Shakira Talks Love, Power & Baby Milan
By Ray Rogers
Pop star turned billion-dollar brand, global icon, and powerhouse entertainer Shakira readies herself for the next big chapter in her storied life.
Becoming a worldwide pop phenomenon didn’t happen overnight for Shakira. Raised in the port city of Barranquilla, Colombia, she wrote her first song at age 8, released her debut album by age 13, then forged forward with an ironclad will born from the knowledge that this was her calling.
“I had my difficulties in the beginning, and it wasn’t until my third record really that I started to get a taste of success,” says Shakira, the most-liked musician on Facebook (to the tune of 89.8 million followers). “But I did always know that this was what I was meant to be doing. And when you’re sure of that, you just don’t take no for an answer.”
Some 60 million albums sold later, the 37-year-old bilingual pop juggernaut released her 10th album, simply titled "Shakira," in March, all the while continuing to be a standout member of the four-panel judge/mentoring team on The Voice. She and her partner, international soccer star Gerard Piqué, also welcomed their first child, Milan, into the world last January—and that, she says, changed everything.
OCEAN DRIVE: Where are you today? What are your days like?
SHAKIRA: I’m home, in Barcelona, in a comfy T-shirt and workout pants. When I’m home with days off, I always start my day with Milan, playing outside, and just enjoying that quiet time together. Then I’ll have a late breakfast, take my vitamins, and get ready for the day while he’s napping.
You also have a home in Miami.
When I’m in Miami, I spend a lot of time with family—my parents and some extended family who all live there—as well as a couple of close friends from childhood. I tend to stay pretty low-key, although I love getting out on the water, either jet skiing or on a boat when possible.
This is our Women of Influence Issue. What does it mean to be powerful today—and how do you use your stature to get things done?
Power is a double-edged sword. It can be a very useful tool, but it can also become something that consumes you—that perpetual pursuit of more power. To me, being powerful means you are in control of yourself above all and know how to use your strengths to achieve things that are important to you—in my case, a lot of tShakira on Love, Power & Becoming a Mom he time that ends up being philanthropic endeavors. I have two foundations that both work towards achieving universal access to quality education for young children, Pies Descalzos (Barefoot Foundation) and ALAS (America Latina en Accion Solidaria). I grew up in a third-world country where it was impossible to live unaware of the poverty and inequality around me. It wasn’t really a matter of charity in my mind so much as a sense of civic duty. I see power as a means to an end rather than an end in itself, a way to use the voice I’ve been afforded by my professional success to give a voice to others who wouldn’t normally have one—kids in the poorest areas of Latin America and around the globe who would easily be trapped in the cycle of poverty without outside factors helping them. It’s important to remind oneself that power is as easy to lose as it is hard to gain, so we need to be magnanimous with it where we can.
Do men and women exhibit or embody power differently?
Undoubtedly—power is something that has only entered the female consciousness in relatively recent history, and I think we’re still figuring out how best to utilize it. For men, it’s something that has always been part of the psyche. That said, we’ve come a long way for such a short time.
Who wears the pants in your house?
In my house, I would say the balance of power is fairly equal. Relationships have to have a give and take if they’re going to work in the long term.
Your relationship has been the focus of much publicity lately, particularly after you said your partner doesn’t like you in videos with hot guys.
It’s funny, when I made those comments, it was really in a lighthearted, humorous way. I was surprised to see that it was taken so seriously in the press. Gerard doesn’t tell me what to do—we discuss everything as a couple, as I imagine most partners do. We have a beautiful relationship and one of mutual trust.
What was it like working with Rihanna and filming the very provocative video for “Can’t Remember to Forget You”?
It was a blast, honestly. I’m sure on the outside it looks like two divas, but when we got together, we realized we had a lot in common—both Caribbean girls from small towns who are very down to earth when it comes down to it, and just enjoy having a good time.
Shakira at the inauguration of the sixth school of her Fundación Pies Descalzos in Cartagena, Colombia.
What does the new record say about where you are in life, personally and professionally?
Since my last album, I’ve entered one of the happiest phases of my life. It was definitely a time of change, of rebirth, of self-discovery, and of course becoming a mother, which turned my world on its head in the best of ways. This album is a culmination of all of those changes.
You are a role model for millions of young fans. How do you handle that responsibility?
While I appreciate the idea of being seen as a role model, I think role models come in many forms, and the ones that make the most impact are the ones that we have around us on a daily basis, like teachers or older siblings. For me, my parents always held me to very high standards and made a real effort to not let me be corrupted by success at an early age. It’s hard enough as an adolescent to figure out who you are, let alone with an entire industry wanting to tell you who to be. My parents helped me keep my feet on the ground and never compromise on the things that made me who I was.
The singer and humanitarian started the organization to bring quality education to underprivileged children in her native country.
What powerful woman has made the greatest impact on your career?
Gloria Estefan was a big role model and mentor for me when I was making my first English album. She really was a trailblazer as a bilingual artist and helped me to see that it was possible and that all I needed was perseverance.
What has been the most rewarding part about being a mentor to other aspiring singers on The Voice?
I love feeling that I’m really contributing to this person’s growth and helping them find their own path and embrace their individuality—record labels don’t always place enough importance on that. I know that had I conformed to what other pop artists were doing at the time, not only would people not remember my name by now, but I would have been betraying myself as an artist.
Performing live on NBC’s Today earlier this year.
How did it feel to go country for your duet with your Voice costar Blake Shelton?
That duet is one of my favorite tracks on the album. It was a long process—I wrote it with people from Nashville originally but then went through eight versions before I finally decided that it needed to stay as a country song and used all Nashville musicians on it. I was nervous when I sent it to Blake, but he loved it and I was so thrilled!
How often do you go back to Colombia, and what do your roots mean to you?
I go back a couple of times a year—not as often as I’d like with my schedule, but I still remain very identified with the culture. I have a big family that I’m very close with. This year, when I inaugurated my school, we also got Milan his Colombian passport. Even though he spends most of his time in Europe, I want him to identify with and know that part of his background and culture because it’s a beautifully rich and colorful one.
Shakira mentors contestants on The Voice.
You’ve gone from pop star to a mega-brand multi-hyphenate: singer-mom-philanthropist-entertainer-TV personality. What drives you, and how do you find balance?
My drive has always come from within. But surprisingly, since I’ve become a mother, I’ve actually been able to find more balance. All mothers are multi-taskers, but in the past I’ve found myself working nonstop and sometimes didn’t know when or how to just take a break. Becoming a mother has forced me to slow down and reorganize my life to find a way to still be devoted to all the things I’m passionate about—music, philanthropy, and motherhood.
How else has being a mom to Milan changed you?
Everything is different. Maybe the biggest change is that I think about the future more, what the world will be like for him when he grows up. But when it comes to living, it’s all about the present. I’m finally able to really savor all of those little moments that in the early days of my career I was too busy thinking about the next thing to just stop, take it all in, and enjoy.
Photography by Kayt Jones/RCA Records; photography by trae patton/nbc (the voice); gilbert carrasquillo/filmmagic (today); xavi menós (pies descalzos)
Cover shoot: Behind the scenes with Pitbull for the October 2014 issue of Ocean Drive magazine.