How has time treated some of the young Latino and Latina stars that defined a generation? From lawsuits to game shows to mini-strokes, take a look at what’s become of some of the headline makers from the past.
Gerardo Mejía, 47, “Rico Suave” smooth talker
Ecuadorian rapper Gerardo Mejía rose to fame with his hit single “Rico Suave” in 1990. The song reached #7 on the Billboard charts of 1991 and ranked #100 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of the 90s. You may not have seen much of the self-described “Latin Elvis” these days, but that doesn’t mean he’s taken a break from music. As A&R executive at Interscope Records, he brought superstar Enrique Iglesias to the attention of Interscope executives in early 1999. He left the label to become Vice President of Artists and Repertoire at Impact Entertainment Inc. The rapper made headlines last year when he sued Lady Gaga’s musical director Fernando Garibay, claiming he was cheated out of millions of dollars.
Menudo, Latin teen pop sensations
Before ‘N Sync or the Backstreet Boys, there was Menudo. The popular Puerto Rican boy band of the 80s captured the hearts of teenage girls across the globe. Menudo’s most famous alumnus is Ricky Martin, who got his start in the group in 1984. As part of founder Edgardo Díaz’s vision, members of the band cycled out when their voice changed or when they reached the age of sixteen. Beginning in 1977, Menudo went through 33 singers.
Of the group’s original members, some have gone on to careers outside of the music industry. Ricky Meléndez, the voice of the hit “Y Yo No Bailo,” lives in San Juan and practices corporate and real estate law at Pietrantoni, Mendez and Alvarez LLP. Johnny Lozada hosts the Univision breakfast television show “¡Despierta América!” Fernando Sallaberry, soloist on 1979’s “Chiquitita,” suffers from neuromuscular disease and is confined to a wheelchair.
In 2007, a MTV reality television series called Making Menudo sought to remake the band, with 15 contestants competing for a spot in the band. The group disbanded in early 2009.
Nelson Ned, 65, Bolero serenader
Nelson Ned was born on March 2, 1947, in Ubá Brazil. Though born with dwarfism, the Brazilian crooner never shied away from the stage, performing for the first time at age 5. He debuted his first song, “Tamanho Não É Documento” (loosely, “Size Doesn’t Matter”), in 1968. The same year, his song “Todo Pasara” won the I Festival de la Canción in Buenos Aires. Throughout the late 70s he continued to compose bolero and romantic music, selling more than 40 million albums in 40 countries.
In 1993, Ned converted to Christianity and began to concentrate on evangelic music. In 2004, he suffered a stroke which paralyzed the right side of his body and confined him to a bed for 7 months. After recovering, he returned to singing. “I have to work,” he said. “I live comfortably but I am not a millionaire.” From 2006-2007, Ned was a judge on the Mexican reality show “Cantando por un Sueño,” (“Singing for a Dream”) which he quit after his pupils were criticized.
Juan Gabriel, 62, Mexican icon
Six-time Grammy nominee Juan Gabriel was born on January 7, 1950 in Parácuaro, Mexico, the youngest of ten. He composed his first song, “La muerte del palomo” (Death of the Pigeon), at the age of 13. Struggling to find singing work, he changed his birth name, Alberto Aguilera Valadez, to Adam Luna and began to work in the night clubs of downtown Juárez. Once he moved to Mexico City, he changed his name again, and recorded his first hit, “No Tengo Dinero” (I Have No Money), as Juan Gabriel. Over the next 14 years, he became an international sensation, selling 30 million copies of his albums worldwide. He is still singing and, in 2003, recorded an album with Banda el Rocodo. In March 20111, he traveled to Latin America cities for his “Tour 40 Años de Trayectoria Artística.” (Tour of 40 years of an artistic trajectory) and in May 2012 released a 13-song album of his greatest hits, entitled “Celebrating 40.”
Alfonso Ribeiro, 47, The “Carlton” dance
Best known for his role as Carlton Banks on the show “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” with Will Smith, Alfonso Ribeiro is a grandson of the late Trinidadian “Roaring Lion,” a king of Calypso music. Ribeiro got his start at the age of 8 on the Broadway musical “The Tap Dance Kid.” The next year he danced in one of Michael Jackson’s Pepsi commercials. He went on to play Carlton on “Fresh Prince” for the next six years. Today, you can catch him on the Game Show Network hosting a blackjack game show called Catch 21.
Los del Río, “Macarena” mega-stars
Los del Río, made up of singers Antonio Romero Monge and Rafael Ruiz, spawned a worldwide dance craze with their hit single “Macarena” in 1994. Both singers come from Dos Hermanas, Sevilla and were known throughout the south of Spain early on in the 60s. The band continues to sing and, in April 2012, they released a new album called “Vamanos Que Nos Vamos.”
Robert Trujillo, 48, heavy metal rocker
Mexican-American Robert Trujillo joined the metal band Metallica as a bassist in 2003. Trujillo began his career with the band Suicidal Tendencies in 1989 then went on to join Infectious Grooves and Ozzy Osbourne’s band. An avid surfer, he continues to play for Metallica and the band will soon begin a worldwide tour in February 2013 with their first stop in Australia.
Dayanara Torres, 38, Beauty queen
Discovered on the streets of her Puerto Rican hometown, Dayanara Torres was crowned Miss Universe at only 18 years old. After winning the crown, Torres became immensely popular in the Philippines, moving to the country for five years and learning the native language, Tagalog. She has appeared in several films, including “Hataw Na” (“Dance Now”) and “The Nail: The Story of Joey Nardone.” In 1997 she released “Antifaz,” her first and only album.
Most recently, Torres has written a self-help book penned after her split with singer Marc Anthony entitled “Married To Me: How Committing To Myself Led to Triumph After Divorce.” In 2012, Torres was hospitalized in Los Angeles for intestinal problems.
Susie Castillo, 33, TRL VJ
In 2003, Susie Castillo won the Miss USA Pageant, kick-starting her entertainment career. In 2007, she hosted MTV’s TRL (Total Request Live). Since her MTV days Castillo has starred in hit shows like “My Wife and Kids,” “Castle” and “House of Payne.” Most recently, she is the host and interior designer for NBC’s reality show “School Pride,” which helps to give neglected public schools a face-lift.
Frankie Muñiz, 27, “Malcom” in the race car
Frankie Muñiz went from being the child star in the hit sitcom, “Malcom in the Middle,” to a career in racing. During his “Malcolm” years, Muñiz was nominated for an Emmy and two Golden Globes. He starred in several films, including “My Dog Skip,” “Big Fat Liar” and “Agent Cody Banks.” Most recently, he has made cameo appearances in the television shows “Don’t Trust the B– in Apartment 23” and “Criminal Minds.” Muñiz now spends most of his time as an open-wheel racer and as a drummer for the band Kingsfoil. Most recently, he made headlines because he had a minor heart attack at such a young age, which turned out to raise awareness about heart disease. He is doing just fine now.
Las Ketchup, condiments craze
In 2002, Las Ketchup sisters Lola, Pilar and Lucía took over the radio waves with the single “Aserejé” (The Ketchup song) in the Album, “Las Hijas del Tomate” which sold over 12 million copies. In 2006, the fourth sister joined the group and they debuted their second album, “Un Blodymary” (A Bloody Mary). Six years later, the sisters have returned for a 10th anniversary world tour of club performances and TV appearances. They are also recording a new album to be released in 2013.