Birth Name Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll
Height 5′ 2″ (1.57 m)
Grammy-winning Latina pop singer Shakira was born in Barranquilla, Colombia, on February 2, 1977. Her father is a Lebanese-American immigrant and her mother a native of Colombia of Italian and Spanish decent. Shakira began her musical career at age 12 and quickly captured fans throughout Latin America. She won the 2001 Best Latin pop Grammy for her “MTV Unplugged” album.
After achieving superstardom throughout Latin America, Colombian-born Shakira became Latin pop’s biggest female crossover artist since Jennifer Lopez broke down the doors to English-language success. Noted for her aggressive, rock-influenced approach, Shakira maintained an extraordinary degree of creative control over her music, especially for a female artist; she wrote or co-wrote nearly all of her own material, and in the process gained a reputation as one of Latin music’s most ambitiously poetic lyricists. When she released her first English material in late 2001, she became an instant pop sensation, thanks to her quirky poetic sense and a sexy video image built on her hip-shaking belly-dance moves.
Shakira Mebarak (full name: Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll) was born February 2, 1977, in Barranquilla, Colombia, into a poor family. Her mother was a native Colombian and her father was of Lebanese descent, and so as a child Shakira soaked up music from both cultures; she also listened heavily to English-language rock & roll, listing her favorite bands in later interviews as Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, the Police, the Cure, and Nirvana. Shakira wrote her first song at age eight, began entering (and winning) talent competitions at age ten, and started learning the guitar at age 11; one story runs that around this age, she was kicked out of her school choir for singing too forcefully. In 1990, at age 13, Shakira moved to Bogotá in hopes of pursuing a modeling career, but wound up signing a record deal with Sony’s Colombian division instead. Her 1991 debut album, Magia (Magic), was comprised of songs she’d written over the past five or six years, including some of her earliest efforts. Although it didn’t break internationally, the record started to make a name for her in her home country. Dissatisfied with the pop inclinations of the follow-up, 1993’s Peligro (Danger), Shakira changed direction for a time, joining the cast of the Colombian soap opera El Oasis in 1994.
When Shakira returned to recording in 1995, she asserted more control over the direction of her music, and worked more rock & roll rhythms — as well as occasional Arabic tinges — into her Latin pop material. The first results were Pies Descalzos (Bare Feet), which was initially released in 1995; a slow seller at first, the album gradually caught on thanks to the rock-tinged single “Estoy Aqui,” which became a hit all over Latin America, as well as Spain. After that breakthrough, Pies Descalzos just kept spinning off singles: “Dónde Estás Corazón?,” “Antología,” “Pienso en Ti,” “Un Poco de Amor,” “Se Quiere, Se Mata.” The album hit number one in eight different countries and eventually went platinum in the U.S. as well; Shakira toured for nearly two years promoting it (she finally left El Oasis in 1997).
Seeking to build on her success, Shakira signed Emilio Estefan — Gloria’s husband and a highly successful music-biz insider — as her manager and producer. The move paid off when her follow-up album, 1998’s Dónde Están los Ladrones? (Where Are the Thieves?), became an even bigger worldwide hit than its predecessor. What was more, it cracked the lucrative U.S. market wide open, spending 11 weeks at number one on Billboard’s Latin album chart and producing two U.S. number ones (on the Latin chart) with “Ciega, Sordomuda” and “Tu.” The album’s signature track, however, was the worldwide hit “Ojos Así,” her most explicit nod yet to the Arabic music she’d picked up from her father (not to mention its latent belly-dancing connotations). Dónde Están los Ladrones? was also the most effective presentation yet of Shakira’s strong-willed persona; her self-analysis made her even more popular among female fans, while her anger over love gone wrong drew comparisons to Alanis Morissette.
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