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BIOGRAPHY

Enrique Iglesias

BIOGRAPHY | GALLERY | GOSSIP

Enrique Iglesias remembers visiting Las Vegas as a youngster.

"I just remember a lot of lights and big rooms," he says of the Caesars Palace environment that's been like a second home to his famous father, Julio Iglesias.

Enrique Iglesia

In November 1997, the younger Iglesias got a taste of that star treatment himself. Performing at the MGM Grand Garden arena, the hotel's penthouse suites marked "the first time I'd seen that they had a suite with an elevator (to get from the first floor to the second)."

So he can see how his dad may have been spoiled?
"I can see how any artist would get spoiled," he says.
But Iglesias says that to have grown up around that environment is not the motivation to get into the music business that some might think.

"You've seen it all, to tell the truth," he says. "You don't really do it for the money, you just do it because you love it. I think, in the end, the artists who do well don't do it for the money."

In just three years, the 24-year-old Iglesias has done quite well. Three platinum albums -- all sung in Spanish -- have established him as a balladeer with a career surpassing his father's in the short run, and showing the potential for the same kind of long-term longevity.

Since his debut album was released in late 1995, Iglesias also has helped transform Latin radio stations, scoring 11 No. 1 singles on Billboard's Hot Latin Tracks chart ("Nunca Te Olvidare" currently holds the top spot).
"It was hard for me to get on the radio in places like Miami because the listeners were not young people," he notes. "They'd say, `You're 18 or 19 years old, no one's going to listen to your style of music because they're not into that."


Enrique Iglesia

And Iglesias could sympathize. He was one of those young people himself. "I really didn't (listen to Latin radio). You know why? I would turn on the radio and all I would listen to was 40-, 50- and 60-year-old artists.
"OK, good, there was nothing wrong with them, but they'd been there for so many years and you didn't hear any of the young stuff, you know? You didn't hear any of the younger people. Radio knew that the listeners were older people, but they were older people because they would always play older people."


Iglesias knew "that type music had to be updated." But, perhaps ironically, he felt his famous surname would hurt him more than help him.

The singer was born in Madrid, Spain, but grew up at his father's Miami estate after his father and Filipina mother, Isabel Preysler, divorced in 1979. He first started singing and trying to write songs with two older friends when he was 15.

After he decided to drop out of the University of Miami to pursue show business, he chose his dad's manager -- Fernan Martinez -- but not his father's name. He swore Martinez to secrecy and had him shop demo recordings of his songs under the name Enrique Martinez.

"I didn't tell anyone because it was songs I had been writing since I was 14," he says. "It was almost like my own diary, I put music to it. I don't know, I just kind of felt it was my own little thing."

Three major Latin labels turned him down. Finally the smaller Fonovisa label signed him on the music's merits, only gradually revealing the singer's lineage to the public.

People like to compare Enrique's success to his father's. But Enrique notes that comparisons are unfair because the music industry has changed so much in the past 15 years.

Enrique Iglesia

Julio, 55, was never famous in the United States until his 1984 duet with Willie Nelson, "To All the Girls I've Loved Before." Today, he wouldn't have to sing in English -- as his son has proved. "When my dad started ... Latino music wasn't as big in the U.S," he says. "But now, you have 30 million Spanish-speaking people in the U.S."

And a lot of them are second generation, just like Enrique. "They grew up in the U.S. and they speak more English (than Spanish), but they still get into our music."

He notes that McDonald's is a sponsor for his current tour. "They notice that 30 percent of the people that buy McDonald's are Hispanic."
When interviewed earlier this week, Iglesias already knew that Heftel Broadcasting Corp. -- the owner of Spanish-language stations around the country -- recently bought KISF-FM 103.5 in Las Vegas, and will soon make it the first Spanish station on the FM dial.

"It will definitely make a big difference," he says. So far, touring has been limited to cities with Hispanic populations, and so it tends to focus on the two coasts and Southern border cities. This week, Iglesias was in Miami filming a video to a song, "Bailamos," that will be his first with English lyrics. He's calling the song "a bonus track," meaning that it might be more to test the waters than a major push for a crossover hit that is still one of his goals.

"When you talk about English it's a whole different world," he says. "To have an English hit in the U.S., I mean give me a break. English is English. ... You can survive with Latin music but an English hit is an English hit."
So far, Iglesias has steered clear of the "Frank Sinatra Jr. syndrome" of being cast as a younger version of his father, despite designations such as the Spanish version of People magazine naming him "The Sexiest Man in the World" last year. "I'm not a swingin' playboy guy, trust me," he says.
"I don't think you can actually market a heartthrob. It either becomes or it doesn't become. To tell you the truth, I hate that word -- heartthrob," he repeats with disgust.

Enrique Iglesia

However, there's no need to be too uptight about things either. He remembers the Hard Rock's casino being "full of young women" during his last visit. "That's like a major party there. I don't mind that for a few days."
Asked if his celebrity would prevent him from being able to move around in such surroundings without causing a scene, he answered with a laugh, "If there's women you can move around."

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