J.R. Martinez has one of the most touching stories you’ll ever hear. Although he’s had more life experience than someone twice his age, J.R. is still just as humble as ever.
The 28-year-old Louisiana native made his way onto the small screen after serving with the U.S. military in Iraq. While in Iraq, J.R. was the driver of a Humvee envoy. His Humvee hit a landmine, which not only caused severe burns to 40 percent of his body, it put him out of commission for 34 months.
EXCLUSIVE: Trapped Inside My Humvee And Burning Alive Inside
Fast forward to 2008 and J.R. was cast as Brot Monroe on the soap opera All My Children. Fast forward again to 2011 and J.R. is in our living rooms every Monday and Tuesday night as he shows off his best rumba and foxtrot on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.
We caught up with J.R. to discuss his run on the dance competition, as well as facing life after a setback. Check out our exclusive below, (and don’t forget to vote for him on Dancing with the Stars)!
GlobalGrind: You’re doing pretty well on Dancing with the Stars. You’re one of the favorites to win it all!
J.R.: I came into this thing with no expectations. I was confident in myself that anything I put my mind to and I work hard at, I can do well. But at the same time I didn’t think I was going to make it this far, or I was going to win or anything like that. So now to be considered ‘a fan favorite’ and have everybody pulling for me, it’s a great feeling. I’m on a cloud right now just because of the fact that I’ve gotten so much love from people all over the world.
What are some of the things that people say when they run into you on the street?
The biggest reason I think people are relating to me is because of the fact that they see me and I’m real. They see that I’ve been through something and I overcame something and I’m succeeding in life.
I have people coming up to me, telling me their stories and what they have been through. I spoke at a high school right before I joined Dancing with the Stars and a girl wrote me an email saying that when we met and she heard me talk, she was actually at the point of committing suicide. She’s 16 years old, a beautiful girl, we hugged and she was crying and I didn’t know why she was crying, but I just told her everything was going to be alright. She told me I saved her life.
She saw me on Dancing with the Stars and then she just remembered everything I had talked about in my speech. She pretty much said I saved her life. That’s some pretty powerful stuff right there, man.
I’ve been blessed with an amazing power to save a life in a way, but I think we’re all blessed with that. It’s just something where people tend to use it toward negativity and try to hurt somebody, versus trying to make somebody better, and make themselves better.
You’re on the cover of People! That’s a great promotion to help you beat Rob Kardashian and the rest of the guys on there!
(Laughs). I’m going to need that because Kim Kardashian is over here on Twitter talking about she needs everybody to call Justin Bieber and that’s not even Justin Bieber’s number, it’s Rob’s voting number! So anything I can use in my favor to help me get an advantage, I’m trying to do. This competition is mad cool and ultimately everyone wants to win the trophy, but for me, just to have made it this far is really cool.
I’ve been given an amazing platform to share who I am with the world. I try to be a standup dude, I try to do the right things. I try to tell people what’s wrong and right and try to educate people on certain paths to take. The simple steps I have taken in my life have helped me to be where I am today. Being on People Magazine, that’s a great opportunity to reach a lot of people in the world and it’s an honor. You think about everyone else that was probably a candidate to be on the cover of that magazine and for me to get it, that’s pretty pure right there.
It is, but you deserve it! When you spoke about the steps you have taken to get where you are, what steps did you take to turn your life around?
We all get older in life. The one thing about children is, it’s not their innocence, but their ability to adapt and kids will adapt to any kind of situation to make it work. I think one of the biggest things that I’ve been able to do with everything that is happening is maintain that ability to adapt and just say, ‘I’ve got to roll with it, I’m going to make it work.’
It’s taking those steps where whatever opportunities present themselves to me, I’m going to make it work and I’m going to go all in. I’m not going to half-ass it. It’s an opportunity for a reason and I had to realize that God is blessing me, life’s blessing me with this opportunity for a reason, so I have to make the most of it.
If I don’t, then I’m messing up potentially what was set up to come after that. For me, it was taking the steps of saying, ‘I’m going to be positive, I’m going to believe, I’m going to stay strong.’ I’m going to make a choice that I want this for my life and making those choices and taking those steps is allowing me to be where I am today.
You’ve dealt with a lot of pain in your past. Is it still hard to dance and come home sore at times?
I’m telling you, I never thought! When you go to the club or a barbecue with some friends and you’re dancing it’s one thing, but I never woke up sore like this. When I joined this competition I thought yeah it’s going to be hard, but it ain’t going to be that bad.
My body is hurting right now! I wake up every morning and I feel like my feet are swollen, that’s how serious it is. But, it’s amazing how dancing can really work the body, work every aspect of your body and every muscle.
You’ve worn a lot of flashy and jazzy outfits on the show. Which one has been your favorite? Were there any where you thought, ‘Hurry up and let me take it off!’
The one that I want to buy and I want to keep forever and wear it around when I go to the grocery store is the Jive outfit. The old school plaid pants that I had week two, with just the red suspenders. The Pink Panther look was cool too, I may buy that and just wear it every October to support Breast Cancer awareness month.