara Walters couldn't make Ricky talk about his private life, he suddenly decided to open up in 2010, revealing: "I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am."