Latin Heartthrob William Levy Talks About Growing Up Hungry in Cuba

PHOTO: William LevyPlayABC News
WATCH William Levy on 'DWTS', Cuba and Fatherhood

Latin sensation William Levy has salsa danced into our hearts on "Dancing With the Stars," but while this Spanish soap opera actor and former underwear model seems to be on top of the world now, his life wasn't always so glamorous.

In an interview with "Nightline," Levy, 31, talked about growing up in Cuba, and spending much of his childhood hungry. He told Nightline that every family's food was rationed, and with each person allocated a daily portion of bread, and a quarter of a chicken each month. Children were also given a milk ration until they turned 3.

As a teenager, Levy said he dreamt of escaping on a raft and risking his life to get to the United States.

"It's a do-or-die situation," he said. "You can't just stay there and just let people step all over you."

He was 14 when his family was granted political asylum in the U.S. and moved to Miami. Levy said he remembers being thunder-struck on his first trip to the grocery store.

"I never saw an apple before in my life," he said, laughing. "Strawberry, I never saw before in my life."

"My uncle told me, you know, just go ahead, get this little cart and go ahead and get whatever you want," he continued. "So I saw a box of strawberries. I open, I get a strawberry and I get an apple…my uncle started crying, you know, but laughing at me."

Levy said the experience of leaving Cuba and coming to the U.S. taught him to appreciate how lucky he is.

"Every time I eat, I think about it, 'Oh my God, imagine if I ate this in Cuba,'" he said. "You get to enjoy so much everything you do. For me, life is incredible."

But much has changed since Levy was that skinny little boy from Cuba who was teased when he first arrived in Florida.

He played baseball in college and bulked up, which didn't hurt his career as an underwear model.

Levy got into acting almost a decade ago and is now arguably the king of the telenovela, the massively popular genre of Spanish-language soap operas with a loyal global audience.

Levy's reputation as a lady-killer has caught headlines over the years. Rumors swirled that Levy was having an affair with Jennifer Lopez after he starred as her love interest in her music video, "I'm Into You." At the time, J.Lo was going through a divorce from then-husband Marc Anthony. But Levy denied the affair.

"I wish I could explain [the rumors]," he said. "I try to live my life and, you know, try to keep doing what I'm doing, and not let these things or comments get in my head."

But much of his life has been chronicled on the covers of Spanish People magazine, including his long-term relationship with Mexican-American actress Elizabeth Gutierrez. The couple has two children together, but Levy said he is not ready to get married. At least not yet.

"Right now I'm pretty comfortable in, you know, in my position that I have now," he said.