A hugely successfully Colombian pop singer and dancer, Shakira has wowed millions across the world with her indomitable talent. Here’s a look into the life and times of this famous artist, who continues to expand her popularity far and wide.
It’s All in the Name!
Shakira, an Arabic name, is derived from the word “Shukram” which means “Grace”. The literal translation is “woman full of Grace”, and its second meaning is “Grateful”.
Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll was born on February 2, 1977, in Clinica Asunción de Barranquilla (Colombia). She was the only daughter of a respected jeweler of a Lebanese descent, Don William Mebarak Chadid and his Colombian wife, Nidia Ripoll Torrado. When they married, Don William was divorced and already had seven children from his previous marriage, so Shakira came into this world as his youngest child.
When Shakira was a child, Nidia discovered that she was a gifted writer. Shakira knew the alphabets by the age of eighteen months, and at the age of three, she knew how to read. By the time she was four she was ready for school, and it appeared to everybody that she was a child prodigy. Around this time, her father took her to a local restaurant where Shakira first heard the doumbek, which is a traditional drum used in Arabic music and is typically accompanied with belly dancing. Almost immediately, Shakira was dancing barefoot on the table, and the restaurant patrons responded by clapping enthusiastically. It was at this moment that she said she knew she wanted to be a performer.
Shakira loved singing for schoolmates and teachers (and even the nuns) at her Catholic school. Ironically, she was rejected for the school choir when she was in the second grade because her vibrato was too strong, and the music teacher went on to tell her that she sounded “like a goat”. At school, she was known as ‘the belly dancer girl’, and she would demonstrate a number she learned every Friday at school.
Between the ages of 10 and 13, Shakira was invited to various events in Barranquilla where she gained considerable recognition in the area. She met local theater producer Monica Ariza who was so impressed with her that she decided to help Shakira with her career. On a flight from Barranquilla to Bogotá, Ariza convinced Sony Colombia executive Ciro Vargas to hold an audition for Shakira at a hotel lobby.
Vargas was also impressed with Shakira’s performance, and he gave the cassette to a song and artist director at the Sony office. However, the director was not impressed and believed that Shakira’s performance was not up to the mark. Varga did not give up easily, and he set up an audition in Bogotá where he arranged for Sony Colombia executives to be present at the audition. Shakira lived up to all expectations when she performed three songs for the executives and impressed them sufficiently. She was signed on immediately for three albums.
By 13, Shakira had signed a record deal with Sony in Colombia, which resulted in her first album, Magia (Magic), which was a compilation of songs she had written between the ages of 8 and 13. It was her hard work that put her on the Colombia’s musical map, and she was chosen to represent her country at the Festival OTI that was to be held in Spain. However, as she was under the minimum permissible age of 16, she was not allowed to participate.
Shakira did not get disappointed, but went on to record her second album Peligro (Danger). After this, she took a break from music and went back to school to complete her studies. She graduated from high school at a young age of 15 and came back with vengeance. The result was Pies Descalzos, which was a phenomenal smash that sold close to four million copies worldwide.
Shakira became an international icon and toured for four years playing in front of sold-out audiences across the world.
She achieved tremendous success after her album Pies Descalzos. The album was no. 1 in 8 different countries, and in 1995, it achieved platinum status. She did a Pies Descalzos Tour around the world in 1997. The tour had 20 shows across 3 continents, and it was a commercial success. She came out with another Latin album in 1998 named Dónde Están los Ladrones.
Her major breakthrough came with the hit single Whenever, Wherever. This was an English song and hence, more accessible and comprehensible to the rest of the world. Although her Latin songs were popular, people could not really understand the lyrics. With this crossover song, she proved to everyone of her English songwriting skills too. The song was included in her first English studio album Laundry Service, which was extremely successful. As expected, it won her fans throughout the world.
In 2005, she released her sixth studio album, Fijación Oral. The album was very well received and sold around 4 million records worldwide. She followed it up with another album, Oral Fixation. It was moderately successful, but the album’s second single “Hips Don’t Lie” went on to become the bestselling song of the decade. It was also the unofficial anthem of the 2006 Football World Cup. As is her tradition, she followed the two albums with a Oral Fixation Tour.
In 2008, she came out with the album She Wolf and followed it up with sale El Sol in 2010. She achieved international acclaim for the song Waka Waka that she composed for the World Cup again. The song went on to garner more than 600 million hits on YouTube, and is the eighth-most watched video on that site.
Shakira, since childhood, has written her own songs and composed her own music. Although her songs are very commendable, a good quality in her is her lack of arrogance. She does not shy away from collaborations with even new artistes. This led to many popular songs like Hips Don’t Lie and Beautiful Liar.
Social Work and Philanthropy
Shakira, herself coming from humble beginnings, is very active in social initiatives that target underprivileged children. She founded the Pies Descalzos Foundation that provides food and education for poor children in Colombia. The name for the foundation came from her first hit album.
Shakira also performs in concerts for various benefits. Usually, she performs free of charge, and because of her popularity, she draws huge crowds. The foundations that organize the concerts raise money for education of poor children and for improvement of education in public schools. Shakira, over the years, built a reputation of being an activist for education of poor young people, rather than just giving money to philanthropic institutions.
She has also co-founded ALAS (Fundacion América Latina en Acción Solidaria), which deals with the problems of young people throughout Latin America. The organization also includes other influential artists holding concerts from time to time to raise funds. Recently, Shakira raised a whopping $200 million by convincing businessmen to donate money.
Her efforts are sincere, and she works hard as an activist, and in this regard, she is quite different from the other artistes, where wealth generation and living the high life is so widely seen. For her efforts, she has been applauded by the UN International Labor Organization, and was the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador too. In 2011, she was selected as a member of White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics by President Obama.
Awards and Accolades
Shakira has won numerous awards for her singing. Among her amassed awards she has
- 5 MTV Video Music Awards
- 8 Latin Grammy Awards
- 2 Grammy Awards
- 7 Billboard Music Awards
- 28 Billboard Latin Music Awards
- She has also been nominated for a Golden Globe and has been included in Forbes list of 100 Most Powerful Women in the world in 2013.
Personal Life and Other Highlights
Shakira has Lebanese, Spanish, and Italian roots. This might be the reason that she is multilingual. She can speak fluent Spanish and English and can speak reasonably good Italian, French Catalan, and Arabic. She loves History as a subject and even took courses at UCLA.
Shakira is known to be the smartest singer in the music industry. Mensa pegged her IQ at 140.
She has starred in cameo roles in the American television show Ugly Betty and also acted in the Colombian telenovela El Oasis.
Shakira also has her own perfume line in partnership with the perfume company Puig. The first perfume was called S by Shakira and was well reviewed and received.
Shakira dated an Argentinian lawyer Antonio de la Rúa with whom she had a 11-year relationship until 2011 after which they separated. She started dating Barcelona defender and footballer Gerard Piqué and publicly proclaimed their affair in 2011. Shakira and Gerard’s first child was born in 2013.
Shakira currently resides in Spain with her family.