In 1984, Martelly moved to Miami, Florida, where he attended college and worked in construction.
In 1986, having completed just one semester of university, he returned to Haiti for one year, around the time of President Jean-Claude Duvalier’s exile.
After one more stint in Miami, Martelly again returned to Haiti in 1988. Around this time, he began playing keyboard in Port-au-Prince.
In 1988, Martelly recorded his first single, ‘Ooo La La’, which became a nationwide hit.
In 1991, following the Haitian coup d’etat, Martelly continued playing in Port-au-Prince suburbs such as Petonville and Kenscoff, gaining many supporters for his music among the coup’s proponents.
Between 1988 and 2008, he released fourteen studio albums and some live CDs, all under the name Sweet Micky.
In 1992, Martelly played at a protest against the arrival of the UN representative who was meant to orchestrate Aristide’s return to power in Haiti.
In 1995, following Aristide’s reinstatement as President, Martelly’s name appeared on a “hit list” of known Aristide opponents; the threat prompted him to remain abroad on tour for almost a full year.
In 1997, Martelly participated in various forms of social activism and aid, including participating on an educational music video program aimed to combat AIDS, called ‘Knowledge is Power’, and forming the Foundation Rose et Blanc, to fight poverty in Haiti.
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With the 2004 coup d’etat, Gerard Latortue became Prime Minister; he was a friend of Martelly.
In 2007, Martelly moved back to Haiti from Miami, where he had been living with his family. As a result of the move and the financial downturn, he lost three properties and had to default on over $1 million in loans.
In 2010, Martelly ran for the Haitian presidency, making it into the runoff after he contested the first count.
On 4 April 2011, Martelly’s election was announced; he defeated his opponent, Mirlande Manigat, with 60 percent of the vote.
On 14 May 2011, Martelly was sworn in as Haitian president and on the following day, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive resigned, allowing Martelly to choose a Prime Minister for his administration.
In August 2011, he unveiled his plan to reinstate the Haitian military, to mixed public opinion.
In September 2011, Martelly teamed with various business executives, bank managers and politicians, including Bill Clinton, to create a plan to jumpstart Haitian economy.
In April 2012, he was accused receiving bribe in lieu of awarding a contract to a Dominican Republic construction company.
In May 2012, Senate elections were postponed until 26 October 2014 and then again, indefinitely. This caused huge public outrage. Many of the protests targeted Martelly’s faulty leadership in allowing the continuous postponement.
On 17 January 2015, protesters descended on Port-au-Prince to campaign against the dissolution of Parliament and to demand the president’s resignation.
Martelly claims that, as a young man, he was thrown out of the Haitian Military Academy because he allegedly impregnated a general’s goddaughter.
Martelly is a cousin of Richard Morse, another Haitian musician and also a hotel manager.
As a musical performer, one of Martelly’s trademarks was his flamboyant style, regularly dressing in drag or partially stripping onstage.