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He Never Sang for His Father

Enrique Iglesias didn't get to be a second-generation Latin pop star by riding the coattails of his dad, Julio. He's too much of a jeans-and-T-shirt, do-it-yourself kind of guy.

November 23, 1997|Jordan Levin | Jordan Levin is a frequent contributor to Calendar

MIAMI — Enrique Iglesias poses reluctantly for a photograph by Biscayne Bay. "I hate having my picture taken," he grimaces. "Always. It was worse when I was a kid, because then I didn't have to. Now I have to."

He shifts his weight self-consciously, looking moody and dark, every inch the Latin heartthrob--except he's wearing jeans, a hooded sweatshirt and a baseball cap. He soon gets bored with this, and starts talking. "When I first went on television, I went like this, in jeans, and they just flipped. They said, 'You're going on like that ?' So the Latin press, they started saying I don't take showers because I don't wear a suit and tie."

An onlooker asks jokingly whether he took one that day.

"I do too take showers," Iglesias says with a laugh, suddenly the teenage boy next door. "The only time I didn't was when I used to spend the night on the beach so I could go windsurfing."

There has been a lot of picture taking for Enrique Iglesias in the past two years, and almost no windsurfing. There have been a lot of concerts, for more than 700,000 people throughout the Americas and Europe, interviews, awards shows, television appearances, magazine covers and record sales in the millions. Even for someone as familiar with the facts of stardom as the son of Latin pop icon Julio Iglesias, it has been a drastic change.

"Not long ago I was flying to Madrid, and the world champion windsurfer was in the same flight," says Iglesias, 22.

Iglesias didn't say hello. "I was too embarrassed. Windsurfers are in a different world, all they care about is windsurfing. When we got to the airport there was a lot of press, and then he looked at me like, 'Who's this guy?' If he only knew I was dying for an autograph."

He misses windsurfing--"I've always loved it, because I love being by myself"--but he loves performing even more. "My dream was always to be in front of thousands of people singing my songs."

Enrique Iglesias' rise has a kind of improbable cinematic drama: shy, neglected son of world famous pop star becomes a star himself, even threatening to outshine his father.

The younger Iglesias' first album didn't just come out, it exploded. Released in 1995, it has sold almost 6 million copies, according to his label, Fonovisa, and the first five singles held the top spot on Billboard's Latin pop charts for 26 consecutive weeks. U.S. sales, according to SoundScan, are 380,000.

"Vivir," released in January, has sold more than 4.5 million (274,000 in U.S. SoundScan figures) and had three consecutive No. 1 songs on the Latin chart. He has inspired Beatlemania-style adoration from legions of Latinas. His first Southland area show, at the 12,000-seat Pond of Anaheim last May, sold out in hours. On his current world tour, which will bring him to the Forum on Friday, he has been playing for audiences ranging from 20,000 to 46,000 in Spain and Latin America.

Earlier this year he won a Grammy Award for best Latin pop performer, and he has been on television everywhere from David Letterman to the Miss Universe pageant. (He will appear on "The Tonight Show" on Monday.) In an astonishingly short time, he has become one of the biggest stars in Latin music.

"I can't think of another case where an artist has broken out so big and so quickly," says John Lannert, Latin and Caribbean music editor for Billboard magazine.

Pio Ferro, programming director at KLVE (107.5 FM), L.A.'s top-rated Spanish-language station, cites a number of factors in Iglesias' success: romantic, hook-laden songs, heavy promotion, his good looks, and coming out at a time when audiences were ready for an alternative to longtime reigning pop idol Luis Miguel.

"You always need someone who can say, 'Yeah, but there's also me.' That's a big reason why Enrique worked--he was timed just right."

But Ferro echoes Lannert in noting a less definable element at work, which had teenage girls calling the station professing fatal illness to get an Enrique Iglesias concert ticket. "It's not just hype--he's a phenomenon," Ferro says. "With just two albums he is probably as hot as his dad was in his heyday. I don't think we'll have another Enrique for another decade. The last one we had was called Luis Miguel."

Perhaps the root of the phenomenon is in Iglesias' own desire. He wanted to be a singer so very much.

The youngest of three children of Julio Iglesias and Madrid-based socialite Isabel Preysler, Enrique Iglesias was sent as a child to live with his father in Miami because of security concerns after his grandfather was kidnapped, and because his parents wanted him to learn English. With his father constantly touring, he was raised by his nanny, Elvira Olivares. (His first record is dedicated to her.)

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