Ricky Martins testy exchange with ranking Rep. Tom Lantos

On Tuesday, Ricky Martin, king of Latino pop and UNICEF’s Goodwill ambassador, testified before the House International Relations Committee on the subject of human trafficking, particularly that of children.

Martin’s motivation stems from an experience he had in helping save three little girls in Calcutta, India, who he says were “maybe three days away from being sold into prostitution.”

At tender young ages, Martin testified, “when children should be reading and writing, some children are forced into prostitution. Children are not our future but our present.”

Martin emphasized that trafficking of children also takes place in the United States. Rep. Tom Lantos (Calif.), the committee’s ranking Democrat, praised Martin’s decision to testify before the committee and offered him high praise.

Lantos also asked him why only a small percentage of celebrities, who he said have “the capability of transforming so many ugly aspects of this globe into positive realities” come forward to do so.

When Martin gently evaded the question, Lantos firmly pressed him to answer: “ I will take you back [to my previous question] because while everybody’s impressed by your celebrity status, to us, you are just the witness.”

Citing the singer Shakira as a fellow humanitarian, Martin turned his response into a confessional: “When you enter the world of music, it tends to be really intense, the amount of work you have to do to become someone noticeable around the world, and you get caught up in the long days of promotion, long hours locked in a studio creating music.”

Martin added that he turned to humanitarian work after living through an intense music career.

“Actually six years ago I took the time, I stepped out of the limelight,” he said. “I needed to decompress. I can be honest — I was exhausted. And in that moment of silence … that’s when everything came into my being ... I hope my answer is the one you were waiting for.”

“It’s much better,” Lantos replied.