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Ricky Martin: All grown up and singing for the children

Ricky Martin claims to have slowed down, but it seems like he's just channeling his apparently limitless energy into different places: His work with his Ricky Martin Foundation helping and publicizing the plight of children trapped into sexual slavery and prostitution, himself and, oh yes, his unstoppable musical career, which took him to arenas around the world this year in the most ambitious production in his, and possibly Latin pop music, history.

The second leg of his Black and White Tour winds up at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. Then it's off to get a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame on Oct. 16, and his four nominations for the Latin Grammys on Nov. 8.

He's an intense guy.

"There was a moment where I said to myself I'm going to quit my life on stage to focus on philanthropy," Martin said recently from Los Angeles. "And my mentors in philanthropy, my gurus, said, `Are you crazy? You don't understand the power music gives you.' The fact that I can stand in front of 20,000 people every night while I'm on tour gives me a fantastic tool to spread the word."

On the other hand, he could bury himself in his career.

"It would be very easy for me to jump on this creative mode and forget about everything but music and being on stage," Martin says. But the experience of truly living the celebrity "vida loca" taught him something, as did the two-year sabbatical he took in its wake. "You become a workaholic and it's very dangerous. You have to know how to balance your life."

So where he used to perform six days a week on tour, now he takes an additional day off in between to read and visit with friends.

"It's very important to take my time off, to focus on my spirit, my mind, my physical body. If you divided my life into sections now it's three for me and one for music. Before it was the other way around."

Martin is passionate about the horrors of child sexual trafficking, which he confronted seven years ago while visiting a friend in India who ran an orphanage that rescued young girls forced into prostitution.

"That was a big slap in the face," Martin says. "I thought I had seen it all - and I met a hundred girls in this orphanage and some of them had been forced into prostitution or pornography. I started educating myself and the more I knew the angrier I got."

A portion of the ticket sales from the Black and White tour go to Martin's foundation, which has recently partnered with the Bill Gates Foundation and the InterAmerican Development Bank on efforts to educate people and prevent child sexual trafficking in Latin America.

He's comfortable that his success feeds his humanitarian work.

"Music gave me the opportunity to go round the world and see things I wouldn't see sitting at home," he says.

"Without music I wouldn't be able to talk about this. I don't want to blow myself up, but now that I'm working with this issue people are talking about this."

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