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November 21, 2010

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Ricky Martin on coming out and coming into his own

RICKY Martin knew his sexual orientation was the subject of speculation in the celebrity world for years. Still, he never confirmed that he was gay until his tweet heard 'round the world earlier this year for one simple reason: He just wasn't ready.

"I wasn't living a lie," insists Martin, who at 38 still looks like the heartthrob who made hearts flutter when he was a teen in the band Menudo and later as a global pop sensation.

"I was living my life at the moment, very fast. I started in the music business when I was 12 years old and I did not stop until 2003, until I took a moment to step out of the spotlight and really analyze what my life was about," he said in an interview earlier this month in New York.

Much of that analysis is included in his autobiography, "Me," released early this month. The book is dedicated to his two-year-old twins, Matteo and Valentino, who inspired him to finally be open about the life he leads.

It's taken some time, but now he says he's truly comfortable with all aspects of Ricky Martin.

"Before, I used to walk in the room and turn on the television, turn on the radio, my headphones - I needed the noise," he said. "Now, it's OK to be in silence because I guess I am not running away from anything. For me, just that is a blessing." Q: Had you considered coming out before this year?

A: Everybody has to go through their own process, spiritual peace, to be able to stand in front of the mirror and look at yourself and start asking questions and say, "This is you, and lift your head up high and be happy about it and be proud." But the most important thing was my children. My children gave me the strength. Like I would say, "What am I going to tell them, teach them how to lie?" No, that's not how I want my kids to grow. I want my kids to grow transparent.

Q: Do you think Latino culture is less accepting of gay culture, and do you think coming out makes it easier for other gay Latinos and Latinas?

A: Homophobia is a global issue. It's not something that only happens in the United States or in Latin America, it's all over the world. I came out because I had the need to pretty much be free and be happy with myself ... I received a lot of e-mails and I received a lot of tweets from people that said, "You know what, Ricky, thank you so much because you gave me the strength ..." And that feels amazing. But we have to stop the hate. Like I say in my book, I don't know if it was because of my culture, I don't know if it was my own fear. I was afraid of fear, I was afraid of rejection, and life is too short.

Q: Over the years there had been rumors you were gay. Did it make it easier for you, or when you heard that, did it make you not want to come out?

A: Unfortunately, the way it was treated, my sexuality, with some members of the media, it was treated with a very shallow lens, it was viewed through a very, very disrespectful lens at times. And I would get really angry. I would say, "No, that's not me." And you know what, it would push me away from ever coming out. And I think that's a problem society is facing. Sometimes you turn on the television or you listen to the radio, or (read) the newspaper, and there's a very, very weird comment. They describe homosexuality or the character of a homosexual as a one-dimensional person who is very stereotypical, and that's not right. Stereotypes are not wrong, they are just half of the story, and yes, it did push me away from accepting myself. I don't think it's right to force someone to come out.

Q: How did your spiritual awakening play a part in the person you are today?

A: I grew up Catholic ... I respect all religions, they all have their beauty. But there was a moment in my life where I really needed to disconnect and step out of the spotlight for a while and just travel and be myself and find silence, because my life was very hectic, so I went to India ... Then I found yoga and then I started meditating, so I spent many, many months focusing every day just on mediation, and it liberated me in many ways, so that's part of me today.

Q: Do you ever wish to relive the mania of the "Livin' la Vida Loca" times?

A: It was time for me to step back ... I was giving so much that I was literally drained. Do I want that back? It was beautiful; I felt like the king of the world. I felt very powerful, but everything that I've done, I'm grateful. It's not about what happened 10 years ago, it's where I'm at today.


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