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Shakira: 1977—: Singer, Songwriter

Found Fame At An Early Age

She wrote her first song—a love song to her father—while in grade school. As a pre-teen she was winning local singing contests and performing in children's groups. Show business suited her. "I knew that I was going to be a public figure," she told The Wall Street Journal. "It was like a prophecy." At thirteen a family friend arranged an impromptu audition with an executive from Sony Music Columbia. "I went to his hotel and sang a song—which I had written—a cappella for him," she told CosmoGirl. "A few days later I sang Madonna's 'Material Girl' in Spanish for more executives in Bogota. The next day I was signed by Sony." Shortly thereafter Shakira's debut album, Magia (Magic) was released in Columbia. She left music briefly to finish high school and then returned to release Peligro (Danger) at age 15. Both albums smacked of teen pop and neither generated much in the way of sales.

At a Glance . . .

Born on February 2, 1977, Barranquilla, Columbia; daughter of William Mebarak Chadid and Nidia del Carmen Ripoll Torrado. Religion: Catholic.

Career: Musician. Recorded Magia, 1991, Peligro, 1993, Pies Descalzos, 1996, Dondé Están Los Ladrones?, 1998, Laundry Service, 2001; spokesperson for Pepsi-Cola; Goodwill Ambassador for Colombia.

Memberships: Founded Pies Descalzos, an organization dedicated to helping Latin American orphans, 1997.

Awards: Latin Female Artist of the Year, World Music Awards, 1998; two Latin Grammy Awards, 2000.

Addresses: Home—Miami, FL; Record Company— Sony Discos Inc., 2190 N.W. 89 Place, Miami, FL 33172.

After a brief foray into acting on a Colombian soap opera, Shakira returned to music determined to make her next album a success. Just 17, she began to work on her third album. She wanted the album to reflect her voice and her vision. A self professed control freak, she went into the studio and insisted on being involved in the record's production. Her determination paid off. Released in 1996 Pies Descalzos (Bare Feet) sold over 3.6 million copies. During a two year tour in support of the album Shakira became one of Latin America's brightest stars.

In Brazil, where Pies had sold nearly a million copies, Shakira was moved to find her Portuguese-speaking fans singing her songs in Spanish. She promptly learned Portuguese and re-released many of her most popular songs in her new language as a gift for her Brazilian fans. On the album Shakira's unique sound—a fusion of rock, Latin, and Arabic rhythms—surfaced. "I was born and raised in Colombia, but I listened to bands like Led Zeppelin, the Cure, the Police, the Beatles and Nirvana," she was quoted on www.shakira.com."I was so in love with that rock sound but at the same time because my father is of 100% Lebanese descent, I am devoted to Arabic tastes and sounds. Somehow I'm a fusion of all of those passions and my music is a fusion of elements that I can make coexist in the same place, in one song."

Her fame scorched through the Spanish-speaking world. She even gained the admiration of Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez who devoted four pages to her in his magazine, Hombre de Cambio. "Shakira's music has a personal stamp that doesn't look like anyone else's and no one can sing or dance like her, at whatever age, with such an innocent sensuality, one that seems to be of her own invention," he gushed.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Paul Anthony Samuelson (1915– ) Biography to Bessie Smith (1895–1937) BiographyShakira: 1977—: Singer, Songwriter Biography - Found Fame At An Early Age, Achieved International Superstardom, Remained Committed To Her Roots