A decade before he decided to come out as gay, singer Ricky Martin was put on the spot by journalist Barbara Walters in a 2000 television interview in which she told him he could “stop these rumors” about his sexuality with a simple yes or no.
“There’s a little PTSD with that,” the 49-year-old told People in a new cover story published Wednesday, the second day of Pride Month 2021.
Martin described how he felt during the chat: “When she dropped the question, I felt violated because I was just not ready to come out. I was very afraid.”
The “Livin’ la Vida Loca” singer eventually came out in March 2010, announcing in an open letter on his website that he was “proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man.” He noted that continuing to live without acknowledging his sexual orientation “would be to indirectly diminish the glow” that came with the twin boys he had welcomed two years earlier via surrogate.
“These years in silence and reflection made me stronger,” he wrote in the letter, “and reminded me that acceptance has to come from within, and that this kind of truth gives me the power to conquer emotions I didn’t even know existed.”
Since then, Martin has married painter Jwan Yosef, with whom he’s welcomed two more kids, a girl and a boy.
Talking about the Walters interview, Martin told People, “A lot of people say, what would you do differently? Well, maybe I would have come out in that interview. It would’ve been great because when I came out, it just felt amazing.”
Martin has discussed the Walters moment before, including in 2018 on Andy Cohen’s “Watch What Happens Live.”
“I, um, have you seen that video? It’s horrible,” he told the host and his audience, sitting on the couch next to Milo Ventimiglia. “I felt that she was knocking, like, punch after punch after punch. It was really uncomfortable, to be honest.”
The singer said that in 2000 he “didn’t say yes, I didn’t say no, and I just left it open for everyone to think what they wanted to think.” But looking back, he wonders why he didn’t just confirm the rumors.
“Why didn’t I say yes back then?” he said to Cohen. “Just say yes, yes, I’m gay, who cares?”
Now, he told People, he thinks it’s vital that he discuss his sexuality.
“I want to talk about what I’m made of, about everything that I am,” Martin said. “Because if you hide it, it’s a life-or-death situation.”