Pop icon Shakira has released eleven studio albums, performed at one of the most viewed Super Bowl halftime shows in history, won fifteen Grammy awards, and become a record-breaking artist on Spotify. The Colombian singer also made headlines after fighting off wild boars in a Barcelona Park. So, she’s not just an overachiever behind the mic. She’s a warrior too. Whether she’s opening doors for Latin musicians, spreading goodwill as a UNICEF ambassador, or holding the political elite to account, Shakira always makes a big impact. But how much do you really know about the singer and her life so far?
In this article, we share 10 things you might not know about hip shakin’ Colombian legend Shakira.
# 1 – She’s Proud to Be Half Arabic
We all know Shakira as the biggest export to come out of Colombia since Gabriel Garcia Marquez but she’s also got links to other continents. Shakira’s father is Lebanese which explains the singer’s lifelong passion for Arabic styles of music and dance and her continued use of the Arabic musical scales. She told Rolling Stone she knew she wanted to be a performer at four years of age after dancing on a table at a Middle Eastern restaurant.
#2 – She Recorded Her First Album At Thirteen
Shakira first burst onto the international scene after releasing her smash hit ‘Whenever, Wherever’. The Andean-inspired track made her famous around the world at the young age of twenty-four. What most didn’t know back then is that Shakira already had eleven years of performing experience and five studio albums under her belt. She recorded her first Spanish language album – Magia – in 1990, at thirteen years of age.
# 3 – Ricky Martin Was a Shakira Fan Before It Was Cool
Though Shakira’s first album Magia gave the world a taste of her songwriting capabilities, it failed to garner much attention outside of her native Colombia. The aspiring singer would fly under the radar for another few years until 1993 when she was invited to perform at Viña del Mar International Song Festival in Chile. She impressed the judges with an emotional ballad called ‘Eres’ and got a vote to win from Latin sensation Ricky Martin who was himself just twenty-years old at the time.
#4 – She Lost Her Older Brother to a Car Accident
Shakira was born into a big family and already had nine older siblings when she was born. Sadly, one of her older brothers was killed in a motorcycle accident when she was just two. At eight years of age, she surprised her father with a song she’d written called ‘Tu Gafas Oscuras’ (‘Your Dark Glasses’). The self-penned track was about her dad’s habit of wearing dark sunglasses to hide his grief.
# 5 – Her Albums Were Banned in Argentina
In 2002, Shakira released the English language single ‘Underneath Your Clothes’, a Bangles-style ballad about a woman in love. The romantic track performed well worldwide topping the charts in Australia, Belgium and Austria and going platinum in three countries. It wasn’t quite so popular in Argentina though. The country banned sales of Shakira’s albums because her boyfriend, son of disgraced Argentine president Fernando de la Rúa, featured in the video. Tower Records Argentina, the architects of the album ban, would later stress the move was a political protest against the De la Rua family and not Shakira.
# 6 – She’s Got a Creative Passion You Wouldn’t Expect
She’s got the best belly dancing moves in the business, but it might surprise you to know musician Shakira has another longtime passion. She loves to paint while at her home in Barcelona and her favorite subject is fried eggs. In fact, she claims to have had a large collection of egg paintings at one time. She later developed a love for clay and now puts her best pieces on display around the house.
# 7 – She Claims to Be a Super Smeller
In one interview, Shakira revealed she’s a super smeller, a person with a sense of smell that’s so strong they can identify people from just their odor alone. While her claim is yet to be put to the test, if it’s true, the Colombian singer may be one of few people in the world with hyperosmia. The olfactory condition causes a heightened sense of smell and those with the condition can sniff out distinct notes in wines, smell friends approaching before they see them and, in some extraordinary cases, even detect hidden illnesses.
# 8 – She Fought for Body Positivity in ‘Zootopia’
In 2016, Shakira was cast to play the voice of a singing gazelle in the animated movie ‘Zootopia’. However, she wasn’t too happy when she first laid eyes on her cartoon alter ego. The singer politely told Disney’s animators that the gazelle was “too skinny” for her and she needed “bigger hips” and “more meat”. Fortunately, the animators took Shakira’s opinions on board and singer Gazelle was redrawn with hips that definitely don’t lie.
# 9 – She Hates Waking Up Early in the Morning
Finally, a pop star who’s happy to admit they hate waking up early. Shakira has described the early morning recordings at the start of her career as some of the toughest. She admits that now she’s a star with influence, she schedules studio sessions to start no earlier than 11am where possible. She hates waking up before the sun and, as somebody who doesn’t drink coffee, who can blame her.
# 10 – Vocal Teachers Say Her Singing Voice Is Extraordinary
Shakira is one of the world’s most popular singer-songwriters and can produce uplifting pop anthems just as effortlessly as she can delicate ballads. Though, it’s worth remembering her singing voice is very different from that of other pop musicians. According to vocal experts, Shakira’s blend of contralto notes, yodeling and melisma (singing multiple notes over one syllable of text) makes her one of the most accomplished vocalists of the modern era. Vocal teacher Beth Roars admires the characteristic “heaviness at the bottom of her voice” and the way she can “flip up” into a falsetto “head voice” at will.