Cuban power couple Emilio and Gloria Estefan are in New York City today to pay tribute to their good friend and Thalia’s mother, Yolanda Miranda Mange, who passed away unexpectedly in Mexico on Friday of what is believed to be a heart attack. Earlier today, Doña Yolanda was laid to rest in a small, intimate funeral service in the presence of close friends and family.
We caught up with Emilio and asked him to tell us about his friendship with the Sodi matriarch, who first approached him in Acapulco about launching her daughter’s singing career nearly 20 years ago. At the time, Thalia was a well-known telenovela actress in her homeland, but she needed that musical Midas touch in order to break through as an international pop star. As her manager at the time, Yolanda knew just who to call on. Once Thalia signed with EMI Latin, Emilio went on to produce almost all of her albums—including Amor a la Mexicana, her bestselling one to date—and direct her videos.
Since then, the Estefans and the Sodis have become as close as family, even spending holidays together. Having lost her father at a young age, Thalia came to see Emilio as a father figure; it was he who introduced the Mexican superstar to music mogul Tommy Mottola, whom she married in 2000.
In an exclusive interview with Latina.com, Emilio remembers his good friend.
Emilio, we know it is a very sad day for those who were close to Doña Yolanda, and that you’ve turned down all interviews, so thank you for speaking to us. What are your first memories of her?
Thalia must have been around 20 years old, and her mom approached me and said, ‘My daughter wants to sing.’ So I said, ‘If you land a record deal, I’ll produce her album.’ So when Yolanda called me to say, ‘I got it!’ we got to work, and I got to see that beautiful mother-daughter relationship firsthand.
When was the last time you were with Yolanda?
We all spent Christmas Eve together this past year at Lilli’s [my niece’s] house in Miami, where we go every year. Then I saw her once more here in New York. She looked healthy, that’s why everyone is so surprised. She was at Thalia’s baby shower in New York just the week before she passed away, then she went back to Mexico and complained about her head hurting one night, went to sleep and never woke up. That’s why we have to make the most out of our time here. Our lives can change so drastically in one minute.
What words of comfort have you offered Thalia during this difficult time?
I told her that she should feel so proud of herself because she was an amazing daughter. She took good care of her mother and they were always very close.
How would you describe their relationship?
It’s a beautiful example of a mother who raised her daughter right and always believed in her. And instead of Thalia looking for an outside manager, which would have been really easy, she chose her own mother, someone who always kept her best interest at heart.
When did you start working together?
I worked with Thalia and her mother starting with one of her earliest albums [1995’s En Extasis, which spawned the huge hit “Piel Morena”]. And we spent over 10 years working together on everything from her sound to her image. I remember at one point Yolanda wanted to change Thalia’s image to be a bit more natural. We’ve always had a relationship that’s like family, which is why this week I’m understandably sad.
Thalia is close to giving birth to her second child. The timing of this must be especially hard on her.
I’m sad that Yolanda won’t get to know her grandchild; boy or girl, I’m not sure what she’s having and I haven’t gotten the chance to ask her. But as tragic as Yolanda’s death is and the timing of it— I believe Thalia is due in just one week— it shows you that there’s always a reason to live. I think we forget that during our day to day, but it’s one of those key things.
What is your fondest memory of Yolanda?
She would always say, ‘You’re like my son, and the day I’m not here anymore, please watch over my daughter.’ I always felt I had a big responsibility to look out for Thalia because her mom placed so much trust in me. In a sweet way, Yolanda was also a bit jealous and she would joke with Thalia, ‘You’re my baby and I love you more than anyone in the whole wide world!’ It’s going to be really hard for Thalia, but like I said, she should feel peace in her heart because she was nothing but a wonderful daughter.