Ricky Martin is opening up about that time Barbara Walters tried outing him in an interview 21 years ago and he’s not holding back.
Speaking to People, the 49-year-old singer says he felt “violated” by the iconic journalist’s line of questioning and that he still suffers from PTSD from the whole thing.
During the 2000 interview, Walters confronted Martin about the gossip surrounding his sexuality at the time and said he could “stop these rumors” by, oh, you know, coming out to her right then and there.
“You could say, ‘Yes I am gay or no I’m not,'” the then-ABC anchor nudged in a transparent effort to try and make news.
To which a visibly uncomfortable Martin replied, “Barbara, for some reason, I just don’t feel like it.”
“When she dropped the question, I felt violated because I was just not ready to come out. I was very afraid,” Martin tells People, adding he still feels “a little PTSD with that.”
He adds, “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. 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 did come out as gay in 2010 after several years or dodging questions about his sexuality and dating women. (Martin was in a long-term relationship with TV presenter Rebecca de Alba from 1995 to 2002.)
“Sexuality is one complicated thing,” he says. “It’s not black and white. It’s filled with colors. 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.”
Speaking to the Toronto Star in 2010, Walters said she regretted the way she interrogated Martin during their interview.
“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.”
“There are many, many kids out there that don’t have someone to look up to,” Martin says. “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.”
Graham Gremore is the Features Editor and a Staff Writer at Queerty. Follow him on Twitter @grahamgremore.