Ricky Martin
photo: Corbis, iStock

If Gloria Estefan’s success in the 80s made waves for Latino artists in the U.S., then Ricky Martin was the tsunami of the 90s, with hits like “The Cup of Life” and “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” The international superstar turns 44 today and he is the gift that keeps on giving. So in honor of his special day, we’ve decided to list all of the reasons Ricky is the perpetual gift under our holiday tree.

1

His killer music catalogue

We grew up with Ricky Martin’s music. After leaving Menudo and completing high school, Martin returned to music with his self-titled debut album in 1988. But we especially loved “Vuelve,” for which he won the Best Latin Pop Performance Grammy in 1998.

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2

That Grammy’s performance, tho

At that same Grammy Award ceremony, Martin shut it down with the performance of his song “The Cup of Life” in English. According to the HBO Documentary The Latin Explosion, he was the first Latino to perform live on the show and that is when most of our non-Latino friends got their first real taste of his talents.

3

He's made us dance since we were kids

While the Grammys may have been the first time that most of the country had heard of Martin, we already knew all about his high-energy tunes. "Maria" is SUCH a Zumba song.

4

He's the original hips that don't lie

If the world didn’t know about Martin after the Grammys performance, they certainly did after “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” which topped the charts in 1999 and opened the doors for our other favorites like Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez to join the party.

5

He’s fluent in spanglish

While “Livin’ La Vida Loca” pretty much cemented his U.S. takeover, he had already experienced international success in the 80s as a member of Puerto Rican boy band Menudo, which also sang in English.

6

He's got the romance thing down to a tee

Just as he gave the U.S. audience some hip-shaking jams, he turned around and softened things up with a few love songs like "She's All I Ever Had."

7

He switches it up

Just because he began playing in the American market didn't mean that he would be gone from Latin pop forever. He returned to his roots with more classics like "Tal Vez."

8

He can act on more than one stage

Martin had a stint on General Hospital in 1994 playing the character Miguel. He later took his talents to Broadway by joining the cast of Les Miserables as Marius in 1996. You can see him in action here.

9

He has collaborated with some of our favorite Latinas

In 2001, he collaborated with Christina Aguilera in a Spanish and English version of his song “Nobody Wants to be Lonely” and joined Jennifer Lopez in steamy scenes for the song they did with Wisin called “Adrenalina.”

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10

He uses his platform to tell real stories

Ricky Martin also worked with telenovela actress Kate del Castillo in the emotional music video for "Fuego de Noche, Nieve de Día," which showed the heartbreaking effects of mental illness on a romantic relationship.

11

He knows how to work the ‘gram

On a visit to The Ellen DeGeneres Show this year, Ricky confessed that he is “obsessed with social media.” You’ll find a lot of selfies on his Instagram account that are more than easy on the eyes. Besides selfies and pictures of him on the road, Martin also posts pics of his favorite shoes. So if you’re a sneakerhead, you need to follow him for inspiration, ASAP.

12

His concerts still make us feel like we’re 15

Members of the studio audience went “Oprah’s Favorite Things”-level crazy when Ellen announced that everyone would receive free tickets to an upcoming concert.

13

He’s living his truth

Ricky Martin spent many years struggling with self-acceptance and coming to terms with who he really was. He was finally ready in 2010, when he revealed that he was gay in a note to his fans. He gave his first television interview after the announcement on Oprah, where he went on to promote his memoir, Me. When asked why he made the decision, he said his children were his motivation.

14

He’s a dedicated father

Martin took a year off from his career when his sons Matteo and Valentino were born. When it was time for him to go back on the road, he refused to leave his sons behind, telling Wendy Williams that he went against advice of keeping them in one place because he believed that he – not a location – was the stability that his kids needed.

15

He gives back

In addition to volunteering with organizations like Habitat for Humanity and raising awareness for HIV/AIDS with the MAC AIDS Fund, Martin gives back through his Ricky Martin Foundation, an organization he formed to help the fight against human trafficking. One of its contributions was supporting the creation of Centro Tau in Puerto Rico – a community center for at-risk children and youth in a marginalized region of the country.

16

He pays it forward

Today, Ricky Martin is helping to guide our next generation of stars by participating as a judge on the Australian and Mexican editions of The Voice. He’s also joined forces with Laura Pausini and Alejandro Sanz on Univision’s La Banda, to build the next big boy band.