HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, known professionally as Shakira, was born on February 2, 1977, in Barranquilla, Colombia with a Lebanese American immigrant father William Mebarak Chadid and a native Colombo of Italian and Spanish descent mother Nidya del Carmen Ripoll Torrado.
Shakira spent much of her youth in Barranquilla, a city located in northern Colombia. Shakira wrote her first poem, entitled La Rosa De Cristal (The Crystal Rose) when she was only four years old.
As she was growing up, she was fascinated watching her father writing stories on a typewriter, and asked for one as a Christmas gift. She got her wish at age seven and continued writing poetry. These poems eventually evolved into songs. At the age of two, an older half-brother was killed in a motorcycle accident and at the age of eight, Shakira wrote her first song entitled Tus gafas oscuras (Your dark glasses), which was inspired by her father, who for years wore dark glasses, to hide his grief.
When Shakira was four, her father took her to a local Middle Eastern restaurant, where Shakira first heard the doumbek, a traditional drum used in Arabic music and which typically accompanied belly dancing. Before she knew it, Shakira was dancing on the table; she then knew she wanted to be a performer.
She enjoyed singing for schoolmates and teachers (and even the nuns) at her Catholic school, but in the second grade was rejected for the school choir because her vibrato was too strong. The music teacher told her that she sounded “like a goat”.
Between the ages of 10 and 13 Shakira was invited to various events in Barranquilla and gained some recognition in the area. It was at about this time that she met local theatre producer Monica Ariza, who was impressed with her and as a result tried to help her career.
During a flight from Barranquilla to Bogotá, Ariza convinced Sony Colombia Executive Ciro Vargas to hold an audition for Shakira in a hotel lobby. Vargas held Shakira in high regard and, returning to the Sony office, gave the cassette to a song and artist director. However, the director was not overly excited and thought Shakira was something of “a lost cause”. Vargas, not daunted, was still convinced that Shakira had talent, and set up an audition in Bogotá. He arranged for Sony Colombia executives to arrive at the audition, with the idea of surprising them with Shakira’s performance. She performed three songs for the executives and impressed them enough for her to be signed to record three albums.
Shakira’s debut album, Magia was recorded with Sony Music Colombia in 1990 when she was only 13 years old. The album was released in 1991 and featured Magia and three other singles. Though it fared well on Colombian radio and gave the young Shakira much exposure, the album did not fare well commercially: only 1,200 copies were sold and the music video for Magia became first national pop video in Colombia. After the poor acclaim of Magia, Shakira’s label urged her back into the studio to release a follow up with more hit songs, to give the album potential.
Shakira’s second studio album Peligro was released in March, but Shakira was not pleased with the final result, mainly taking issue with the production. The album was better received than Magia, though it was also considered a commercial failure due to Shakira’s refusal to advertise it.
After commercial flops with local producers on her first two albums, and little-known outside Colombia, Shakira decided to produce her own brand of music. In 1995 she released Pies Descalzos, which brought her great fame in Latin America and Spain, and her 1998 album Donde Estan los Ladrones? was a critical success.
Since then she has gained many fans in non-Spanish-speaking countries, especially in the United States.
In 2001, and aided by heavy promotion of the music video, Whenever, Wherever she broke through into the English-speaking world with the release of Laundry Service, which sold over 13 million copies worldwide. Four years later, Shakira released two album projects called Fijacon Oral Vol. 1 and Oral Fixation Vol. 2. Both reinforced her success, particularly with the most successful song in the 21st century to date, Hips Don’t Lie.
On October 12, 2009 Shakira released her latest album She Wolf. The album went platinum in 2010, and hit No 15 on the Billboard charts in 2009. Her hit Waka Waka from 2010’s Sale el Sol became the theme song for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
The global superstar headed on tour shortly after to promote her album.
Shakira is well known for her dancing in various music videos and in concerts. Her moves are based on the art of Arabic belly dancing, a part of her Lebanese heritage. She often performs barefoot. Shakira learned this form of dance as a young teen to overcome her shyness. She learned how to belly dance by trying to flip a coin with her belly.
In 1997, Shakira founded the Pies Descalzos Foundation. It is a Colombian charity with special schools for poor children all around Colombia. It was funded by Shakira and other international groups and individuals. The name of the foundation is taken from Shakira’s third studio album called Pies Descalzos, released in 1995.
Shakira is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and is one of their global representatives.
On April 3, 2006, Shakira was honoured at a UN ceremony for creating the Pies Descalzos Foundation.
On December 7, 2009, Shakira was honoured as a guest at the University of Oxford to give a speech about her work with children and education. She was chosen by the Oxford Union and joined the ranks of Albert Einstein, several US Presidents, Mother Teresa, and the Dalai Lama XIV, as a chosen speaker.
In November 2010, after performing as the opening act of the MTV European Music Awards, the Colombian singer also received the MTV Free Your Mind Award for her continuing dedication to improve access to education for all children around the world.
On October 5, 2011, US President Barack Obama announced that Shakira was appointed as a member of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
Shakira was honoured at the Latin Grammys as the Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year on November 9, 2011, for her philanthropy and contributions to Latin Music.
Shakira is in a relationship with Spanish soccer player Gerard Pique. The couple welcomed their first child together in January 2013. They named their son Milan, which means “dear, loving and gracious” in Slavic; in Ancient Roman, “eager and labourious”; and in Sanskrit, “unification”.