Michel Joseph Martelly (born 12 February 1961) is a Haitian politician, former musician and businessman. From 14 May 2011 to 7 February 2016 he was the President of Haiti, having been one of Haiti's best-known musicians for over a decade by the stage name "Sweet Micky".
Early life and education
Michel Martelly is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Gerard Martelly and was born in Port-au-Prince on 12 February 1961. He attended Collège Roger Anglade, Saint Louis de Gonzague and Centre d’Etudes Secondaires, where he completed his studies and passed his Baccalaureate State exams. After graduating from high school, Martelly joined the Haitian Military Academy and later moved to the United States where he ended up in working in a grocery store. One year later, he returned to Haiti and embarked on what turned out to be a very successful music career.
Martelly is considered a pioneer in creating a unique music rhythm known as Compas or Kompa and started to gain popularity with his first single "Ooo La La" released in 1988. His popularity rapidly increased as he cultivated an image as a hedonistic playboy, and touched a sympathetic nerve among those seeking some escapism from everyday hardships. He soon enjoyed a national notoriety thanks to performances marked by his liberal use of betiz - Creole for playful and satirical obscenities - that form part of his repartee with the audience that is delivered in a slang mixture of English, French and Creole.
His popularity really took off with the release of the I Don’t Care album in 1994 featuring numerous hits that rocked dance floors from Haiti to New York City. In an often very conservative country, Martelly's predilection for appearing on stage wearing a skirt, or even performing in full drag, as he did for the 1996 Carnival, is refreshingly daring.
1987 was his lucky year, he rediscovers a longtime friend, Sophia Saint Rémy, from Gonaives. Today, twenty-three years later, they still share a profound bond. From their marriage were born four children: Michel-Olivier, Michel-Alexandre, Michel-Yani, and Malaika-Michel, to whom, despite his hectic schedules, Michel has been a wonderful father.
They began to work as a team, she was the agent and Michel the act; they trekked the whole country, every state, every town and village. From the most sumptuous palace to the most humble abode he brought joy and was in complete communion with the Haitian spirit. From this professional experience, he has gained a profound knowledge of the country.
Grateful for their luck and thankful for the success, the Martelly’s did not remain insensitive when surrounded by such poverty and misery. This feeling of civic duty and a sense of social responsibility were channeled into different charitable activities that finally became the Pink and White Foundation, FREB.
Using discretion as their ally, they started making a difference in the lives of people who no longer counted in this society. A tremendous amount of work was accomplished, tons of food staples were distributed and thousands of cooked meals were handed out; however, little publicity was allowed, a rather quiet dignity and timid generosity shrouded these activities, “Haitian suffering is not for sale” Michel has been known to say; “Haiti is too rich to be poor!” another famous phrase. He condemned the system obsolete explaining that it has totally lost its’ social consciousness; it is inefficient and cannot even serve the most destitute citizens. We believe that to change will require being painfully unpopular, but change is inevitable.
Martelley stepped down from office on 7 February 2016 after serving a full term.
Martelly currently lives in Haiti, but held several homes in Palm Beach, Florida. He lives with his wife and former manager, Sophia Saint–Rémy, and their four children, Olivier, Sandro, Yani, and Malaika.