"I didn't like it at all at first," Iglesias says, sitting on a park bench behind his manager Fernan Martinez's office near downtown Miami, watching the sun set on Biscayne Bay. There are probably several million young girls who would give almost anything to be on this bench, but passing joggers barely give him a glance. "I was only 7, and I was separated frommy mother. But I got used to it." He has a brother, Julio Jose, who is an actor and model. His sister, Chabelli, is a Spanish television personality.
He started singing and writing songs as a teenager with two friends, Mario Martinelli and Roberto Morales, who played and sang in a restaurant in Miami's Little Havana district. Five songs Iglesias wrote during that period are on his first record, and three are on the second. By the time he was going to the University of Miami, he was singing at Morales' house for hours every day. It was his private world.
"It's not like I was looking for a record deal then," Iglesias says. "I did it because I loved it. I never told anyone. For me it was a getaway to sing, one of those things I didn't want anyone to screw up."
When he approached Fernan Martinez, who had earlier been his father's manager for nine years, Martinez had no idea what was coming. But when he heard Iglesias sing, Martinez knew he had something special. "He communicates," Martinez says. "He was so emotional, you could see him shaking. He expresses himself with his voice, his eyes--you see how much he believes in what he's singing."
Iglesias insisted, however, that Martinez get him signed without using his father's name. Several labels turned down the singer, whom Martinez presented as an unknown from Central America, but Guillermo Santiso, president of Los Angeles-based Fonovisa, liked the voice and the good-looking photograph.
From the beginning, the label tried to keep the focus off Iglesias' parentage, both at the young singer's insistence and out of fear that he would be dismissed as a novelty riding on his father's coattails. It was a justifiable concern. Even now people often assume that Iglesias' success is due at least in part to Julio.
"He loves his father, but he didn't want to be known as Julio's son," Martinez says. "He wanted to do it on his own. Because he thinks people will say, 'Oh, you got this because of your father.' "
Iglesias walked out of a New York radio interview when he was introduced as Julio's son, and he turned down an Oprah Winfrey show about "Sons of Famous Fathers." He quit school and signed the record contract without telling his parents; his father didn't find out until they were months into recording.
For Iglesias, this was a personal as well as a professional issue. "I've always been very independent. I don't need my dad's help. I never did. I really grew up by myself. So when it came to taking that big step, I just said, 'Well I can do it myself.' If it goes well, it goes well for me. If it goes badly, it would look even worse [if I had] my parents' help."
There have been rumors that Iglesias' success and insistence on going it alone have led to estrangement from his father, although publicly Julio (who was traveling and did not respond to several requests for comment for this story) has always said he is proud of his son's achievement.
"What has happened to him is sensational," he said of Enrique in a story last fall in the Miami Herald. "Parents hope for great things for their children, but how do you imagine such success?"
Their separation is partly a practical matter of father's and son's globe-hopping lives, but for the younger Iglesias it is also a matter of continuing to be independent. "I love my dad more than anything in this world, but when it comes to work we are so separated that it has affected us personally. My life right now is my music and my fans, and that does separate you whether you like it or not. I love doing things by myself. When I'm on tour and I look back at my band, I say, 'This is my band.' My outfit is my outfit, my manager is my manager, my career is my career. That's why I'm so separated from my father. When we get together, music is the last thing I want to talk about."
Perhaps because he recognizes the potential for tension there. "I was talking to my dad--this is why I don't like talking about music with him--and he said how much his album has sold. And I said, 'Dad, I know, but you know I'm really the Latino artist that sells the most albums now.' And he goes, 'No, I am.' And I told him, 'Dad, I triple your sales.' And he just stayed quiet. It was a funny conversation."