As he graces the cover of People magazine’s annual Pride issue, singer Ricky Martin has spoken of the hidden pain caused by his “coming out” interview that he still feels more than two decades on.
It was back in 2000 when he sat down for the interview with US journalist Barbara Walters, a year after the musician had established himself as one of the few Latin stars to break into the American pop music landscape.
At the time, his relationship status was fodder for a rumour mill in overdrive – and it was talk of his sexuality that was the focus for Walters in the now-famous interview.
“Sexuality is a complicated thing,” the 49-year-old told People for the recent cover story. “It’s not black and white. It’s filled with colours. 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.”
Back then, Martin had a public history of dating women (“Lots of women”) though privately he was known to see men at the time.
Walters tried to get him to confirm the gossip.
“You could stop these rumours,” 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 said: “Well, maybe I would have come out in that interview. It would have 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 children, 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.”
This story originally appeared on NY Post and has been reproduced here with permission
Originally published as Brutal toll of star’s infamous interview