The first time I met Sammy Sosa was at a private party he hosted after his Hurricane George benefit at the Casa de Campo villa of the Fanjul family. He was hospitable, somewhat shy, super easy-going. I was in La Romana, Dominican Republic profiling Shakira for Vibe. Jon Secada, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Carlos Vives, etc. were all there after masterfully rocking the stage at the dreamy Altos de Chavon amphitheater. It was a beautiful night. The concert, fantastic. And people were gathered from all over South and North America, and the Caribbean for a great cause.
Fast forward to fall 2008. I ran into Sosa again in D.R. This time, at a function tied to a film festival. When he sauntered into the lobby of the venue in Santo Domingo, I almost caught whiplash when I caught sight of him. There was something different about him. Sure, all people evolve as their circumstances change, but this was different. Sosa was a little lighter than when I saw him last. Maybe he was sick, I thought. He was wearing what looked like an ill-fitting zoot suit and his hair was conked—permed straight. I swear he was wearing light contacts. I introduced myself to him and complimented him on his English. I said something like, “Wow, you look different. And your English is great.” He looked at me, with the arrogance that befalls too many folks who come into money and power, and said something totally forgettable. I just remember it was snarky.
This is probably why I wasn’t too surprised to see these photos of an either very, very sick, crazy scared or bleached Sammy Sosa surface from last week’s Latin Grammys. This sends out a really negative message to many of the young [and old] people who look up to him. If he isn’t very, very sick, the retired baseball player has really intense low self-esteem issues playing out before our eyes. The higher he climbs on the social and economic ladder, the more he seems all too willing to shed the self that got him there in the first place. WTF Sosa!? I hope this is just a simple case of over-exposed flicks. Either way, I hope he releases a statement very soon.
UPDATE: My twitter friend @SpeaksBeliefs, sent me this piece in where there’s some sort of explanation offered: it’s a “skin rejuvenation process.”
“He’s not trying to be Michael Jackson,” said former Cubs employee Rebecca Polihronis, who talks frequently with Sosa.”