Ricky Martin felt 'violated' when Barbara Walters asked him to clear up gay rumors on national TV
"I was very afraid. There's a little PTSD with that," said the pop star.
Twenty years after arriving on the pop culture scene, Ricky Martin is "livin' la vida loca." A dad to four kids, he's about to release a new album called Play, and in the fall he'll tour with Enrique Iglesias.
Martin officially came out in 2010 and ever since, the pop star has been living his truth. (He's been married to Syrian-Swedish artist Jwan Yosef since 2017.) But in an interview with PEOPLE, Martin reveals that in the years before announcing his sexuality, he dealt with intense anxiety and confusion — especially when it came to the media.
In 2000, Martin appeared in an interview with Barbara Walters at the height of his fame. During their talk, the host asked point blank if the rumors regarding Martin's sexuality were true, encouraging him multiple times to come out and put the rumors to rest.
"When she dropped the question, I felt violated because I was just not ready to come out. I was very afraid," Martin told PEOPLE. "There's a little PTSD with that."
At the time, Martin brushed off the question as he best he could. But decades later, the memory still haunts him.
"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, who came out 10 years after the interview, said when reflecting on the experience. "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."
As someone who is now out and comfortable, Martin notes that an absence of LGBTQ mentorship in his younger years — combined with the intense fame spotlight — contributed to the feelings that led him to hide his sexuality for so many years.
"There are many, many kids out there that don't have someone to look up to. All they have around them is people telling them, 'What you're feeling is evil,'" Martin told People. 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."