EXCLUSIVE: 'Dancing with the Stars' Contestant J.R. Martinez: "I Want To Make My Latin Community Proud!"

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With the second episode of ABC's Dancing with the Stars airing tonight (8/7c), we caught up with this season's Latino standout J.R. Martinez. The Army Veteran and former All My Children star spoke to Latina.com about his Latino roots, what it's like to be on Dancing with the Stars, and why he wants to win the whole thing for his fellow Latinos!

Tell us about your Latin roots!

My mother is from El Salvador and my father is from Mexico. I say I’m Salvadorian, and the only reason I don’t say I’m part-Mexican is because my father left and he hasn’t been a part of my life. I was raised by my mother and all of my family is pretty much still in El Salvador—I’ve been there many, many times.

Are you having fun doing Dancing With the Stars?

I’m having a blast! I have a partner (Karina Smirnoff) who is beautiful, down to earth, positive and energetic. The good thing about us is that we’re committed and dedicated, but at the same time both of us love to have fun. And just the feedback that I’ve gotten from people—no matter who they are and whatever their background is—it’s been amazing.

J.R. Martinez and Mark Ballas Get Paired Up on 'Dancing with the Stars'

What’s the hardest thing about doing Dancing with the Stars?

You have those moments where you just get frustrated and you want to do better—you want to do good. And when your body isn’t cooperating with you—when your body isn’t moving in the way you want it to move, it gets frustrating.

What dance are you most afraid of?

You know it's funny because when we first started, Karina was introducing me to the jive, and man, I didn’t like the jive at all! I was like, 'Ugh, man, this is going to be one of those dances that I do not enjoy one bit.' But I have to be honest—as I started to get it and started to work at it, it’s a fun dance and I like it. That’s what we’re doing tonight and I’m looking forward to showing everybody what we’re able to put together. I think you’re really going to like it.

Brazilian auto-racing driver, Hélio Castroneves became the first Latino to win Dancing with the Stars in season 5. Are you going to become the second Latino to win on the show?

I’m definitely planning on it! As Karina says to me all of the time, she’s like 'You have Latin roots and you’ve got to make the Latin people proud.' She’s always reminding me of that. I definitely want to make my Latin community proud and let them know that I’m here to represent for all of us. Growing up and being raised by a single mother, my mother always taught me how to dance cumbias and salsa, so I plan on putting all that stuff to use in all of these dances and take it all home!

Who would you say is your biggest competition this season?

I would probably have to say David Arquette. I thought Ron Artest was going to be the guy to watch, but he came out looking a little stiff. I think David is looking pretty good. One thing about David is he’s taking it seriously. He’s commited to doing this and I think with that kind of commitment he's going to put in the work and be a competitior.

Introducing 'Dancing With the Stars' Contestant J.R. Martinez

You were one of the stars of All My Children, which aired its series finale last Friday. What’s next for you?

My main thing is I want to continue acting. Acting is something that I really enjoy doing. I want to write a book—it’s something that a lot of people ask me about all of the time. I think it’s about time for me to put out a book for people to read and understand the journey that I’ve been on my whole life.  And then at the same time, I want to continue doing motivational speaking. There’s nothing like being a motivational speaker and being able to be in front of a crowd and share something with them and feel that energy in return. There's nothing that compares to it. 

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