Kate's Notes

Thursday, March 08, 2007



Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll (born February 2, 1977 in Barranquilla, Colombia), known simply as Shakira, is probably most famous for, not only her singing career, but her amazing ability to move her hips in ways never seen by the international pop-music buying public. This belly dancing aficionado, Colombian singer, songwriter, record producer, and actress has been a major figure in the pop music scene of Latin America since the mid-1990s; and in 2001, she broke through into the English-speaking market with the release of her first English album, Laundry Service, which has sold over fifteen million copies worldwide.

She is also the highest-selling Colombian artist of all time, having sold almost fifty million albums worldwide. Shakira is the only artist from that country to reach the number-one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and UK Singles Chart. She is also the biggest crossover Latin female artist in the world.

Early Life

The youngest of eight siblings, this half Lebanese and half Colombian beauty was born to a Colombian mother of Catalan and Italian descent, Nidia del Carmen Ripoll Torrado, and a Lebanese father, William Mebarak Chadid, in Barranquilla, Colombia, where she says she grew up among the Lebanese and Italian communities. Her father was born in Lebanon, but migrated to New York when she was still a child; soon after, he migrated to Colombia.

Shakira, which means "graceful" in Arabic, is named after her paternal grandmother, and is one of seven siblings. A fervent writer even at an early age, Shakira wrote her first poem when she was four years old, entitled "The Crystal Rose." Armed with a typewriter given to her as a gift, Shakira began writing more and more, but her poems eventually evolved into songs. When a police officer arrived on her family's doorstep and announced that her older brother had been killed in a motorcycle accident, Shakira was inspired to write her first song when she was eight, called "Tus Gafas Oscuras" (Your Dark Glasses), which documented her father's grief over the loss of his son.

At a young age, in her father's favorite Middle Eastern restaurant, Shakira first heard the clarion call of the doumbek, a drum used typically in belly dancing. Before she knew it, Shakira was dancing on the table as restaurant patrons responded by clapping enthusiastically. She also 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." At school, she says she had been known as "the belly dancer girl", as she would demonstrate a number she learned every Friday at school; "That's how I discovered my passion for live performance," she says.

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 theater 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 motel 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.

Early Career

Magia (Magic) was Shakira's debut album, recorded with Sony Colombia in 1991, when she was 15. The album did not fare well commercially, selling less than one thousand copies. After Magia, Shakira released Peligro (Danger) in 1993. The album was better received than Magia, though it was considered a commercial failure, due to Shakira's refusal to advertise it. Shakira then decided to take a hiatus from recording so that she could graduate from high school.

Success in Latin America and Spain: 1995 - 2000

Shakira returned to recording in 1995, using musical influences from a number of countries and an Alanis Morissette-oriented persona which affected some of her next albums, and made her third studio one, Pies Descalzos (Bare Feet), which brought her great fame in Latin America. The singles "Estoy Aquí" (I'm Here), "Pies Descalzos, Sueños Blancos" (Bare Feet, White Dreams), and "¿Dónde Estás Corazón?" (Where Are You, My Heart?) became pop culture icons. Pies Descalzos sold over four million copies, prompting the release of a remix album, titled simply The Remixes, which sold more than a million copies. The Remixes also included Portuguese versions of some of her best-known songs, which were recorded as a result of her success in the Brazilian market, where Pies Descalzos sold nearly one million copies.

Her fourth album, ¿Dónde están los ladrones? (Where Are the Thieves?), was released in 1998. It was produced by Emilio Estefan, reportedly cost US$3 million, and had more of a polished sound than Pies Descalzos. It was even more successful and solidified her as one of the major Latin artists of the 1990s. She began to gain more fans in non-Spanish-speaking countries like France, Switzerland, Canada, and especially the United States. Eight of the album's eleven tracks became singles, including "Ciega, Sordomuda" (Blind, Deaf, and Mute), "Moscas En La Casa" (Flies in the House), "No Creo" (I Don't Believe), "Inevitable", "Tú" (You), "Si Te Vas" (If You Leave), "Octavo Día" (Eighth Day), and the world-famous "Ojos Así"(Eyes Like Yours). Shakira's first live album, MTV Unplugged, was composed of "Estoy Aquí" and the songs from ¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones?.

The album is the perfect blend of gritty, thought-provoking lyrics and rock-laden tracks, while still preserving the Shakira that her original fans knew and loved.

Often referred to as the Latin equivalent of Alanis Morissette thanks to her long dark hair (at the time) and rock-infused style, Shakira, whose name means "woman full of grace" in Arabic, succeeds to captivate her audience without the bitterness that Morissette is usually associated with.

In March 2000, Shakira embarked on her Tour Anfibio, a two-month tour of Latin America and the United States. In August 2000 she won an MTV Video Music Award in the now-defunct category of People's Choice - Favorite International Artist.

Shakira was chosen as the cover girl for Time magazine's issue featuring the article "Era of the Rockera," and has also graced the cover of Cosmopolitan. In addition, Shakira was named an official goodwill ambassador by the Colombian government and Latin Female Artist of the Year at the World Music Awards.

While she released an MTV Unplugged album in 2000 - which MTV didn't air at first, but later aired on MTV Latin America - she had yet to breakthrough in mainstream English pop.

But a performance on the CBS-aired Latin Grammys in September 2000 (and several awards), and a catchy song "Whenever, Wherever," made American audiences sit up and take notice.

English Market Crossover: 2001 - 2004

In 2001, upon the success of ¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones?, Shakira began working on a crossover album to the English language. Collaborating with Gloria Estefan, Shakira wrote and recorded English versions of the tracks from ¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones?. However, Shakira later decided against using translations of older songs for the album and worked for over a year on new material for the album. The result was Laundry Service. Although it was created with the intent of selling to an English language market, the rock and Spanish dance-influenced album also featured four Spanish songs, including "Que Me Quedes Tú" (I Hope You Stay With Me). Some critics claimed that Shakira's English skills were too weak for her to write in it, but Laundry Service was a success, with more than 13 million sales worldwide, yielding the worldwide hit "Whenever, Wherever" and singles "Underneath Your Clothes" (a Canadian number-one), "Te Dejo Madrid" (I Leave You Madrid), "Objection (Tango)", and "The One." The album and its singles helped to establish Shakira's musical presence in the mainstream North American market.

In 2002, Shakira also released her Spanish greatest hits volume Grandes éxitos. A DVD and ten-track compilation album, called Live & Off the Record, was also released in 2004, reaching sales of 3 million CDs worldwide, and commemorating Shakira's 2002-2003 world tour, the Tour of the Mongoose.

In September 2002, Shakira won the now-defunct International Viewer's Choice Award at the MTV Video Music Awards with "Suerte." In October of that year, she won 5 MTV Video Music Awards Latin America for Best Female Artist, Best Pop Artist, Best Artist—North (Region), Video of the Year (for Suerte), and Artist of the Year. At Aerosmith's MTV Icon in 2002, Shakira performed "Dude (Looks Like A Lady)." Also in 2002, Shakira joined the likes of Celine Dion, Anastacia, Cher and The Dixie Chicks for VH1 Divas Live Las Vegas.

Oral Fixation 1 & 2: 2005 - present

Shakira stayed out of the spotlight for 2 and a half years, notably changing her hair style. She later announced Oral Fixation 1 and 2 was going to be due in 2005. Fijación Oral Vol. 1 was released on June 6, 2005 in Europe and on June 7, 2005 in North America and Australia. The lead single "La Tortura" (English: The Torture, featuring Alejandro Sanz) eventually reached number one in Spain and number twenty-three on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. In Canada, "La Tortura" also became the highest-charting Spanish song when it debuted and peaked at number 21. Its success across the rest of the world was widespread and it managed to peak within the top ten of the majority of the charts it entered. In the U.S., "La Tortura" spent a record twenty-five weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot Latin Tracks chart.

Fijación Oral Vol. 1 was simultaneously released in Latin America. It debuted at number one in Spain and at number four on the U.S. Billboard 200. It was also well-received in non-Spanish speaking countries such as Italy, Greece and Germany, where it reached number one, Austria, where it reached number three, and Canada and Hungary, where it reached number seven. The second single from Fijación Oral Vol. 1, "No" (English: No), was released in September 2005, and peaked at number one in Spain and Colombia, for fourteen non-consecutive weeks. Fijación Oral Vol. 1 has sold five million copies worldwide to date.

Her third single from Fijación Oral Vol. 1, "Día de Enero," is dedicated to her fiance, Antonio de la Rúa. This single was number one in some countries in Latin America, but it did not have success like "La Tortura" and "No." She also performed "La Tortura" at the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards in Miami with Alejandro Sanz. It was the first ever Spanish performance at the VMA's. (There was also a reggaeton medley during the show, including Daddy Yankee's "Gasolina," but it came after Shakira's performance.)

Before the release of Shakira's second English album, Oral Fixation Vol. 2, she appeared at the 2005 MTV Europe Music Awards in Lisbon, Portugal and she was nominated in the category of "Best Female", which she won. Shakira performed Oral Fixation Vol. 2's lead single "Don't Bother" with a car on stage following her win.

Oral Fixation Vol. 2 was released on November 29, 2005 in North America and Australia, and also in Continental Europe. While "Don't Bother" was warmly received by music critics as the album's lead single, it failed to peak within the U.S. top 40. The second single "Hips Don't Lie" (featuring Wyclef Jean) became her first single to reach number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and UK Singles Chart. On March 28, 2006, she re-released Oral Fixation Vol. 2 in the U.S.. Shakira also had the collaboration of Argentinian Rock en Español legend Gustavo Cerati on 2 tracks of both Oral Fixation albums.

On April 3, 2006, Shakira was honored at an United Nations ceremony for creating the Pies Descalzos Foundation, a charity that helps to protect children from violence in Colombia. At the event she said: "Let's not forget that at the end of this day when we all go home, 960 children will have died in Latin America."

On April 27, 2006 she received 6 Latin Billboard Awards. The awards included Female Latin Pop Album of the Year for Fijacion Oral Vol. 1 and Hot Latin Song of the Year for "La Tortura". She was also honored with the Spirit of Hope Award for her foundation Pies Descalzos.

In June, Shakira started her biggest tour ever, called the Oral Fixation Tour, which will last until the spring of 2007. The Oral Fixation tour has 99 dates, while her previous world tour, The Tour of the Mongoose, had only 61 tour dates.

As of July 30, 2006 "Hips Don't Lie" was her most recent number one, and consequently, the last ever song played on the legendary British programme Top of the Pops, seeing the track jump back from number three to the number one spot again, after spending seven weeks on the chart.

Shakira was the most nominated artist of the year for the MTV Video Music Awards '06. Her seven nominations were for "Hips Don't Lie," including Video of the Year and Best Female Video. She won only one award for Choreography. Shakira also performed "Hips Don't Lie" to the dance moves of popular Indian Choreographer Farah Khan. The award show was held on August 31, 2006 in Radio City Music Hall.

In 2006, Shakira and Alejandro Sanz worked together on the duet is called "Te lo Agradezco, Pero No" and it is featured on Alejandro Sanz' album El Tren de los Momentos. Also, Shakira announced her two new singles, "Illegal" featuring Carlos Santana and "La Pared", which became a great hit in Spain. She has also worked with R&B singer-songwriter Beyoncé, and the two have released the single "Beautiful Liar" for Beyoncé's re-release of her B'Day album.

Shakira is rumored to be releasing Las de la Intuición and its English counterpart Pure Intuition after her duet with Beyoncé, "Beautiful Liar." It is also reported that Shakira will be collaborating with many artists over the next year, some being Eve, Taboo and Calle 13.

Shakira performed with Wyclef Jean at the 49th annual Grammy Awards on February 11th 2007. She did not win the award for which she and Wyclef Jean were nominated, in the best pop collaboration category.

Shakira is to provide three songs for the movie adaptation of the Gabriel García Márquez novel Love in the Time of Cholera which is due out around late 2007.


Shakira is infamous for her dancing in her various music videos. The moves are based on the art of belly dancing, a part of what she claims is her Lebanese heritage, which Shakira says she learned as a young teen to overcome her shyness. The intense training has afforded her a fluidity in her body movement most seen in the video to her hit "La Tortura." She has had several belly dance choreographers, including award-winning bellydancing superstar Bozenka. As her MTV 'The Making of...' special reveals, she worked with Jamie King for the choreography, but ended up creating most of it herself.


Shakira acted in the Colombian Telenovela "El Oasis" in 1996, as the character Luisa Maria.

Shakira is to co-star in Dare to Love Me, a movie about the famous tango singer Carlos Gardel, along with Rodrigo Santoro, Paz Vega, and Jordi Mollà. The production release is scheduled for 2007.

Personal Life

In 2000, Shakira started dating Antonio de la Rúa, the son of then president of Argentina Fernando de la Rúa, a romance that made headline news throughout Latin America. In March of 2001, he proposed to her. De la Rúa and Shakira remain engaged, with future plans to marry.

Charity Work and Activism

In 2001, Shakira founded the Fundación Pies Descalzos (Bare Feet Foundation). It is a Colombian charity with special schools for poor children in Quibdó (a city on the Pacific coast of Colombia) and Barranquilla. It is funded by Shakira and many other international groups and individuals.

Shakira is also a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF and is one of their "global representatives. “Shakira, like all our Goodwill Ambassadors, was chosen based on her compassion, her involvement in global issues, her deep commitment to helping children, and her appeal to young people around the world. We’re very pleased to have Shakira join the UNICEF family. I know she’ll help bring UNICEF’s mission to the audience who will have the most impact on our future – young people themselves,” said UNICEF's Executive Director Carol Bellamy.


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