THAT VERY TAN, VERY DAPPER AND VERY familiar-looking guy in Latin teen idol Enrique Iglesias's Miami bedroom? It's Julio Iglesias. Well, sort of. Actually, it's a poster of the international seducer-by-song, who happens to be the absentee owner of this Miami mansion. Julio is also the mostly absentee father of 20-year-old Enrique, who, since launching his own singing career last year, has become ever more familiar with all the good and bad that come with having a famous last name. "Please do not introduce me as the son of Julio Iglesias," says Enrique, who often must bear that particular cross. "I'm very proud of my father, but when you read Billboard now, you see Enrique Iglesias."
Insisting he is willing to succeed, or fail, on his own, Enrique has already won over legions of young female Latin music fans who swoon to his croon and squeal over his mesmerizing good looks, much as their mothers did when Julio first set hearts athrob 20 years ago. Signed last year to a three-album, $1 million contract with Fonovisa, an L.A.-based Spanish-language label, Enrique topped the Billboard Latin charts last fall with his first single, "Si Tu Te Vas" ("If You Leave"), and followed that with another hit, "Experiencia Religiosa" ("Religious Experience"), which is now No. 3. His debut album, Enrique Iglesias, also No. 3 on the same charts, has made him Fonovisa's hottest commodity.
This for a kid who first started jamming in a friend's garage just four years ago. "I thought I sucked," he says of his fledgling attempts at singing. "I used to cry going home."
Once he decided he didn't suck, Enrique began shopping for a record deal, but shyly, trying to pass himself off as one Enrique Martinez. In fact, he still kept his parents in the dark, justifiably fearing they would prevent him from dropping out of the University of Miami—where he was a sophomore business major two years ago—because school interfered with his musical aspirations. "It hurt me to keep this a secret from my parents," says Enrique. "But if I hadn't, I wouldn't be where I am now." When Julio finally got the word last June—secondhand at a cocktail party from an industry insider—he was displeased, according to Enrique. "My father and I spoke after he found out, and he was shocked," says Iglesias, who has no intention of ever returning to college. "I told him I was sorry. I said, 'Look, this is exactly what I've always wanted to do. Just let me do it my way, please.' "
Keeping the news from his parents—Enrique's mother, Isabel Preysler, 45, is a Madrid journalist—may have been emotionally stressful, but it wasn't particularly difficult. Julio and Isabel divorced in 1979; five years later, when his mother became concerned there might be a plot to kidnap her children, she sent Enrique, his brother Julio José, now 22 and an acting student, and their sister Chabeli, 24, a Spanish-language talk show host, to live with their father in Miami. Julio was away more often than not, and Enrique, then 9, and his siblings were raised by their nanny Elvira Olivares, who still lives with Enrique. "It broke my heart to send them away," says Preysler, "but we had to for security reasons. If I had known that their father wasn't around, it might have been different." (Julio declined to be interviewed for this story.)
The separation, insists Enrique, never diminished his love for his parents. "I did miss them, but you get used to seeing your dad maybe once a month," he says. "There was always a lot of communication between us, which helped a lot." Still, it was Olivares, and not his parents, to whom Enrique dedicated his debut album. "She gave part of her life to us. She filled that gap," he says. ("I have never had children," says Olivares, sitting in her surrogate son's bedroom. "But the love I have given these children has been a mother's.")
So who fills the gaps for him now? Enrique would like you to believe that being a teen idol can be a surprisingly solitary, unsatisfying existence—not the boon to his love life that one might expect. "Me, I just want to have one girlfriend," he says. "I've met so many beautiful girls with no brains. But there hasn't been that special one that has clicked. It's so lonely sometimes."
As for his father's playboy image, aptly projected by the color poster Enrique keeps in his bedroom, he claims to want none of it. "I hate that 'Latin lover' bull," he says. Then, with a not-so-filial grin, he adds, "But I'm happy for Dad. I know he's getting the chicks."
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