Beyonce-style domination is the goal for Leonardo Martinez
Leonardo Martinez has taken his small-town East Coast dreams, packed them alongside his talent, and is headed directly towards conquering the highs and lows of the entertainment world.
I caught up with Martinez to talk about what some of his favorite experiences have been performances wise, and how a newfound peace is translating into his career.
When did you know that performing was going to be something that would be your lifelong career, and you would craft it into reality?
Leonardo Martinez: I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a performer. Field day in 1996 (seven years old) I was given a timeline t-shirt from my elementary school and asked me where I would want to be in 20 years. I said, “I will be an actor.”
Performing art was always my passion. In high school, I did musical theatre productions, and then went on to get my BFA in Musical Theater at Montclair State University, which is listed as one of the top 25 Musical Theater programs in the country. I definitely was exploring all types of outlets to perform at that time, and I participated in the dance program productions in college as well. A lot of ballet, modern, and contemporary were part of my journey. But it never felt like my heart was all in it. Around senior year of college, I began toying with writing lyrics to original music. As I developed my sound, and found where I wanted to be with my music genre, and what I represent as an artist, I began to grow.
In 2016, I graduated with a Masters of Fine Arts for Acting in Film in Los Angeles, saying “I will be an actor” in 1996 was definitely a pin drop moment that let me know I was definitely on the right path.
As a quintessential “Jersey Boy,” what does being raised in New Jersey mean to your performances, as far as how you were raised and your work ethic?
LM: I know that growing up in a suburb right next to NYC was a huge influence in my work ethic. As far as my experiences, no place moves as fast in this country. Living in LA really lets me see that I am ahead of the curve. Because in LA, people wait for yes’s constantly, but in NYC, we make our own yes’s! We don’t wait for anyone’s permission.
My family being die-hard New York lovers, and also having worked in NYC taught me the work ethic they had. Between the two of them, I think I took what they gave me from their own lives, and I quadrupled it. I was taught that there is never a time to slow down for something you truly want. I have to work hard for it and realize that failing is more important than succeeding. They gave me the tools to be able to keep a strong work ethic in my life.
I love what I do so much. I hope that it does make me fall into bed at the end of the day and pass out from working so hard. I never want to feel like I didn’t achieve even half of my goals for that day, let alone the long term.
Tell me how your path to becoming a recording artist took off?
LM: My path in the music industry really took off unexpectedly. As I was developing my sound and what it was that I wanted to say, I was also keeping myself open to all the possibilities in the entertainment industry. Acting, singing, and dancing is all in my resume, so really, I can “do it all.” I performed in a showcasing that lead me to receive a scholarship to attend the New York Film Academy. Then I moved to Los Angeles so I could obtain a Masters Degree in Fine Arts for acting in film.
By this point, I did have four radio-ready tracks underneath my belt that were kept in my back pocket until I got through my graduate program. Little did I know that I would bond with film-making students, and one night while we were all having dinner, we shared the various talents we had. I shared a few of my songs, and these film-making students immediately jumped on the opportunity to help me put together music video concepts!
By the time I graduated, I had four solid music videos. Then I followed the steps a filmmaker follows after creating projects and submitted to film festivals. The awards I was receiving from the film festivals were everything from Best Music Video, to Best Director, to Best Editing, to Best LGBT short. One of my music videos is a music video short film. And this allowed me to gain the respect of some of my peers who offered to connect me with some gay pride events to be considered for performing live!
For many artists, Pride celebrations throughout the year are where they truly perfect their craft for performance. Is that true for you?
LM: Yes! In 2017, I began the gay pride circuit, and I have performed coast to coast. From NYC to DC, through the Midwest in Tulsa, to Vegas, and hitting Orange County, CA. I managed myself, I did a GoFundMe campaign so I could pay my dancers what they deserved for their time, and then it happened.
This past summer in 2019, I was invited to return to Tulsa, Oklahoma and was listed as a headlining performer at Tulsa Gay Pride along with Icona Pop and Laith Ashley. After that, bigger performing opportunities began.
I booked the world-famous Viper Room on Sunset Blvd, the starting point for the Pussycat Dolls, and once owned by River Phoenix. I booked “Carnival” a world-renowned choreographer/dancer showcasing where top industry agencies and scouts come to look for talent. On this stage, Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul, Jennifer Lopez, Missy Elliot, and many other globally iconic artists had taken the stage. Ashley Everett (Beyonce’s Dance Captain), Brian Friedman, Chris Scott, The Jabbawockeez, and so many other elites in the dance industry have taken the stage here.
After proving myself capable after two years, I was offered the chance to take the stage once in July 2019. I was invited back a second time for November 2019. I planned my first tour and took dancers with me from LA to Tulsa, and then to the east coast for a Labor Day Weekend Tour through the coast of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
All this to say, I’m still climbing the ladder [and] proving myself. I’m still unsigned and unmanaged. I can’t afford a full team of people—yet. But I do have a lot of dancers who believe in me and my vision and craft. And they come in when they can. I book the dancers, teach the choreography, style us for the shows, book the rehearsal space, plan the travel arrangements, and sometimes even edit the music. I’m still a work in progress. But I’m very very grateful and proud of what I’ve been able to do on my own, especially the learning along the way.
For those that have never heard your music, how would you describe your musical style?
LM: In short, Electro Glam Pop. You’ll get a lot of dance music from me. And I have a way of bouncing between performing masculine and queer. I like to say that my music style is a blend between Todrick Hall and current Craig David music.
You’re a very spiritual performer and your songs are filled with meaning. Where does that all come from?
LM: My music is all super personal. The lyrics come from true places in my life, and true relationships in my life. In my journey, I had a lot of struggles. And I struggled with finding myself. Along the way, I partied a lot. I did a lot of drinking, a lot of drugs, had a lot of sex, did a lot of traveling. And all of this was to escape the reality of myself. I didn’t want to deal with my struggles. I just wanted to feel like I was normal, and accepted unconditionally.
After so many emotional falls and eventually hitting my rock bottom moment, I asked for God. God revealed himself to me and loved me unconditionally. I began a journey with him. Along the way, I wrote lyrics that just fell out of my heart that were representing who he is to me. That was the moment I knew what I stood for as an artist. I knew I wanted to advocate for who God truly is, and how much he does love the LGBT community unconditionally. [This], despite how much people and the church have ostracized us as a whole, which trickles down into the personal relationships—family, “friends,” mentors, jobs, etc.
My music is Christian-style music, but in no way do I think I’m a Christian artist. I’m just me: a normal human being talking about his relationships and personal experiences in an artistic and honest way.
What are some career highlights that you have accomplished?
LM: In 2017, my very first performances included NYC Pride when it was nationally televised for the first time ever. I was able to perform on that stage where Bianca Del Rio and Michelle Visage hosted. I have been able to transpose my music into ballads so I can perform in intimate venues like dinner theaters. I’ve won multiple awards as not only a singer, but a filmmaker: Best Music Video, Best Director, Best Song, Most Inspiring Song, and many others. And I have traveled the country and performed live from coast to coast. I have been getting bigger jobs in LA with bigger named audiences surrounding me on a regular basis. And I also was a headlining act for Sanctuary Fashion, a LA Fashion Week event. I also have been having excellent publications like Out In Jersey offering to highlight my artistry and talk about my journey. That is a huge compliment and achievement, because the hard work I put in is paying off and I’m grateful it’s worth talking about
What artists or performers do you consider true inspirations?
LM: Beyonce. She is the bar I set for my performance standard. I see what she does and I say “I’m gonna learn how to do that, whatever it takes. I don’t think I am going to be Beyonce in any capacity. But I do believe I can take what inspires me about her, and make it my own. She sings and dances live. She has amazing visuals and transitions from song to song. Her conviction while performing is incredible. Beyonce’s stage presence is so strong, and obviously her voice is undeniably beautiful. Beyonce is it.
If you could, what would the Leonardo Martinez of today tell Leonardo Martinez starting out in the business?
LM: If I could talk to me in the past, my advice will be “be patient, and keep going. The journey is the destination. No matter what, be patient, and keep going.”
What’s on your vision board for your career and your path? What do you want to truly accomplish as an artist?
LM: Vision boards are important because they keep you focused and humbled by the journey, and the process, to get from one place to the next. My vision board includes having a song of mine placed on the Billboard charts, beginning to tour and perform more within the music festival circuit and colleges/universities, having my name be out there and continuing to introduce myself to audiences. I would like to have local and Sirius/XM radio stations playing my music and interviewing me. And from there, having a record label take me on to make the big investment into my music craft so I can not only make the music that will have global presentation, but I can actually start a business and hire contracted employees.
I want to be able to create jobs. And I want to prove that being LGBT does not affect the capabilities of being successful and running your own business—something we unfortunately still face—even now. I would like to be able to give back to those who’ve given to me along my journey, especially my family. And I would like to make sure that I’m financially supporting my family and also contributing towards the future of my younger brother who is severely autistic, and make sure that he will be more than taken care of financially to have the right team of people for him. He needs aids in his life to help him with tasks like communication and doing tasks without prompting because he can’t be independent. But he can enjoy life and experience the world, and he should be able to.
All that to say, the ten-year plan includes touring the world and filling arenas and stadiums. All of it [will be] done by making the music I want to make and being authentically myself. I’m not my best me if I’m not performing. So that’s the final goal: to perform forever.