Ricky Martin’s awkward interview with Barbara Walters over 20 years ago left him feeling a bit loco, he revealed this week.
The Latin crooner graced People magazine’s annual Pride cover in a fresh white button-down and what must be the hardest working pair of jeans in Hollywood.
But inside, Martin, 49, revealed more than just his seemingly ageless physique — divulging the fits and starts that led to the former child star of boy group Menudo finally coming out about his sexuality.
His oft-rumored relationship status came to a personal tipping point for Martin during an interview with Walters in 2000, a year after Martin had established himself as one of the few Latin stars to break into the American pop music landscape, as his debut single “Livin’ La Vida Loca” thrived at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks in 1999.
“Sexuality is a complicated thing,” he told People. “It’s not black and white. It’s filled with colors. When I was dating women, I was in love with women. It felt right, it felt beautiful. You can’t fake chemistry — the chemistry was there with them. I wasn’t misleading anyone.”
Martin had a public history of dating women — “Lots of women,” he said — though privately he was known to see men at the time.
Walters goaded him to cop to the gossip: “You could stop these rumors,” she said. “You could say, ‘Yes I am gay or no I’m not.’ ” Cooly, Martin responded, “I just don’t feel like it.”
It would take another 10 years for the “She Bangs” singer to open up. And the anguish he felt at that moment with the iconic journalist has stuck with him, he told People.
“When she dropped the question, I felt violated because I was just not ready to come out. I was very afraid,” he said. “There’s a little PTSD with that.”
When asked if he wishes he’d handled the question differently, Martin mused, “Well, maybe I would have come out in that interview. It would’ve been great because when I came out, it just felt amazing. When it comes to my sexuality, when it comes to who I am, I want to talk about what I’m made of, about everything that I am. Because if you hide it, it’s a life-or-death situation.”
For her part, Walters, now retired from broadcasting at 91, has also shared regrets over how their talk played out.
“I pushed Ricky Martin very hard to admit if he was gay or not, and the way he refused to do it made everyone decide that he was,” she told the Toronto Star in 2010. “A lot of people say that destroyed his career, and when I think back on it now, I feel it was an inappropriate question.”
Now living his truth with husband Jwan Yosef and their four kids, Martin hopes he can be someone LGBTQ kids “can look up to,” he said, and reiterated that sexuality reveals itself at a different pace for everyone.
“You can’t force someone to come out,” he said, and offered a metaphor: “If you have an egg and you open it from the outside, only death comes out. But if the egg opens up from the inside, life comes out.”