Arguably the biggest crossover artiste of all time, Colombia superstar Shakira is gaining new exposure through her voice-over contribution to Disney’s animated blockbuster Zootopia.
The 39-year-old superstar arrives an hour late for her press conference, but no one is complaining. After all, she’s one of the richest women in the world and she’s been working since she was eight years old
Over her 30-year career, she’s Columbia Records best selling artiste, having sold over 100 million albums.
I remember when she branched out into the American market, she signed with Beyonce’s publicist. As a reprisal Beyonce gave him an ultimatum: either me or her. And he went with Shakira.
Her US profile shot up when she joined the panel on The Voice, often stealing the spotlight from Adam Levine and Blake Shelton.
Recently she ended her 20-year relationship with her former manager, who unsuccessfully sued her for hundreds of millions for breach of contract
At the moment, she’s very much in love with Spanish superstar footballer Gerard Pique, she’s the mother of his two sons (Milan, three and Sasha, one) born less than two years apart.
So how do you manage a relationship living 5,000 miles apart?
It’s like being married to a soldier who doesn’t die in the battle (laughs) but he’s pretty much anchored to Barcelona, and he can’t travel.
He wanted to be here (in Los Angeles for the premiere of Zootopia) with me, he loves LA and America, but he can’t because he has to be with his team.
They only get a month off per year, and the rest of the time he is there, training every day and playing matches.
Gazelle (her character in Zootopia) is a little more curvy than typical Disney characters. Was it your idea that the animators make her that way, and were you sending a message to young girls that they don’t have to be skinny to be attractive?
From the very beginning, the director wanted Gazelle to look like me. And the first thing I said was, “Then what you’ll have to do is put some meat on the bone.”
So, yeah, I asked them to give her bigger hips and they followed my suggestions and it’s been fun making the character closer to my persona.
But I have always been a big advocate for curves. We should be happy with who we are and with our own bodies.
Men like to have something to grab onto right? At least that’s what my man tells me, which is a great relief, because I will always have a little bit of extra fat here and there.
Motherhood must have changed your life?
It’s the thing that really, truly makes me happy. As I see my kids developing and reaching new milestones, I am confident that they will be instruments of good deeds in society, and that makes me happy
How soon will you be ready to go back to work?
Yesterday I was on a plane – 12 hours without kids – suddenly ideas for my new album came crashing in on me like an avalanche. So, yeah, I can’t wait to get back in the studio.
Two months ago, I wasn’t craving it. Bottles, pacifiers and diapers didn’t allow me to think about creating music. So, this hiatus in a way has been a blessing in disguise.
And doing concerts?
I do miss being on stage, singing and performing for people. and hearing them sing along with me. It might sound vain but that’s vital for me. It’s who I am, it’s every fiber of my being, and if I don’t sing or write, I start to feel that a part of me is being smothered.
So, yeah, I am definitely craving it now more than before. And it has a lot to do with Gerard. We had a conversation recently and he said, “You do your thing girl, I am going to be there for the kids. I want to take over.”
And that gave me a huge relief and made me want to make music again. So, from this month on, that’s what I will be concentrating on.
Do you have to reassure your boys that they don’t have to be football players or musicians, that they can do whatever they want?
Yeah, I want to teach them that hard work, doing things with passion and commitment are more important than having an innate talent.
If you want to achieve your goals in life, you have to be disciplined and determined. That’s what I want to teach them. No matter what path they choose as long as they’re happy.
Has Gerard changed since becoming a father?
When you live with a person, that person reveals different facets of his personality, and in that way Gerard has shown me his tender side.
He changes diapers, he is there for the boys and for me. He is like a rock … He might be 10 years younger, but he is 10 years wiser. And yet he can be very impulsive and playful and fun to live with.
Did your song Try Everything from Zootopia resonate for you, recalling a time when you had big dreams and people were discouraging you?
Every time I am on a big stage and in front of thousands and thousands of people, I think about that, remembering that not long ago I was in Colombia dreaming about becoming an international artiste. What were my chances? The percentage was so low, but it all happened because my family was there for me.
But there were detractors too. I remember my music school teacher decided I couldn’t join the school choir because my voice was too dissonant for him and my vibrato was too pronounced.
And some of my classmates thought I sounded like a goat because of my vibrato. And I remember going back home and telling my dad all of this, and he would tell me don’t quit on that vibrato, because one day people will hear you on the radio and know it’s Shakira because of that vibrato.
My parents were always there for me, and that’s why I stress the importance of family.
How difficult was it maintaining your independence and how did you prevail?
My career hasn’t been a bed of roses. The music industry tends to crush the idealists, but it has its own mechanism of natural selection, so the strongest and the most stubborn survive. I survived because I was more stubborn than strong, but most of all disciplined.
Talk about your personal dreams. What are they?
My two boys at home. And the thing I dream about and constantly pray for is for them to become really close to each other and united as brothers. I want a united family, that is my personal dream.
And for the world?
That every kid in the world, no matter his condition or race or gender or background, is able to access quality education.
I have been an advocate of early education since I was 18 years old. I created a foundation in Colombia to build schools in areas of conflict providing quality education for children whose families have been displaced by violence.
I also work for UNICEF as an ambassador, and I am also part of President Obama’s commission for education and excellence for Hispanics here in the United States.