He's back for The Voice, but last time pop sensation Ricky Martin was in Australia, he had a career and personal crisis that changed everything. Showing off his twin boys, the Latin heart-throb and single dad tells Caroline Overington how fatherhood has changed him — and how he wants to save the world, one child at a time.
There are some people, most of them young, who believe that fame will make them happy. No lessons from history will convince them otherwise.
The Latin American superstar, Ricky Martin — in Australia this year to take Keith Urban’s role as a coach on the popular talent show, The Voice — was for a time one of those people.
"It didn’t matter what I had to go through — leaving home at the age of 12, not seeing family or friends — as long as at the end of the day I could be on stage," Ricky tells The Weekly.
For almost two decades, everything was fine. Ricky essentially lived on stage, often playing to adoring audiences of tens of thousands, and he was happy. Then, in 2000 — which, by chance, was when Ricky was last in Australia — the bubble burst.
"I was here on stage and I was like 'Yeah!'," he says, "but no ... I wasn’t feeling it." Worse, he wasn't feeling much of anything and for an artist capable on a good day of lifting the stadium roof, that was alarming.
“I knew something was wrong,” he says. “I was due in South America — a large concert in Buenos Aires — and I cancelled. I went home.”
That was 13 years ago. Ricky was then just 28 — still so young in the scheme of things — and there is a risk in telling this story that he will come across as petulant. So he was rich and famous, and had glorious good looks — but it wasn’t enough? That’s a First World problem.
Yet, hear him out. Ricky, now 41, has worked hard this past decade, not on stage, but off, not for himself, but for others, particularly poor girls at risk of being sold into the sex trade in Calcutta, India, in Thailand and after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
He has found, in the process, a measure of peace. The Ricky Martin who came to Australia in the year 2000 was an international superstar, true, but he was also a confused and often lonely, somewhat uncertain person.
The Ricky Martin we’re about to see on The Voice — his hand outstretched, his smile genuine as he welcomes talented young Australians into his team — is very much different. He’s a humbler person, a happier person, one might even say he’s complete.
He return to Australia a father, bringing his twins, born in 2008: Matteo ("gift of God") and Valentino ("the valiant one").
"I wanted to stand from the rooftop and scream the great news to the world," Ricky says of the day he became a father.
He is returning to Australia for about eight weeks for the live shows after Easter (a special souvenir compilation of his greatest hits will be released) and "yes, my kids are obviously coming [back]. My partner will be here and my support system is very solid, and I know my kids will be fine". The first time Ricky was in Australia, he missed his children so much he brought them back with him in March.
They will have to take some more time out of their New York school, but given that Ricky’s children can read and write, can speak English, Spanish and French, and can locate Australia on Google Maps on their iPad — and they are only four — that’s probably not a problem.
"Every father thinks their children are special," Ricky says, "but it gives me goose bumps how special they are!" He returns to Australia in a good place, professionally and personally.
"It was here that it happened, that I woke up to what I needed to do," he says. "It was life-changing and I am happy to be back."
Read more of this story in the April issue of The Australian Women's Weekly.