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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ricky Martin Said It, Now Who'll Follow?

Editorial by Mark Mayhey reporting from London, UK

Ricky Martin with his sons Valentino and Matteo who inspired him to come out
Ricky Martin with his sons
Valentino and Matteo who inspired him to come out
Well, it's finally ended years of speculation.

Puerto Rican pop star Ricky Martin has announced he is gay, ending the question marks over his sexuality. He said on his website that he felt "blessed to be who he was".

With one short statement yesterday, Latin pop star Martin - who has sold more than 60 million albums in a career spanning three decades according to the BBC News site - finally confirmed what has been widely rumoured for years: he is gay. "I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man," the 38 year old said in a blog posting written in both Spanish and English on his website.

As news spread of Martin's announcement, his website crashed after hundreds of people logged on to write comments of support to the pop star, and his coming out immediately became a top trending topic on Twitter.

Martin never directly addressed it and was usually photographed at events – and in his film clips - with beautiful women on his arm. In 2000, US television journalist Barbara Walters grilled him about whether he was gay, but he refused to disclose it.

So, why disclose it now?

The singer said one of the reasons why he kept his homosexuality hidden was because he was told by some in his entourage that it would hurt his career.

His US career peaked after the release of his 1999 self-titled English album, so it's all rather nice, but I can't help thinking its all some marketing ploy to raise interest in Martin's new book, which he says helped him to free "things that were too heavy to keep inside".

Call me a cynic.

In his posting yesterday, Martin said a few months ago he had decided to write a memoir and doing so brought him closer to what he called "an amazing turning point in my life."

However, the singer also said his two sons inspired him to come out. Martin is raising Matteo and Valentino, who were born via surrogacy in 2008, on his own at his home in Puerto Rico.

Yet, whatever the singer's own professional or personal reasons, having a high profile singer in the Latin community come out is a big thing. Jarrett Barrios, the president of the Gay, Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation organisation in the US has supported Martin's decision to openly admit his homosexuality.

"When someone like Ricky Martin comes out, hundreds of millions of people now have a cultural connection with an artist, a celebrity and, perhaps most importantly, a father who happens to be gay," Mr Barrios said. "His decision to model this kind of openness and honesty can lead to greater acceptance for countless gay people in US, in Latin America and worldwide."

It'll be interesting to keep an eye out in the Turkish community (where Tarkan was once labelled the Ricky Martin of the East) and see which - if any - singers will follow suit there.

Although homosexuality is not a criminal offence in Turkey, and many singers can lead an openly gay lifestyle, no one has yet to come out and say it.

Now that Martin finally has, who's next?

The views in this article are those of the author alone.
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