October 30, 1989 12:00 PM

If you thought a certain uni-monikered, radio-ubiquitous disco queen whose seven-letter name begins with M was a tad precocious when she first bellied up to stardom, dig Martika. An ambitious 20-year-old whose gold debut album, Martika, has spun off one No. 1 hit, “Toy Soldiers,” and made her MTV’s PG-rated Boy Toy of the month, Martika makes Madonna sound modest by comparison. “I always knew I’d be doing this,” she says. “From the time I was a little girl, I knew stardom would happen and I never questioned it. I had no doubt. I just knew I wanted to live on a bigger scale. I wanted to be a household name. All I had to do was to catch up to my destiny.”

No, Muhammad Ali isn’t writing her material. Martika is a nice, talented young woman born with premonitions of celebrity. The daughter of Cuban immigrants, she grew up with three older brothers in the San Gabriel Valley, outside Los Angeles. “My daughter has always been extremely determined,” says her mother, Marta, who manages Martika’s career. “From the time she could talk, she said she wanted to be a star.”

Martika began taking music and dance classes at age 4, and by 11 she was phoning talent agents. That paid off a year later when she landed her first professional gig, playing an orphan in Annie, the movie. Bit parts on TV in Silver Spoons, Diff’rent Strokes and Hardcastle & McCormick followed, but Martika’s ambitions lay elsewhere. Her homemade demo tapes brought nibbles from several record companies, but Martika didn’t jump at the first contract that came along. “I didn’t want to sign just to put out a record,” she says. “I wanted to write my own songs, to be involved creatively. I wanted to be sure that when I brought my music to the world I was saying something.”

The songs on her first album mostly say “Dance!”—but Martika says she knows there’s more to life than the search for the perfect synthesized drumbeat. “I’m really moody,” she says. “I’m complex in the sense that I’m not an easy person. There’s a lot of depth that I don’t necessarily show right off the bat. My head is usually in 20,000 places at the same time. There are times when I’m a girl who loves to laugh and giggle. Other times I get serious and concerned about world hunger, the ozone layer, the homeless and issues like that. And other times I just want to shop.”

Still living at home and driving the Celica convertible she bought at 16, Martika hasn’t stopped minding her mom. “I’ve learned to ask, ‘Is this my manager speaking or my mother?’ ” she says. “If it’s my manager, I can yell back. If it’s my mom, I can’t.” As for boys, Martika says she can wait. “I never went on formal dates,” she explains. “It always made me uncomfortable. Now I don’t have time for boyfriends. Life is too crazy.”

But definitely not out of control. With characteristic confidence, Martika predicts that her next album will be an even bigger hit than her first. “You know why?” she asks. “Because this time around, I’ll know what I’m doing.”

—Steve Dougherty, Todd Gold in Los Angeles

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