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Bad Bunny is known for breaking barriers and smashing stereotypes. Earlier this year, he became the first Latin music artist, as well the first Spanish-language artist, to headline the Coachella festival; leading up to that landmark moment, the 29-year-old Puerto Rican trap/reggaeton superstar, whose real name is Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, was Spotify’s overall most-streamed artist in 2022. And Ocasio continues to dominate streaming services with his two most recent singles. “un x100to,” a collab with Grupo Frontera and Bad Bunny's regional Mexican music debut, recently became the first song of the genre to top the Billboard charts locally in the U.S. and worldwide. Meanwhile, “WHERE SHE GOES” has extended his record for the most top 10 placements in Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart history. The latter track was also just selected as the international theme of Pepsi's “Press Play on Summer” campaign, in conjunction with Apple Music.
But aside from all of his music milestones, the three-time Grammy Award winner is also a transgressive style icon, challenging and upending concepts of traditional Latin masculinity with his bold, genderless fashion choices.
Among Ocasio’s most memorable looks have been a red PVC miniskirt and thigh-high boots in the anti-sexual-harassment-themed music video for “Yo Perreo Sola”; a slogan T-shirt protesting the murder of homeless trans Puerto Rican woman Alexa Negrón Luciano (which he paired with a pleated school-uniform kilt for a headline-making Tonight Show performance); a floor-length Burberry suit-dress and bejeweled up-do at the 2022 Met Gala; a backless Jacquemus suit and bridal floral train at this year’s Gala; and various Instagram-worthy pointy neon manicures.
It’s perhaps unintentionally symbolic that Ocasio plays a lifeguard in his “Press Play on Summer” ad spot, because it could be argued that he is saving young people’s lives — particularly young boys’ lives — by showing them that it’s OK to express themselves.
“I think about myself — about how comfortable I am, about what I'm comfortable with, how good I can feel doing what I want to do and what I feel. That is what my personality is like, without thinking about what other people might think,” Ocasio matter-of-factly tells Yahoo Español, speaking via phone from Puerto Rico. “A lot of people come to me to say things… I meet people that sometimes, they don't even listen to my music, but somehow I have contributed to their lives. And sometimes it's weird, because it's still hard for me to [grasp] the impact that what I do can have. … It always shocks me. But it's nice to know that [I can] contribute something positive to the lives of others.”
Ocasio humbly claims that he never set out to change the world with his risky sartorial statements, not even once he became one of the most influential pop stars on the planet. “I don't think it ever happened. There's no point where I say, ‘Oh, I have this power,’ even with fashion or with music or whatever. I think the only tool that I've ever used is being myself,” he insists. “And I repeat: I'm still surprised to see how simply by being myself, I have achieved so many things. … What I have done is just to be me, to be myself, either in the way I dress, the way I sing, the way I interpret the songs, the videos, everything. I keep using the same technique. That is the easiest thing I can do — which is to be myself and act from my heart.”
Of course, any star as big as Bad Bunny is going to have haters: For every “fanatic” who approaches him with heartwarming stories about how he’s a life-changing, game-changing role model, there is some Twitter troll ready to pounce. But Ocasio says, “I always prefer to stay with the positive ones, to stay with the kind of stories and comments and anecdotes of people that have a positive impact. … There's a saying that you have to think about the love in your house and not the hate of your neighbor. Things could really affect me. They really could. … [But] everybody is different and everybody has their own way of thinking, and the world is never going to agree 100%. There are always going to be people who like what you do and people who don't. There are people who will support you. There are people who don't like what you do. There are people who love you, and people who hate you. It's inevitable. Nobody is ever going to be 100% loved. So, it depends on how you want to see things. And I always stay with the positive. I keep the people who love me, with the good comments, with the people who support me. And the others? Well, that is that.”
Ocasio, who is currently residing in Los Angeles, is maintaining that lax attitude as his summer heats up with rumored new girlfriend Kendall Jenner. It’s an A-list power-coupling that has been the constant target of tabloid gossip (one day, there are reports circulating of an Ocasio/Jenner split; the next day, there’s even speculation that Jenner is pregnant with Bunny’s baby). But Ocasio, while not addressing any rumors specifically, just shrugs, “I think that has always existed, and will always exist. It's funny. It makes me sad, and it's pitiful at the same time — not for me, but more for the people [who spread gossip], because it's funny to see how they talk with confidence. It's like, 'What a fool; they have no idea about anything.' And you laugh too. It's like, 'Really, how is that possible?' But I think you get used to it with time. It's not the first time. When one is exposed to fame and to this environment, well, now anyone can say whatever they want about you.
"But the antidote is to be secure about who you are and enjoy life as much as I do. Because at the end of the day, I am the only one who knows, and the only one clear about what I feel.”
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