Tragic Details About Shakira

Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, known internationally as Shakira, is a musical sensation thanks to her infectious pop anthems like "She Wolf," "Hips Don't Lie," and "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)." In 1995, her breakout album, "Pies Descalzos," sold millions of copies and soared to the top of the Latin music charts. In 2001, the Colombian singer released her hit single, "Whenever, Wherever," and became a global phenomenon. Shakira and her famously honest hips have gone on to have a meteoric career that spans three decades and counting.

The multi-Grammy winner has sold more than 80 million albums and is widely considered one of the most successful female Latin singers of all time. As Sony executive Afo Verde told Billboard, "She's one of those few cases in the world who, despite the passage of time, continues to work with the same excitement, quality, respect and attention to detail as she did in the beginning."

Despite her success, though, Shakira has experienced plenty of setbacks. The tragic events of Shakira's life – from suffering a tragic loss to battling criminal charges – will tug at your heartstrings.

Shakira's older brother died when she was very young

Shakira was born on February 2, 1977, in Barranquilla, Colombia. She grew up in a large, blended family that included nine half-siblings from her father's first marriage. The family was loving and close-knit, but an unthinkable tragedy occurred during Shakira's childhood. When the singer was just 2 years old, her 19-year-old half-brother was killed in a motorcycle accident. His death left the family shocked and grief-stricken. Overwhelmed by the loss, Shakira's father started wearing dark sunglasses to conceal his sorrow. 

Although Shakira was very young at the time of her brother's death, the tragedy had a lasting impact. Even in her youth, the singer recognized her family's heartache — and she found solace in creating music. At 9 years old, Shakira wrote one of her first songs, "Tus Gafas Oscuras" ("Your Dark Glasses"), as a tribute to her grieving father. The heartfelt ballad appeared on her debut album, "Magia," in 1991.

Shakira's father, William Mabarak Chadid, opened up about the song in an episode of VH1 Driven. "One day, Shakira said to me: 'Papa, I want you to hear this song, the name is 'Your Dark Glasses,'" Chadid shared (via People). "From the moment I lost my oldest son, I hid my pain behind a pair of glasses, and she made a connection with the glasses I wore."

Shakira was teased for her unique singing voice

Shakira always had a knack for performing. As she detailed to Rolling Stone, she began belly dancing at 4 years old. By 7, she'd started writing poetry and experimenting with instruments. Soon, she was entering local talent contests and singing at state fairs. She became a formidable dancer, singer, and songwriter — and all before she even started high school.

Despite her impressive talents, not everyone saw potential in the young artist. In an interview with 60 Minutes, the superstar explained that she wanted to join her school choir, but the choir teacher thought her strong vibrato would overpower the voices of the other singers. "He didn't like the way I sang," the hitmaker said. "He thought it was too much." 

In addition to being rejected from the school choir, Shakira was teased by her classmates, who thought she sang "like a goat." The Colombian crooner continued, saying, "I remember coming back home feeling really disappointed and sad because my classmates ... didn't like my voice." Fortunately, Shakira's father encouraged her to keep singing. Years later, her unique vocalizations would become her signature trait. If not for Shakira's resilience and her father's good advice, she might never have become the yodeling sensation we know and love today. 

Her first two albums flopped

Shakira's first breakthrough came in 1991 when she signed with Sony Records Colombia. At just 13, the singer recorded her debut album, "Magia." Her second record, "Peligro," was released two years later. Unfortunately, the albums didn't fare well on the market. "Magia" sold around 1,200 copies while "Peligro" sold under 1,000. 

After her first two albums fizzled, record executives urged Shakira to embrace a traditional Colombian genre called cumbia, but she was determined to make it as a pop-rock artist. "I grew up in a country that is not too familiarized with rock and roll," she shared in a 1998 interview. "We have been known around the world ... for our folklore and tropical music. And that would be the easy path to follow. But I don't like easy paths; I like challenges."  

By 1996, Shakira had cultivated a new vibe for her third album, "Pies Descalos." This time, the songstress donned charcoal-colored eyelids and black hair and sang about edgy topics over penetrating guitar chords. The album sold over 3 million copies and catapulted Shakira to fame in the Spanish-speaking world.

She's faced prejudice

Until 2001, Shakira was relatively unknown outside of the Spanish-speaking world, but that all changed when she released her smash crossover hit, "Whenever, Wherever." Armed with pan pipes and her iconic yodel, she belly-danced her way into the hearts of English-speaking audiences. Her subsequent crossover album, "Laundry Service," combined American pop-rock with musical influences from Shakira's Lebanese and Latin-American roots. The record was an enormous success, selling over 13 million copies globally.

Thanks to "Whenever, Wherever," Shakira quickly became a staple in the Western music landscape. Even so, the singer-songwriter experienced prejudice in the industry. "I remember when I had my first big break in music outside Colombia, there were many double entendre comments about what it meant to be Colombian, and usually associated with drug trafficking, all of that," she revealed to Glamour. "It's like, we're always the joke." 

In 2017, the songstress released "La Bicicleta" with fellow Colombian artist Carlos Vives. The song's music video featured sweeping shots of the Colombian coast, neighborhood dance parties, and scenic bicycle rides around Shakira's hometown of Barranquilla. Shakira told The New York Times that she made the video to challenge uninformed stereotypes about her home country. 

Her ex-boyfriend sued her for millions

As her career soared in the early aughts, Shakira seemed to have the unconditional support of her then-boyfriend, Antonio de la Rúa. The pair got together in 2000, and they had all the makings of a power couple — she was a rising international pop star and he was an investment banker who managed her business affairs. But ultimately, things didn't work out, and they split up in 2010. In a since-deleted post on Shakira's website, the former couple wrote, "We view this period of separation as temporary and as a time of individual growth" (via Billboard). The pair also pledged to continue working together on Shakira's music career.

Unfortunately, the breakup turned messy. In 2012, de la Rúa sued Shakira for $100 million. In his lawsuit, de la Rúa claimed he was instrumental in building the singer's extremely lucrative career. He therefore believed he was entitled to a large chunk of her fortune. Shakira's former beau filed lawsuits against her in Switzerland, New York, and California. The suits were eventually dismissed; however, she was left to deal with the pain and humiliation of being sued by her ex.

In 2013, Shakira spoke out, saying in a statement provided to E! News, "I am very grateful that the courts are not allowing these groundless lawsuits to proceed. I have moved on in my life and could not be happier now. I hope this harassment will now come to an end."

She suffered a devastating vocal cord injury

By 2017, Shakira had recorded her 11th studio album, "El Dorado," and was set to embark on a massive world tour. "Thank you all so much for listening to my music in so many places around the world," she gushed in a statement to E! News. "I can't wait to be onstage again singing along with all of you. ... It's going to be fun!" Unfortunately, the excitement was short-lived. Just before opening night, the singer announced that she was postponing her world tour. In an Instagram post, Shakira explained that she had experienced a vocal cord hemorrhage, which left her unable to sing (via Billboard).

Shakira later told The Guardian that the injury made her feel bitter, pessimistic, and severely depressed. At times, the singer spent all day languishing in bed. "I always thought there were going to be things in my life that would go away, like beauty, youth, all of that stuff," she confessed. "But I never thought that my voice would leave me, because it's so inherent to my nature. It was my identity. So when I couldn't sing, that was unbearable."

Fortunately, Shakira's vocal cords healed without surgical intervention, and she resumed her world tour in 2018. That year Shakira even won a Grammy for Best Latin Pop Album thanks to "El Dorado."

Her relationship with Gerard Piqué ended tragically

While filming the music video for her hit, "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)," Shakira met soccer star Gerard Piqué. Before long, the pop diva and the pro athlete fell in love. Over the next 12 years, they settled down in Spain and welcomed two sons, Milan and Shasha. The couple seemed to have it all, but sadly, their union ended in 2022. The pair confirmed their breakup in June of that year but didn't share any additional details. However, some fans began to speculate that Piqué had been unfaithful to Shakira.

Shakira seemed to confirm the cheating rumors in early 2023 when she released the scathing breakup anthem, "BZRP Music Sessions #53." Although the track amassed 63 million YouTube views within the first 24 hours and broke 14 Guinness World Records, the song's success did little to soothe Shakira's broken heart. "I think that nothing can compensate for the pain of destroying a family," she told Billboard in 2023. "Of course, I have to keep going for my children's sake. ... But my biggest dream, more than collecting platinum albums and Grammys, was to raise my sons with their father. Overcome obstacles and grow old together. I know I'm not getting that now."

Shakira's father was hospitalized during her split with Gerard Piqué

By 2022, Shakira's personal life was in a tailspin. First, there was her devastating breakup with Gerard Piqué. Then, rumors of Piqué cheating emerged. Her private life became the center of a tabloid frenzy. The singer's father, William Mabarak Chadid, traveled to her home in Barcelona to comfort her. But while he was there, Chadid fell and suffered a brain bleed. Shortly after having surgery for the bleed, "he fell again and broke many bones in his face," Shakira told Elle.

The singer was already shattered and humiliated from her public breakup — now, she was terrified of losing her father. "Everything happened at once," she told People en Español. "My home was falling apart. I was finding out through the press that I had been betrayed while my dad was in the ICU."

"In one year, I lost what I loved most, the person I most trusted, my best friend: my father. He has lost many of his neurological functions as a result of the accident," Shakira told Billboard while reflecting on the tragic circumstances. "And he went to Barcelona precisely to console me, to support me at the time of my separation. I thought, 'How can so many things happen to me in a year?'"

She has been accused of plagiarism

In 2017, Shakira released "La Bicicleta" with fellow Colombian singer Carlos Vives. The song was a smash hit and garnered two Latin Grammy awards. It should have been a shining moment in the singer's career — but things took a dramatic turn when Shakira was accused of plagiarism. Cuban singer Livan Rafael Castellanos claimed that "La Bicicleta" was a rip-off of his 1997 song, "Yo te quiero tanto." The pop diva fervently denied copying Castellanos' work. "The melody is different, the music is different, the subject matter is different," she said, according to the Europa Press (via AP News). Ultimately, the court sided with Shakira and concluded that she hadn't plagiarized the song.

Still, the 2019 allegations proved to be somewhat damming for Shakira. Some critics remained skeptical of the singer, and the suspicion has continued to impact her career. In 2023, Shakira faced more plagiarism claims – this time, for her viral tune, "BZRP Music Sessions #53." Shortly after the song's release, Venezuelan singer Briella called Shakira out for copying elements of her single "Solo tú."

In a TikTok post, Briella compared the two songs and wrote, "My song "Solo tú" (June 2022) / Shakira's BZRP Session (today) — What do you think?" The controversy sparked a discussion on social media, with some fans concluding that Shakira was guilty of copying other artists.

She was criticized for her 2020 Super Bowl performance

In February 2020, Shakira performed at the prestigious Super Bowl Halftime Show. She shared the stage with fellow Latina legend Jennifer Lopez. Clad in a red sequinned bodysuit and flanked by an army of gorgeous dancers, Shakira performed her biggest hits. The Grammy winner brought back all of her most iconic dance moves, hipshaking and gyrating across the stage in a jaw-dropping performance. She also rocked out on a drum kit and donned a dazzling rhinestone-encrusted guitar. The show equally showcased her colossal talents and her sexy "She Wolf" prowess. Fans saw it as an iconic display of feminist empowerment; however, some had a different take on Shakira's performance, and the pushback was rather loud.

Some audiences railed against the halftime show, calling it an "X-rated strip club performance," a "disgusting spectacle," "an affront to women," among other terms. According to CNN, more than 1,300 complaints of the like were filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding the performers' outfits and dance moves. Some social media users even referred to the event as "Stripperbowl2020." Shakira didn't speak out about the criticism, but she has addressed complaints about her image being "too sexy" in the past. "I think art, music should be sensual. Not necessarily sexual," she told The New York Times back in 2005. "Sensual is everything that refers to the delight of the senses. And that's what artists do, is stimulate the senses in any possible way."

Shakira has faced legal troubles over taxes

Unfortunately, plagiarism allegations weren't the only time that Shakira's integrity has been called into question. The pop goddess has also been accused of evading a hefty amount of taxes. In 2022, Spanish authorities charged the singer with six counts of tax fraud allegedly occurring between 2012 and 2014, CBS News reported According to prosecutors, Shakira skipped out on paying $13.9 million in taxes by living in Spain but claiming the Bahamas as her place of residence.

In 2023, the pop icon was hit with more charges — this time, Spanish courts accused her of using an offshore account to avoid paying some $7 million in taxes. At the time of this writing, neither case has been resolved. Shakira faces an 8-year prison sentence if convicted for the original six counts, according to CBS News.

The "Loca" singer has vehemently denied any wrongdoing. In a 2023 interview, Shakira claimed she was hardly ever in Spain during the years in question due to her busy touring schedule. She blasted the "fake accusations" and criticized the Spanish legal system. "I've paid everything they claimed I owed, even before they filed a lawsuit," the singer told Elle. "However, even without evidence to support these fictional claims, as they usually do, they've resorted to a salacious press campaign to try to sway people, and apply pressure in the media along with the threat of reputational damage in order to coerce settlement agreements."

She had a terrifying surfing accident in 2023

Around 2021, Shakira caught the surfing bug. "I recently took it up as a hobby," she gushed to Glamour magazine. "I never in my wildest dreams thought I would like something like this, but it's gotten deep under my skin, once I started surfing, I couldn't stop!" She went on to explain that surfing was "very therapeutic" because it encouraged her to let go of her desire for control. Everything is, to a certain extent, uncomfortable," the singer said. "Surfing is not a comfortable sport."

Things went from uncomfortable to downright scary in 2023 when Shakira had an accident while surfing in Costa Rica. The songstress had been catching waves with fellow celeb Gisele Bündchen when she suddenly slipped under the water. Fortunately, Shakira's surfing instructors were nearby and brought her back to shore. Witnesses took to social media with accounts of the terrifying scene. One user on X (formerly Twitter) posted photos of the aftermath. In the snapshots, Shakira could be seen holding her forehead while visibly in pain. Fortunately, she appears to have recovered.