Maluma, born Juan Luis Londoño Arias, may not be a household name stateside, but the reggaeton singer has made major moves in the rest of the world. According to AllMusic, Maluma won a Latin Grammy for his album F.A.M.E. In 2016, he was also dubbed “the most-listened-to male artist” on Spotify and “the most-followed Latin male artist on Instagram.” Yes, Maluma is ushering in a new era in which Ricky Martin and Mark Anthony no longer reign supreme. Maluma was even a crucial part of Coca-Cola’s single for the 2018 World Cup, and if you know anything about his hometown of Medellin, you know that soccer is a big deal.
At the time of this writing, Maluma has 24.5 million YouTube subscribers, amassing billions and billions of views since he joined the platform in 2018. Beyond that, Madonna counts herself as a fan — and there’s absolutely no endorsement like one from the Queen of Pop. According to Variety, the two artists met at the 2018 VMAs, where Maluma, in his words, “almost s**t [his] pants” and was subsequently enlisted to collaborate on Madonna’s album, Madame X.
In 2020, Maluma will perform at the awards show alongside The Weeknd and CNCO. He was even nominated in the Best Latin category — but who really is the Colombian star who went viral for his Calvin Klein underwear ad and is poised for a full takeover in the U.S.? Here’s a look.
Maluma was almost a professional soccer player
Maluma is finally crossing over into A-list status stateside, landing a spot opposite Jennifer Lopez in the romcom Marry Me. However, Maluma’s been at the game for a while. In an interview with the Miami Herald, the artist revealed that he’d been singing since he was “a little kid,” starting his professional career when he was just a teenager.
“I loved to sing in family parties, for my friends and family. That’s how I discovered my talent,” the artist revealed to the publication. “I found my voice singing pop and ballads, almost all of them Colombian artists. When I was 16 my family gave me a recording session with some Colombian producers, and that’s where I started my career.”
Maluma’s career path may seem a little unlikely once you consider the fact that the star was poised to be a pro athlete. He told the Miami Herald that he played soccer as a child and was “pretty good,” especially after training every single day. He even trained with Atlético Nacional, which he claimed was “one of the most important teams in Colombia.” The transition to music was difficult for his father, who had his sights set on his son’s professional soccer career. “When I chose music my family was very surprised,” Maluma told the Miami Herald. “But I told them this is my dream, this is what I want to do. And it wasn’t the wrong choice.”
For Maluma, family always comes first
Maluma may be an international pop star, but the singer’s main focus is his family. It affects every aspect of his career — from his controversies to his future plans to his stage name. According to the Miami Herald, Maluma — the first word the artist got tattooed on his body when he was 14 years old — is a combination of the first two letters of the names of his mother (Marlli), father (Luis), and sister (Manuela). He chose the stage name because he “wanted to have [his] family with [him] forever.”
Maluma’s astronomical career — which helped him amass more than 52.8 million Instagram followers, as of this writing — is definitely just one of the star’s many dreams; family takes the forefront. He told Variety that one of his “biggest dreams” is to become a father. “I want to share my success with someone else. Right now, it’s not even in my head, but if I see into my future, I really want to have a family,” he said.
As it is, the star has a tight-knit relationship with his parents. This is particularly evident in the controversial image he posted to Instagram that showed him kissing his mother on the lips. While naysayers claimed the kiss was “too passionate” and “weird,” Maluma’s rep claimed it was a “cultural thing,” according to People. Who doesn’t love a man who loves his mama?
Maluma was called out by his ex
Maluma held nothing back in his split from model Natalia Barulích — and neither did she. According to Page Six, the star’s newest single “Hawái” is about the pair’s bitter breakup, even if he didn’t explicitly name his ex. In the lyrics and accompanying video, the singer accused the unnamed woman of uploading photos to make him jealous and ditching out on the relationship because she was “not happy.” It’s not hard to put two and two together, and a source allegedly confirmed that the star didn’t tell his ex about the track before it was released. Still, it was nowhere near as scathing of a review as Barulích gave of their split.
In June 2020, Barulích appeared on Danny Morel’s Evolve podcast, during which she claimed that her and Maluma’s relationship was “toxic.” She continued, saying she “received 20%” but put in “1000%” (via Page Six).
A couple months later, the artist frightened fans when he deactivated his Instagram account after Barulích’s new boyfriend, soccer player Neymar, “seemingly shaded him online,” according to a report by Page Six. Maluma’s management company wasn’t aware of the move and asked fans, “Does anyone know what happened to Maluma’s Instagram?” A source later told the publication that “no one” knew why Maluma deactivated his account, but the star was “good and safe.” His Instagram account has since been reactivated.
Maluma's Hollywood debut was filmed partly on Zoom
These days, Maluma is no stranger to major collaborations. Not only has he teamed up with Madonna, he’s also worked with Shakira, Marc Anthony, Ricky Martin, the Black Eyed Peas, and Jennifer Lopez, according to NBC News. His discography is like a who’s who of Latin pop, and he’s about to add movie star to his résumé.
Unfortunately, social-distancing measures put a small dent in Maluma’s plans to star alongside Jennifer Lopez in the upcoming romantic comedy Marry Me, which was meant to serve as his Hollywood debut. According to Variety, Lopez was stuck in Miami with her fiancé Alex Rodriguez while Maluma was in Colombia. Nonetheless, they sort of figured out how to film via Zoom while being in completely different parts of the world.
“We weren’t sure how it was going to work out,” Lopez told Variety. “Someone came in and set up a camera and lights, and then left because of social distancing.” Lopez continued, saying, “We had a Zoom call. I start doing the scene with Maluma and we’re hearing echoers and we’re all like, ‘Everyone has to mute.’ We were just figuring it out as we go. We got through the scene. It’s going to be in the movie. It’s not the ideal way of filmmaking, but we got it done.” Needless to say, the pair’s hustle is unmatched.
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