Last night, Shakira was honored as the Latin Grammy’s Person of the Year, becoming the youngest person ever to receive the prestigious award for philanthropy and contributions to music. The global star and humanitarian thoroughly deserves it.
“This is one of the most important moments of my life,” she said at the event. Here are others that stand out for us:
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It all begins with a dream…
It seems like the Barranquilla-bred Shakira was born knowing what she wanted to do. She wrote her first poem at age 4 and her poems quickly became songs. Once kicked out of school choir for having a too-strong vibrato, undaunted, she released her first album, Magia, at age 14. With darker hair and eyebrows, you have to do a double take to recognize her, but even back then, those hips didn’t lie.
Heal the World
This is how you know that Shakira’s humanitarian work isn’t window-dressing. She founded Pies Descalzos Foundation in 1995 to bring attention to child development in Colombia. It now feeds and educates thousands across Colombia and has a sister foundation that exports the nonprofit’s methods to places like Haiti.
If Pies Descalzos, the album that her foundation is named after, brought Shakira attention, ¿Donde Estan Los Ladrones?, produced by Shakira and Emilio Estefan and released in 1998, brought her out-and-out international fame and acclaim and two Grammy wins.
With an album that would go on to sell 7 million copies under her belt, it was time for MTV to give the bourgeoning star her close-up, via an intimate, heartfelt MTV Unplugged performance that instantly endeared her even more to fans.
Returning to Her Roots
It’s so fitting that Shakira should get the Latin Grammy’s Person of the Year Award-she was there at the inaugural awards show in 2000. She sang and danced the hell out of her buoyant, Arabic-inspired Grammy-winning single, Ojos Asi, which was later voted as the greatest Latin Grammy award performance of all time. This is where the world was introduced to Shaki’s signature belly dancing.
What to do next? Conquer the English-language music market, of course. Fresh off her success, Shakira started working on Laundry Service, which yielded 2002’s top single, Whenever, Wherever. Remarkably, Shakira wrote the lyrics herself, in English, though she was just learning the language. Though she received some backlash from fans who thought the move (and her suddenly blond hair) amounted to selling out, the album eventually sold 13 million copies worldwide (it was the year’s bestselling album) and proved key to launching her globally.
Performing for Peace
On tour in 1998, Shakira stopped by the Vatican after being granted an audience with Pope John Paul II. As a Goodwill Ambassador for Colombia, she asked for his intervention in the embattled country’s peace process.
“Hips Don’t Lie”, Shakira’s 2006 single featuring Wyclef Jean was on such heavy rotation on the radio and the pair performed it so many times, including at the VMAs, that it made her a household name synonymous with hit-making machine.
Using Her Fame for a Good Cause
As laudable as Pies Descalzos was, Shakira wanted to take her fight for the right of children to be educated and lifted out of poverty to all of Latin America. So she, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and a host of artists including Ricky Martin, Juanes and Miguel Bose, started ALAS in 2006. Shakira famously announced the group’s $40 million donation to help Peru and Nicaragua rebuild after natural disasters. The non-profit has raised millions and worked with governments and billionaires like Carlos Slim to help children.
Yes she can!
Having met presidents, prime ministers, popes, philanthropists and, well, just about anyone who wields massive power, Shakira was invited to perform at Pres. Barack Obama’s historic inauguration in 2008. Wearing liquid latex pants and a jacket, she sang “Higher Ground” with Usher and Stevie Wonder.
Keeping the Peace
Having worked to better the lives of children for 15 years, Shakira flew to Switzerland in May 2010 to receive the United Nation’s Social Justice for Peace Award. UN labor chief Juan Somavia described Shakira as a “true ambassador for children and young people, for quality education and social justice."
Talk about ubiquitous. Shakira often seems like the official Planet Earth artist, so beloved is she around the world. Who else would the World Cup choose to sing its official song of the 2010 cup? Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) became the bestselling World Cup anthem ever.
Few celebs have the bonafides that Shakira does when it comes to improving education for Hispanic children. No wonder that Pres. Obama chose her for his Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. Wearing a demure balck shift and heavy bangs, she made an impassioned three-and-a-half minute speech: “Investing in the educational achievement of this vulnerable population will not only help determine the economic future and competitiveness of this nation, but can serve as a model for the world,” she said. “I am grateful to have an opportunity to support and inform such important work. I hope that through my appointment to this commission, I will be able to share what I've learned through the 15 years I have been involved in the education of Latino children. As we all know, race and ethnicity shouldn't be factors in the success of any child.”