Ever wondered why there hasn’t been another Gloria Estefan, or another Shakira? We’re talking Latinas who have transcended huge barriers and gone on to become global phenoms? Sure, Enrique and Pitbull are having huge years, but what about the women? The Glorias and Shakiras seem to come around every eon—and according to Estefan, there’s a reason for that. We got to the bottom of this during our recent interview with the icon, as she promoted her latest album, Miss Little Havana.
Are you hopeful we will see another Shakira-type success story in your lifetime?
I'm always hopeful that somebody, any Latino, is going to succeed in what they do. And of course in music, undoubtedly. With Shakira, we [her and Emilio, who managed Shakira at the time] helped her get there. Because she didn't at the beginning believe that she could even do it. I started writing some of her stuff in English to show her that it could translate well. And then she took over and wrote it herself. She showed it to me and I go, ‘Quite honestly, I can't do this better!’ [Laughs]
Is it true you had to work hard at convincing Tommy Mottola [then head of Sony, Shakira’s label] to give her a shot at the crossover?
I got in the trenches there with Tommy—I fought for that. Because they didn't believe it. Just like they told us [her and Emilio during the Miami Sound Machine days]. They were trying to think in the box and I wanted to take her out of the box. And fortunately, Tommy, whom I love and adore and is a good friend, he really listened to me.
Which Latina in your opinion is the closest thing to that next big crossover star?
I think that there are people that can do this, like [Spaniard] Natalia Jimenez, for example, who is huge in the Latin world with [her former band] La Quinta Estación. I did her [recent] song “Por Ser Tu Mujer” in English, 'cause I told her, ‘Oh my God, this would be a killer rock tune!’ And if anybody can do it, she can. Because she can sing perfectly. She has no accent and she's an amazing performer and writer and a really unique artist. I would love to see her be the next one that really breaks that kind of ground.
Why are the odds generally not in favor of aspiring female pop stars?
Because the big fans of music usually will fall in love with their stars in some way. And in general, women are the ones that buy records. Women are the ones that drag their boyfriends to concerts a lot. That's why action movies do well— because men drag their girlfriends to them. If it [this music thing] were easy, then a lot of people would be there. It's not easy to accomplish. And more so now, because I think also the advent of social media and all the choices that we have in entertainment has also made it that much more difficult to break through on a massive scale. Before there were certain things you could do that would get you worldwide attention. And now that's fragmented down into everybody's particular choice. So that makes it tougher to succeed on that kind of level for everyone—women and men.