Bad Bunny covers the new issue of Vanity Fair which dropped on Tuesday right before the VMAs. It’s another quality profile by Michelle Ruiz who does a great job here as the piece both introduces Benito to those who may not be as familiar with his backstory and meteoric rise and delivers the goods for those who have been following his career. It’s also an excellent portrait of both Bad Bunny, the artist, the public figure, the sex symbol, Puerto Rico’s young hero, and Benito, the person, the son of Lysaurie and Tito and Puerto Rico, who is an activist, a friend, a young man in his 20s still trying to figure it all out.
Because, relatively speaking, Benito’s fame is recent. He only started sharing his music in 2016, and while the takeoff was quick, no doubt, and it’s been eight years, two and a half of those were during the pandemic. And yet, somehow, it was during the pandemic that he really, REALLY exploded. I’m not saying he wasn’t already popular before, it’s just that it was in 2020 when he went next level, up to the rare level, the level where he’s now mentioned in the same sentence as Beyoncé and Taylor Swift etc. Which Michelle Ruiz does, several times, in this article – and not facetiously. Bad Bunny has the numbers to back that up.
But my point is, as big of a deal as he is, this is fresh. Both for him and for the public. At a time when being a big deal is more complicated. Celebrities have already struggled with how much of themselves to share with the public and since so many artists these days, like Lil Nas X, come up from the social connection platforms that rely on the public and not industry A&R to find their music and push their profiles. Once that happens, it’s kind of like a fame Go Fund Me – the investment was there, and now what’s the promise in return?
This is an issue that Benito has been dealing with all year in his personal life. Because it’s not like the artistic output hasn’t been there, he’s taking a break this year but up to just a few months ago, Benito has been prolific – and he just headlined at Coachella. But this is about his personal engagement, this is about his personal choices, whether they're political or romantic, and how deeply involved the fandom has been in the way he’s living his life. On this, at this stage anyway, Benito tells Michelle:
“I’m not really interested in clarifying anything because I have no commitment to clarify anything to anyone.”
This is mostly to do with Kendall Jenner. Because while we all know that he and Kendall are together, neither he nor Kendall have publicly addressed it…but they are obviously both, especially Benito, aware of how a lot of people feel about this relationship. As Michelle writes:
“More cuttingly, though, fans have framed the relationship as a form of cultural betrayal—that Martínez, who has held fast to his language and Puerto Rican–ness throughout his ascent, would date a non-Latina.”
But “not really interested in clarifying” also applies to just about everything. This cover feature was set up ostensibly to promote his new album, rumoured to be out this fall. But Benito won’t talk about that either. So I go back to Michelle Ruiz and her skill with this profile, because even though Benito wasn’t exactly forthcoming in the interview, which appears to have been conducted in the presence of his publicist who interjects frequently, there’s still a lot we can learn here about her subject.
This is a superstar who’s currently walking a path that many superstars before have travelled and stumbling on the same steps and obstacles as he tries to maintain control over his own story. He speaks at length about privacy, about how much he’s expected to concede, about what is owed his fans and what he can ask for in return. And about the balance between his social responsibilities and his social life, period. Like sometimes he just wants to go to the beach, you know? Sometimes he just wants to be in New York, with his girlfriend, and hit up Carbone for the meatballs.
Which is where he was last night. Here are Benito and Kendall leaving after dinner. Please note his Gucci pouch. Stylish men, more and more, are walking around with handbags/clutches/pouches/totes, whatever you want to call it. Because they have sh-t to carry! My friend Tyrone, who is also the anchor of ETALK, has a wide range of bags – for sunglasses, phone and chargers, lip balm, fragrance, wipes, sanitiser, whatever. He looks GREAT when he’s walking around in them. Tyrone has natural swagger, just like Benito, but honestly? It’s just a practical f-cking accessory for dudes, like it is for everyone else.
Discussion thread live for this post on The Squawk.