On March 29, 2010, Ricky Martin came out as gay on a post on his website. “I am very proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man,” he wrote.
As one of the first mainstream Latin music stars to come out, it was a watershed moment for Latin Pride. With Martin’s announcement, gay artists, who had long kept their sexual identities a secret, finally had a beacon of hope. If Martin could come out with his career unscathed, there was hope for other artists in Latin music to start doing the same. They shouldn’t have to compromise their personal lives for the sake of their professional livelihoods, especially when they were expressing themselves openly in their art.
Since that point, a growing number of Latin artists have either come out after years in the spotlight, or many have simply started their careers by embracing their gay identities. The latter has been the case for Mexican singer-songwriter Georgel and Mexican-American reggaetonero Solomon Ray.
“Pride means proudly knowing who you are and loving who you are with all your colors,” Georgel says. “I think Pride is mostly about visibility,” Ray adds. “I never saw myself in the media growing up. I never heard myself in music or on TV, in music videos, or anything like that. Eventually, I had to become that person, so I take pride in that because it lets me know that the next generation, they’re going to have people that they’ll be able to identify within media.”
The fact that more Latin artists are confident in their sexuality is underscored by the likes of Joy Huerta, a star as part of Jesse & Joy, who came out on social media a few months back. Or by the increasing number of videos that celebrate gay love.
“Something is going on. We are not wanting to be quiet anymore. We are stepping out of the shadows. More and more artists are coming to terms that their art has a social purpose,” Georgel says. Ray further notes a changing of the tides: “Because of visibility, because of the media, people’s opinions and their views change as well. That’s our responsibility.”
In honor of Pride Month, here are 15 defining moments from Latin LGBTQ+ artists who have moved the needle for queer representation.
1. Ricky Martin comes out as gay
Twenty-one years ago Puerto Rican heartthrob Ricky Martin led the Latin explosion with the release of his English-language self-titled album. Following a lengthy period of success in both the English and Spanish-language markets, Martin came out as gay in a post on his website in 2010. He wrote, “This kind of truth gives me the power to conquer emotions I didn’t even know existed.” His life was reflected in his art with 2010’s “Disparo al Corazón” music video, which featured a just-married gay couple.
2. Joy Huerta reveals her relationship with another woman
After over a decade of commercial and critical success as part of Mexican sibling duo Jesse & Joy, Joy Huerta opened up about her personal life on Twitter in April 2019. In the post, Huerta revealed that she was in a relationship with another woman, and the two were expecting a child together. “And even though I never thought that the love of my life would be a woman, seven years ago we met and love took us both by surprise,” Huerta wrote in Spanish. Her baby daughter Noah was born in May 2019.
— Joy (@solamentejoy) April 17, 2019
3. Pabllo Vittar breaks through
As one of the world’s most famous drag queens outside of the Rupaul’s Drag Race realm, Brazilian singer Pabllo Vittar has made a name for herself in the music since debuting in 2015. To further her reach across the globe, Vittar has collaborated with fellow Brazilian acts Anitta and Lucas Lucco along with DJ Diplo and Argentinian artist Lali Espósito on separate tracks. Recently, she teamed up with Mexican star Thalia in “Timida.” In the music video for “Paraíso” she gets very cozy with Lucco while in “Então Vai,” she makes out with Diplo. Vittar has her cake and eats it too.
4. Javiera Mena makes herself known
Since debuting in 2006 with the album Esquemas Juveniles, Chilean singer-songwriter Javiera Mena has been open about her sexuality in songs like “Sol del Invierno” and “Acá Entera” using female gender pronouns. With 2014’s Otra Era album, Mena explored more of her lesbian identity, especially in the music video for “Espalda” where she admires women in an ’80s-inspired world. Her latest release, 2018’s Espejo, took the electronica artist to the stages of the 2019 Coachella Music Festival.
5. Kany García comes out
Nearly a decade after winning Best New Artist at the Latin Grammy Awards in 2008, Puerto Rican singer-songwriter Kany García revealed around Valentine’s Day 2016 that she was in a relationship with another woman. In a previous interview with Billboard, García reflected on coming out: “I asked a friend to take care of my social media that day because I didn’t want to read anything. And she told me that absolutely every comment that came in was pure love, beginning with the 100,000 people who became fans that day.” She continued to affirm her identity on her 2019 Contra El Viento album.
6. RBD’s Christian Chávez comes out
At the height of Mexican pop group RBD’s success in 2007, member Christian Chávez came out as gay in a post on the band’s website. “Although I am scared and filled with uncertainty I know that I can rely on the support of my fans,” he wrote. “Their love is bigger than all this.” The fans and Chavéz’s colleagues in the Mexican media accepted his revelation. After RBD broke up in 2009, he went onto a solo career. 2011’s “Libertad,” which features his former bandmate and Rebelde co-star Anahí, is one of the decade’s best LGBTQ+ equality anthems in Spanish — and Chávez indulges in his best gay life in the music video.
7. Valentina’s Rent comes due
Mexican-American drag queen Valentina, who identifies as gender non-binary, made a splash on season nine of RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2017 when, in a viral moment, she refused to remove her mask during a Lip Sync For Your Life. Valentina was eliminated and later returned with a stronger showing on this year’s All-Stars spinoff. Soon after Valentina was cast in FOX’s Rent: Live TV special as Angel. She sang show-stopping numbers like “Today 4 U.” Valentina followed that with her debut single, “A Prueba De Todo,” a Latin pop bop styled after the music of her inspirations Gloria Trevi, Paulina Rubio, and Thalía.
8. Kevin Fret flexes his sexuality
The recent Latin music explosion has been led by stars of música urbana, and the subgenres of reggaeton and Latin trap music. Puerto Rican artist Kevin Fret was billed as “Latin trap’s first openly gay pioneer” by Paper Magazine in April 2018. “[Now I see] young gay guys or young lesbians that are looking at me now like a role model,” he said in an interview with them. Fret fabulously flaunted his sexuality in the music video for “Soy Así.” Sadly, he was murdered in Santurce, San Juan in January 2019.
9. Solomon Ray gives reggaeton music a gay perspective
Like Fret, Mexican-American singer Solomon Ray is an openly gay voice in música urbana, but more on the reggaeton side of the spectrum. After releasing tropical bops like “El Otro” and “Así Así,” he’s most excited about his latest single “Llama A Tu Novio” (Call Your Boyfriend) featuring Mexican designer and singer MANCANDY. “We did it for the culture and did it for the unity to show that there can be two Mexican gay reggaetoneros on one track together supporting each other,” Ray told Billboard.
10. Niña Dioz debuts
One of the rare queer and female voices in Latin hip-hop, Mexican rapper Niña Dioz made her live debut in the U.S. at South by Southwest in 2009 and followed with attitude-packed anthems that celebrate women and her queer identity. On her single “Magdalena,” a trap track with an orchestral twist, she delivers just that in English and Spanish. “Killing s–t, yeah/ Latina as f–k, yeah / Never give up,” Dioz spits.
11. Sailorfag sets sail
Starting out as a viral video sensation, Mexican artist Sailorfag’s music has taken on a more impactful meaning. Embracing his gender-nonconforming identity, he’s been getting noticed for his campy and colorful music videos for “Polo Acartonada” and “Amiga Date Cuenta.” Those visuals, tied in with his fierce flow, go against the grain of the usually masculine música urbana sound. Sailorfag especially redefines the genre with “Inventadas y Modernas,” a club banger meant for the queer crowd. “If something bothers you, over there is the exit,” he raps in Spanish.
12. Georgel’s very public wedding
Mexican artist Georgel made his live debut at last year’s L.A. Pride. Once known as a songwriter for Gloria Trevi and Chiquis Rivera, he launched his own project late last year with “Meteorito.” The music video features Georgel’s wedding footage (he is married to music executive and promoter Guillermo Rosas). “It’s so cool to see your wedding video played in so many different places and people watching it and feeling inspired,” the It Gets Better ambassador tells Billboard. “Things kind of like come back around in a positive way and it’s been truly amazing.”
13. Enter Entrópica’s androgynous world
Chilean artist Entrópica is changing the face of Latin pop music with her gender-nonconforming presence. Since debuting in 2013, she has been getting more in touch with her identity with each music video that follows. In 2018’s “SKPT,” her heavy makeup and purple suit channeled a cross between gender-bending icons David Bowie and Annie Lennox, leading Remezcla to call her “Chile’s queen of androgyny.” Entrópica’s electronic sound is just as unique, especially on the dreamy “Desde Aquí.”?
14. Esteman’s unleashes his Amor Libre
Colombian singer-songwriter Esteman launched his career in 2012 with the album 1er Acto. It was the follow-up, 2015’s Caótica Belleza, which caught the attention of the world and garnered him a nomination for best new artist at the 2016 Latin Grammy Awards. With a larger platform, Esteman has been more open about his gay identity on this year’s Amor Libre album. His love story with another man blossoms and crumbles in the music videos for the dance tracks “Noche Sensorial” and “Fuimos Amor.”
15. Alex Andwandter goes against injustice
Chilean artist Alex Andwandter is pushing the boundaries of Latin pop music to uplift the queer community and other marginalized peoples as well. Andwandter is as openly political in his songs and music videos as he is openly gay. In last year’s “Locura” video, he acknowledges that “the world is going to sh*t” and keeps on dancing until it ends. More dance moves ensue in 2011’s “Cómo Puedes Vivir Contigo Mismo?” where Andwandter highlights ball culture from the queer film classic Paris Is Burning.