Thursday, 1 April 2010

He bangs

Well colour me shocked. Ricky Martin is gay? Next you'll be telling me that Sean Hayes wasn't just playing one on TV. Oh, right. To be honest though, when it comes to Ricky, the clues were always there.

For instance, like 67% of all gay men, Ricky spent several years in a boyband. Admittedly, Menudo was a boyband with a difference, having been through more line-up changes than the Sugababes playing musical chairs. But at least with Menudo that was always the point.

As Latin America's most popular teenage musical group through the 70s and 80s, Menudo was created by Puerto Rican music producer Edgardo Diaz. He came up with the idea for a boyband where the members would rotate as they get older - being replaced on their sixteenth birthday, or when they grew too tall or hairy.

Rather than a homoerotic spin on the story of Sleeping Beauty, think of it like military service. In countries like Greece and Denmark, young men face mandatory conscription - in Latin America, you simply serve a couple of years in Menudo instead. And young Ricky was more than happy to be drafted.

Post-Menudo, Ricky spent the best part of a decade working as a solo artist singing predominantly in Spanish, before branching out into English. One summer smash later and the whole world was Livin' La Vida Loca. Ricky sang about waking up in a cheap New York hotel after a crazy night with a woman who took his heart and his money, arguing "She must've slipped me a sleeping pill." On reflection, it may have been rohypnol rather than Ambien.

Nonetheless, Ricky had arrived as a major pop star and was soon racking up the hits. He was even fortunate enough to team up with the 'Queen of Pop' for a duet called 'Be Careful (Cuidade con Mi Corazon)', although he found her a fearsome taskmaster. Ricky told the press that Madonna had even reduced him to tears, but that's not difficult given that she could probably make Robert Mugabe pretend he had 'something in his eye'.

With his profile higher than Lindsay Lohan at two in the morning, Ricky foolishly subjected himself to one-to-one with the grand dame of celebrity interviews Barbara Walters. Unconvinced by the rampant heterosexuality coursing through tracks like 'She Bangs', Barbara interrogated Ricky about his sexuality, only for the Latin heart-throb to clam up.

Even though she's been interviewing celebrities since Buster Keaton was a pin-up, Barbara counts her Ricky Martin interview as the biggest regret of her career. Speaking to the Toronto Star, Barbara said "In 2000, 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. A lot of people say that destroyed his career, and when I think back on it now I feel it was an inappropriate question." Barbara's egocentric viewpoint aside, Ricky's fading star probably had more to do with the fact that audiences had moved on from the cheesy Latin craze that dominated charts in the early noughties.

Since then, Ricky has had a couple of low profile releases, most notably the twins he had with a surrogate in 2008. Let's face it - if you want to squash those gay rumours, making babies in a rent-by-the-hour womb probably isn't the best way to go. Just ask Clay Aiken.

So now, Ricky has finally told the world what we already knew, announcing on his website "I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am." In a fairly lengthy open letter, he claims that now is the right time for him to tell the world about his sexuality, although it's been suggested that his timing has more to do with the pressures placed on him by his boyfriend, who is tired of skulking in the shadows.

But maybe all of this cynicism is a little unfair - the clues were there all along. As the photo above shows, Ricky's well-versed in the art of shirt-lifting. And to think, we just assumed he was showing off his abs.

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