You may not know his birth name, but if you have a social media account, you’ve probably already seen his face cross your feed — a face caked in makeup with eyes adorned with backward lashes, that is.
Over the last few years, Adam Martinez, known by his handle @adamrayokay, has gone viral as Rosa — an outspoken diva who isn’t afraid to flirt or call someone out for being shady.
But don’t call Rosa a character.
“To me, she’s not a character,” Martinez, 22, told TODAY via Zoom. “Only because so much of her is already a part of me. You know what I mean? Everything that comes from Rosa is coming from me. She’s just able to express it a little bit better.”
How did Rosa begin?
In December 2019, Martinez was interested in the beauty industry and began experimenting with makeup. He wishes the story was more interesting than that, but Rosa was birthed simply from Martinez being bored in his bedroom in San Antonio, Texas.
“I was learning makeup,” he shared. “I was getting heavy into beauty and everything like that. I had ordered these huge pair of lashes because that’s just kind of the look that I always wanted. I don’t know what made me flip one upside down, put harsh contour and create this alter-ego. But all in all I am Rosa. As the creator of Rosa, she has to be in me. So it’s not really a character to me, it’s very much me, but on an elevated level.”
Today, Martinez has 6.5 million followers on TikTok and another one million on Instagram. His massive following on social media is mostly thanks to Rosa. What makes Rosa so viral? Yes, it’s her outspokenness, Martinez says, but it's also her familiarity.
“It takes very few words to describe her,” he explained. “You can just hear her or be around her and it should bring back that familiar feeling. You know a person like that, you know a family member like that. She’s very predictable, but in an unpredictable way. Nobody will say it but everybody wants to be like her because she’s just out there like that. She’s not scared. She’s just bored. She can do whatever she wants and people like that.”
At the time Rosa became an internet sensation, Martinez weighed up to 462 pounds. Despite never being part of the punchline, Rosa's weight was something that didn't phase her but off camera, Martinez struggled.
“Ever since I can remember, throwing it back all the way to elementary school, I’ve always been overweight,” he said. “It just got in the way of a lot of things. Not just physically, but mentally, emotionally and with my health and everything like that.”
As he got older and his social media following grew, he began thinking about his weight and health in new ways. This was hard for him, and he started to experience intense bouts of depression that increasingly became more and more overwhelming.
“Things were getting worse mentally,” he shared. “It’s sad to say but I don’t even know how long I would have lasted if I didn’t start my weight-loss journey. It was a dark alley that I was leading into and it was just so depressing and I couldn’t get my head out of that dark space. The only way that was going to help was me getting healthier.”
Familiar with surgical weight-loss procedures available, Martinez was always informed and knew they were potential avenues for him to take. His mother once received the lap band, and his sister did a gastric sleeve. In late 2020, he decided to undergo a gastric bypass.
What is gastric bypass?
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a gastric bypass is done in three steps. First, the stomach is stapled, so the patient eats less because they feel fuller sooner. Then, the small intestine is divided into two parts so food bypasses part of the intestine, so the body absorbs fewer calories. Third, the upper part of the small intestine is reconnected to a new location farther down, allowing digestive juices in the stomach to flow from the bypassed part to the lower part of the small intestine.
The surgery was a success, and over the last year and a half Martinez has lost more than 200 pounds.
After Martinez's followers started to see a change in him physically, his followers started commenting that he had taken the easy way out by undergoing a procedure.
“I knew it was going to come, but I just didn’t expect for it to be this much,” he said. “It kind of sucks for that only because I know every single struggle that I faced and every single bump in the road that I had to go over. So for me to read that online it kind of stung. I wish I had a camera with me all the way before everything that I experienced — everything that I went through — because I genuinely did not take the easy way out and still to this day have so many struggles.”
Others started criticizing and commenting that because Rosa was thinner, she wasn’t as funny as before.
"I feel like the moment I started to look a little bit more different is when a lot of people kind of just for some reason thought that Rosa was different," he said. "She’s changed ... what are you doing to her?"
"Yes, I am changing as a person but if anything I’m changing for all the right reasons. The Rosa back then is nothing compared to what Rosa can be today. I feel it because I’m such in a different headspace. I feel like I can do so much more."
For now, Martinez is updating his followers on his weight-loss journey, explaining the surgical process and skin removal procedures he underwent in educational YouTube videos. He's also preparing to go on tour, where he'll be able to see his fans in real life and show them that Rosa — and Martinez himself — are more fabulous and funny than ever.
"It's genuinely all about what's in my head and how I feel in my heart, the happiness that I feel," he said. "That's what makes Rosa all the better. I'm not the same person that I was two years ago."