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Grooming: Marcos Carrasquillos
Styling: Jhon Santos
In 2017, Luis Alfonso Rodríguez López-Cepero—aka Latin superstar Luis Fonsi—took the world by storm with the release of his hit song, “Despacito.” While this was by no means Fonsi’s first hit single, it marked one of the most significant Latin crossovers to mainstream music of all time. Not only did it become the song of the year—particularly gaining attention when he, Justin Bieber and Daddy Yankee collaborated to create the “Despacito” remix, but it also won four Latin GRAMMY Awards, seven Billboard Latin Music Awards, five Billboard Music Awards and three GRAMMY Award nominations. Moreover, he broke seven Guinness World Records, selling more than 11 million records as of 2018, and in 2019, “Despacito” became the most-watched YouTube video of all time, streaming over 6.5 billion views.
Fonsi is eternally grateful for the success that “Despacito” brought him and the effect it had on Latin music’s recognition and popularity all over the world, but he explains that it more or less did not change him. “There is a side to me that didn’t change at all because I found this song. I came across it. I created it 18 years into my career, so it wasn’t my first hit,” he explains. “It wasn’t like ‘Hey, I’m going to start singing, and I’m going to record an album and, boom, I run into this massive hit. I had already been through a lot of ups and downs, success and failures. “So now, I can appreciate the fact that I have this beautiful blessing and can enjoy it,” he continues. “But it hasn’t changed me—I’m still the same dorky guy who puts in the work and wakes up every morning trying to write songs to this day. I have performed in stadiums and theatres, and I treat every song with the same respect, before or after ‘Despacito.’”
That being said, the result that occurred after the release of this massive hit is truly significant for Fonsi and fellow Latin musicians around the world. “What did change is that there were new fans from all different parts of the world, who wanted to hear Latin music and get to know who I am. So I am sort of a new artist for some people, and for others, they’ve known me for a while,” he shares. “It’s refreshing and doesn’t frustrate me at all. It’s actually kind of cool. It’s like going back to school, but you already went through it, so you can enjoy all the little things you did, like the first interviews.”
Photo Credit: TAMZ
As we’re speaking to Fonsi at our cover shoot at PARAMOUNT Miami Worldcenter in the heart of Downtown, he looks fresh-faced, relaxed and happy. He’s professional, grateful and easy-going to everyone he encounters. You’d never know that he was making a quick stop in between his massive world tour, Vida (named after his GRAMMY-nominated album for Best Latin Pop Album), that had taken place throughout Europe all summer. We were lucky enough to catch him right before he left to continue the tour throughout North America. “We started touring about two and a half months ago,” he shares. “Most of the shows were in Europe, and it’s been so fun to be able to break that language and cultural barrier that has previously existed. It felt as though we were a bit separated before, whereas now, Latin music has really crossed over to the whole world. I am so proud to be part of this beautiful movement.
“The tour is named after my album, Vida, which means life,” he adds.
“And it’s probably the album that took me the longest to finish. Every time I start writing for an album, it’s like a new search where you go out and have to find your direction. The process is fun because you don’t really know what you’re looking for, and you’re hoping you’ll trip or run against something to help figure it out along the way.”
Although his career has certainly enveloped him in a whirlwind of success, causing him to travel throughout the world, meeting new fans and faces every day, he will never forget where he came from—and that is his beloved home country, Puerto Rico.
“I go back home to Puerto Rico very often, which is where the dream began,” he shares. “Now, I go back with a different perspective and with even more love and appreciation, and I’m more thankful than ever that because of this place, I was able to grow and become an international star. I see things through a different lens now.”
And of course, it is imperative to him to give back to the land he owes so much to. Following the devastation of the island from the destruction of Hurricane Maria, the Luis Fonsi Foundation was born.
“Twenty years later since I moved away from Puerto Rico, I wanted to give back to the community as much as I can, which is why I started my [501(c)(3) nonprofit] foundation, the Luis Fonsi Foundation,” he explains. “I was in the middle of my U.S. tour when Hurricane Maria hit, and I felt so helpless not being able to physically be there and help out my country. Through the foundation, we have helped build houses, schools and hospitals, doing all kinds of work to better the community, and I’m very proud of the work we’ve done.”
Photo Credit: TAMZ
In addition to his own foundation, Fonsi also has served as a spokesperson for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for 15 years.
“A long time ago, when I first started singing, I started doing these galas and fundraising events,” he says. “It wasn’t until I went to Memphis [Tenn.], which is where the hospital is, that I was really moved by the work they did, how they took care of the patients and the progress they were making on the research side. To me, it was super important to be a voice for them and get the Latino community involved to raise money. And I hope one day, we won’t even have to talk about cancer.”
It’s clear that Fonsi has a deep philanthropic side, but what truly drew him to the foundation was the kids.
“I’ve always had this sort of connection to kids, and this was way before I was a father. Just seeing what they go through and what their parents go through really spoke to me. I felt that we all had to go out there and be better for them. There’s so much technology at our hands. Let’s keep working to find a cure. I’m such an optimist about this,” he maintains. “I really do think we’re getting close and one day we can look back and say, ‘Oh remember… ’ Just through one dollar, two dollars—we can all do a little to make a big impact.”
If there’s one thing that’s clear from talking with Fonsi, it’s that he is a go-getter. He works hard and he does so much for others, constantly staying on the move and remaining regimented and
dedicated. But everyone has their guilty pleasures, and we were curious to know what his are.
“You know, I’m a guy,” he laughs with a big grin on his face. “I’m a watch guy. I’m a sneaker guy. I love my [Air] Jordans—I think it says a lot about a person when you say, ‘Hey, that’s a special edition.’ It dictates that it’s tougher to get, and there’s thought put behind it. I’m always checking out new drops,” he adds. “I love cars; I love boats. I think music and fashion go hand in hand. If it looks good, feels good, wear it.”
Photo Credit: TAMZ
He also boasts an admirable watch collection, which is a passion that was passed down to him by his father.
“I love watches. I think a watch says so much about a person,” he shares. “For me, it’s like you can have the fanciest shoes on, but the thing about watches is that you can just wear raggedy jeans and a white T-shirt and have a sexy watch on, and it just brings it all together. I get it from my dad, who was always a big watch lover.
“Hublot has always spoken to me as a brand—it’s that perfect combination of elegance and sexiness and rock star. The first big investment I ever made, when I got money when I was first starting out, is the watch I walked in wearing today to the photo shoot,” he laughs.
“The Big Bang, which is one of their signature timepieces,” he adds about his watch. “This was 15 years ago, and I’ve gotten more watches since, but I still wear this watch and look down at it, and it gives me a special feeling because I know I worked extra hard for it.”
However, Fonsi asserts that the ultimate luxury is, to him, without question, family.
“There’s a million things I can think of when you say ultimate luxury, but it’s pretty clear that it’s family. Those two little faces make all kinds of sense. Family is what keeps me going in life,” he maintains.
Photo Credit: TAMZ
Fonsi is referring to his two children—his daughter, Mikaela, 8, and son, Rocco, 3—whom he had with his wife, Águeda López. They currently reside in Miami with many of his other family members, but often travel with him when schedules allow for it.
On the subjects of fatherhood and marriage, Fonsi warms up even more than usual.
“Fatherhood and being a husband just gives you a sort of purpose,” he shares. “Before that—especially before being a father—when I was single and didn’t have any kids, it was all about me—how I’m going to perform, have a career, what I’m going to invest in, where I will find success, and so forth. And then all of a sudden, you see this little, beautiful girl that’s born and she looks up at you, and you know now that you have a purpose, you have reason for this life and someone is relying on you.
“When it comes to being a father, I have my eye on the prize all the time because it’s all about them now,” he continues. “If I’m tired or sick, I know that I still have to go out there and put on a show. Forget about me—I have to go out there and kill it for them. I always feel that I have something constantly pushing me from the back. It’s not a physical push, but emotional. It’s really nice. It works out because I want to be better for them, and have them be proud of me when they’re older. The picture becomes a lot more clear when you’re blessed enough to have a family.” Even though Fonsi’s schedule demands a hectic travel schedule from him,
he makes sure that family is always his No. 1 priority, bringing them along with him when he can, or making sure to stop at home when he has a small break. But he wants them to enjoy life and make sure it’s as beautiful and normal as possible for them.
“Since they’re babies, it’s hard to bring them all the time because being out on the road is crazy,” he notes. “I want them to have a super-normal, stable upbringing. But obviously when I’m gone for a while, we always find a way to make it work. This summer, I was touring in Europe, and my wife is from Spain, so she and the kids all came out and stayed at our house there, which made things much easier for all of us.
Photo Credit: TAMZ
“Being away from them is the toughest part,” he notes. “If it’s too long, I start to get antsy, and I have to have that connection. It’s like when your phone is running out of battery and you have to charge it real quick, and then you’re back to normal,” he laughs.
From the outside, it may seem as though Fonsi has it all figured out, with a successful career and beautiful family. But he maintains that he, like everyone else, is still figuring it all out along the way.
“You can’t read a book and learn how to do [fatherhood and marriage] perfectly,” he maintains. “You just have to figure it out. I’m figuring it out and enjoying it, and hopefully doing an okay job.”
From our perspective, he’s doing all of that, plus more. And in the meantime, he’s enjoying his current home city, Miami. Even though Puerto Rico will always have his heart, Miami is a very close second.
“I have lived in Miami for 20 years,” he says. “My kids were born here. I know the city with my eyes closed. There are so many things I love about it. I love the water—I’m a big boat guy and saltwater lover—that’s my happy place. Still to this day, when I’m approaching Miami International Airport, I look out the window and see that water, it gives me a special feeling. Now, my family lives here—my brother and sister and my parents. This is home to me now, and I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon.
“And obviously, the Latin culture here is so beautiful,” Fonsi adds. “I am Latino, 100 percent, but I’ve been in the U.S. for most of my life. And I need that sort of Latin flare. The mixture of cultures is unbelievable. When I’m onstage doing a show in Miami, it’s like you’re performing for the world— you see flags from everywhere.”
It is the Magic City, after all. And there are few people more fitting to represent our city with pride than the magical Luis Fonsi.
“Performing here and being here is so special to me, like you’re bringing the world together, and we are all learning from each other and celebrating each other,” he declares. “It’s about coming together, and this is the mecca of it all.”
Photo Credit: TAMZ