Ricky Martin Says He Felt "Violated" During This Barbara Walters Interview
"There's a little PTSD with that," the pop singer said of the infamous 2000 conversation.
In 2000, Ricky Martin had become an international star thanks to hit songs including "Livin' la Vida Loca" and "She Bangs." So, naturally, people were also interested in his personal life. In an in-depth interview with Barbara Walters, Martin got to share more about himself with his fans, but the conversation turned tense when the journalist asked about his sexual orientation. The singer chose not to give a definitive answer as to whether or not he was gay—he came out publicly in 2010—and the exchange left Walter feeling regret and Martin questioning his decision.
In a new interview with People for its 2021 Pride Issue, Martin opened up about the Walters interview and how it left him feeling "violated." Read on to see what the star had to say today about the uncomfortable sit-down and to find out how Walters grew to feel about her question.
Walters asked Martin about rumors regarding his sexuality.
During the 2000 interview, Walters asked Martin about rumors that he was gay, including whether the rumors "hurt" him and how he chose to handle them.
"Sexuality and homosexuality should not be a problem for anybody," Martin replied. "I think that sexuality is something that each individual should deal with in their own way. And that's all I have to say about that."
But Walters pressed on, saying that the then-29-year-old could "stop" the rumors by either directly confirming or denying them.
"I thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to express the rumors," he responded. "But Barbara, for some reason, I just don't feel like it."
Martin says now that he felt "afraid" and "violated" during the conversation.
In his recent interview with People, Martin looked back on his discussion with Walters and said, "When she dropped the question, I felt violated because I was just not ready to come out. I was very afraid." He added, "There's a little PTSD with that."
Martin also spoke to People about the difference between coming out and being forced to come out. "There are many, many kids out there that don't have someone to look up to," he said. "All they have around them is people telling them, 'What you're feeling is evil.' But, you can't force someone to come out. But 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."
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He also considers how his life would have been different if he came out during the interview.
Martin told People that "A lot of people say, what would you do differently?" in regards to the conversation with Walters. "Well, maybe I would have come out in that interview," he explained. "It would've 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."
Martin eventually came out in a statement on his website in 2010. He attributed his decision in part to being a father to his two young children. "To keep living as I did up until today would be to indirectly diminish the glow that my kids where born with," he wrote (via ABC News). "Enough is enough. This has to change. This was not supposed to happen 5 or 10 years ago, it is supposed to happen now. Today is my day, this is my time, and this is my moment."
Martin has expressed his feelings about Walters' line of questioning before.
During a 2018 appearance on Watch What Happens Live, Martin said that he "felt like [Walters] was knocking like punch after punch after punch." He added, though, that part of him wishes he came out at the time.
"It was really uncomfortable, to be honest," the singer said. "But then again, I look at it and I'm like, 'Why didn't you just say yes back then? Just say yes. Yes, I'm gay. Who cares.'" He added, "She was doing her job. Everybody was asking that question."
Walters has said that she regrets asking Martin about his sexuality.
Years after the interview aired, Walters expressed that she regretted asking Martin whether or not he was gay. In a 2006 special called 30 Mistakes in 30 Years, Walters listed asking subjects about their sexuality as one of her mistakes. After a clip of her with Martin, the journalist said, "Was that a mistake? Looking back now, it feels like one. So, mistake number five: Unless someone is openly gay and happy to talk about it, its nobody's business, including mine."
She again addressed the Martin conversation in a 2010 interview with the Toronto Star. "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," she said. "A lot of people say that destroyed his career, and when I think back on it now I feel it was an inappropriate question."
Best Life has reached out to Walters regarding Martin's new comments on their interview, but has not yet received a response.