The Stunning Transformation Of Shakira

Shakira, like other pop stars who truly dominate the charts, doesn't really need a last name — everyone knows who she is by her first name alone. The international sensation slammed onto charts in the United States in 2001 thanks to Laundry Service, her first English-language album. Ever since then, Shakira has been an enduring presence in the music industry, simultaneously following in the footsteps of Gloria Estefan and blazing a trail for the Latinx superstars who have come after her.

But there's more to know about the pop diva than her catchy songs and her supernaturally gifted hips, as she had to work incredibly hard to get where she is today. From living in a small town in Colombia to the big city to an entirely new country altogether, Shakira has proven herself to be both determined to succeed as well as 100 percent true to herself, which is not an easy feat in a notoriously difficult industry.

Ready to learn all about Shakira's evolution from a little girl with big dreams into an international pop goddess? This is the stunning transformation of Shakira.

When Shakira was growing up in Colombia, things were tumultuous

On Feb. 2, 1977, Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll was born in the small town of Barranquilla, Colombia. The child of a Lebanese jeweler and a native Colombian woman, Shakira enjoyed a relatively calm middle class life until her father went bankrupt and had to sell everything they owned to pay off his debts. That, along with the tumultuous conditions in Colombia at the time, left a lasting impact on Shakira, and understandably so. "When you're born in a country where there is huge social strife, and a few people have a lot and a lot of people have nothing, you grow up intolerant to that inequality," she shared in an interview with The Guardian.

On Fridays, Shakira and her Catholic school classmates would go into the impoverished neighborhoods of Colombia in order to tutor young children — most of whom lived in squalid conditions. "It was so unfair that some kids were able to go school and university, but for others that wasn't an option," she continued. "I had to succeed, make money, become someone relevant in society, because I felt that only that way could I do something."

By age 4, Shakira knew she was going to be famous

When Shakira was only 4 years old, she decided then and there that she was going to be a famous entertainer. The revelation was the result of a visit to a restaurant, where a belly dancer captured Shakira's undivided attention.

By the next year, Shakira couldn't keep herself from moving her body. She was "dancing and doing performances in school, every Friday, the same number over and over again," she revealed in an interview with The Guardian. "I was five years old, I got addicted to being on stage, it felt like it was the most wonderful place on Earth, performing in front of an audience, who in this case were a bunch of classmates, kids my age."

But her passion didn't manage to snag her a spot in the school choir, as the teacher said that her vibrato was goat-like and wouldn't blend with the group. Fortunately her parents were 100 percent supportive of their daughter's ambitions.

Shakira wrote her first song when she was 8 years old

Just as Shakira decided that she was going to be a superstar when she was young, she also started writing songs as a child. Her first was entitled "Your Dark Sunglasses," which she composed when she was 8 years old. "It was dedicated to a little boy in my imagination. Because at that time, I did not have a boyfriend," she explained in an interview with Rolling Stone. "Even when I was a little child, the subjects of my songs were romantic." Our girl was a lover from the start!

In a particularly endearing move, Shakira's father did everything he could to nurture her talent, going so far as to protect her songs officially. "My dad used to take them to the notary and register them so that nobody could steal them from me," she confessed in an interview with The Guardian. "Who does that? What parent takes a treasure in his child's scribbles?" Apparently her father did, and he wasn't wrong!

Shakira landed her first record deal when she was 13 years old

The next step in Shakira's career was clear to her, so she threw everything she had into manifesting her ambitions. "Always I was dreaming of a record contract," she recalled in an interview with The Guardian. "From 10 to 13 it was all I could think of. I worked hard for this dream. Nobody could say I didn't try."

As luck would have it, when she was around 13 years old, she and her family heard that there was a record exec heading to town. Far be it for Shakira to miss such an opportunity, so she ambushed him in his hotel lobby and treated him to an impromptu performance then and there. She was signed with Sony within the week.

Was Shakira surprised, as you might think she'd be? "There was no doubt for me, ever. Call it a premonition, call it an instinct," she continued. "I was born to do this, to connect with a wide audience." She added that she knew that being a big performer was her destiny. So yeah, no surprise there!

At age 18, Shakira started a charity

For as much as Shakira has been a trailblazer in her own career, she's also been a leader in her charitable works. Amazingly, she was only 18 years old when she founded her charity Pies Descalzos (Barefoot), which builds schools in needy regions in Colombia. "It's in an area where there's a huge population of displaced people — refugees in their own country," she shared in an interview with the Independent. "It's a very impoverished area, where kids have no access to a high-quality education programme." That is, until Shakira starting turning all of that around.

The charity has seen dramatic results, too, something that Shakira is incredibly proud of. "It's already having an enormous social impact on this area. Before this school, there was no paved roads, or potable water, or electricity," she continued. "And now all of this has changed, because of this alliance that we have created between our foundation, the private sector, and the [national] and local governments." She added that the gang activity in the area has also dramatically decreased, showing just how effective the initiative has been.

Shakira released Laundry Service while learning English

After landing a record contract and becoming famous in the Latin music industry, Shakira desired to bring her ambitions to the United States. She was determined to learn English and cut a record for the American audience, something that Gloria Estefan helped her accomplish. "When Shakira began to work with us she did not know English," Estefan explained in an interview with the Latin Times. "So I had to translate the songs from the album Laundry Service for her and convince her that she could do a triumphant job."

At first the record company wasn't on board with an English album, something Estefan had to push back on. "They wanted her to just throw a couple of songs in English on a Latin record, and I fought hard," she revealed in an interview with OWN. "I said, 'Listen, this is her shot. You can't do it halfway.'" Fortunately Estefan prevailed, and the album wound up selling millions of copies. Shakira had successfully crossed over!

What's the story behind "Hips Don't Lie," Shakira's hit single?

While Laundry Service was Shakira's big debut in the English-speaking market, led by the super danceable single "Whenever, Wherever," it was "Hips Don't Lie" that truly cemented Shakira as a global pop superstar. Featuring Wyclef Jean, the song spent time at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and it became one of the most popular singles, according to Sony.

So what's the origin story behind one of the catchiest pop songs ever recorded? "The reason why I named that song that is because, when I'm in the studio, I know when a song is ready and it can be taken out of the oven, and it's exactly when my hips start moving," Shakira shared in an interview with Women's Health (via HuffPost). She continued, "So I used to say to my musicians, 'my hips don't lie! Are they moving? They're not moving! So this is not ready.'" Thus an anthem was born.

When Shakira met her forever person, her faith was restored

Although Shakira continued to enjoy commercial success in the 2010s, the once-religious singer found herself having a bit of a crisis. "I even had lost my faith for a while," she lamented in an interview with Elle. "I was becoming ... agnostic." She added that she believes the existence of God can only be proven through love.

That was not an easy situation for Shakira to find herself in, as her faith had always been super important to her. "It was really hard, because I was always very religious, and for a few years, maybe because — it sounds so corny — I was not feeling the love like it was supposed to be," she continued, "I started to think that there was no God."

Fortunately, all of that changed when she met her partner, Spanish soccer player Gerard Piqué. As Shakira tells it, he brought the sun back into her life, and the pair have been together ever since.

President Obama appointed Shakira as a commissioner in 2013

Shakira didn't stop doing charitable work when she became an international superstar — quite the opposite, actually. Over the years, she has continued to advocate for childhood education, which caught the attention of former President Barack Obama in 2013. "He has appointed me as a commissioner to consult his administration on educational excellence for Hispanics in the US," she explained in an interview with the Independent. "We try to find ways to improve the education system for Hispanics in America, to achieve excellence."

Working with Obama came quite naturally for Shakira, as she felt that he really understood what her goals were. "He's a champion on early-childhood development strategies," she continued. "So I like the work he's doing, and I support it, and I realize that he's one of very few political leaders around the world that actually has early-childhood development strategies at the top of his agenda."

Being a mother is the most difficult job Shakira has ever had

The year 2013 was a big one for Shakira and her partner, as they welcomed their first child that year. A second child followed in 2015 — another son — according to her website. Congrats, you two!

Lest you think that Shakira found motherhood to be easy, that's not the case, despite all she's accomplished in her life. "[Motherhood] is the hardest job I've ever done," she confessed in an interview with The Guardian. "I'm never sure if I'm doing it right. I'm always second-guessing myself." 

Fortunately, Shakira and her partner have found their stride together in parenting, though it's still not without its difficulties. "I love being a mother but it's challenging to keep the balance — to not let motherhood prevent you from reading a good book, going out with your boyfriend-slash-husband, having an adult conversation," she continued. She added that she's had to work to keep prioritizing her creative space.

In 2017, Shakira almost lost her voice forever

Although motherhood is the most difficult job that Shakira has ever taken on, the scariest thing in her life didn't happen until 2017, when she had a hemorrhage in her vocal cords and lost her voice. "I always thought there were going to be things in my life that would go away, like beauty, youth, all of that stuff," she shared in an interview with The Guardian. "But I never thought that my voice would leave me, because it's so inherent to my nature. It was my identity." Understandably, Shakira was depressed, so much so that she could barely get out of bed.

While doctors recommended surgery, Shakira wasn't confident that it would help. So she turned to her spirituality to try and reclaim her voice, even making a visit to Lourdes to get holy water. Thank goodness her voice eventually started to return on its own without any surgical intervention. "It felt like I was having some kind of religious experience," she added. What a story!

Shakira got into some hot water because of her taxes

Pretty much everything in Shakira's life has been a success story, as she's risen from small town girl to big city woman to international pop diva. But in 2018, Shakira found herself in some hot water because of her financial situation, according to CBS News.

Specifically, in 2018, the government of Spain, where she's lived with her partner and children for years, said she owed them more in taxes than she'd paid them. At the time of this writing, she's forked over $16 million, but she's still fighting the entire assessment.

Additionally, Shakira was one of the people named in the Paradise Papers, which is an investigation into offshore monies, according to The Guardian. As for what Shakira has to say on these matters, well, she has been mum at the advice of her PR representatives due to legal issues.

What Shakira had to say before her Super Bowl performance

In 2020, both Shakira and Jennifer Lopez were invited to perform on stage at one of the biggest events in the United States: the halftime show at the Super Bowl. Given what a huge accomplishment this is, it's definitely a cause for celebration!

As for what kind of message Shakira hopes to send during the performance, this time it's personal. "Listen, I'm a woman. I'm a Latina," she proclaimed in an interview with CBS News. "It wasn't easy for me to get to where I am. And being at the Super Bowl is the proof that everything is possible." Indeed it is!

Clearly Shakira hasn't forgotten where she came from, and she's eager to show the world how she manifested her destiny. "That the dreams of a little girl from Barranquilla, Colombia, they were made of something of what dreams are made of," she continued. "And I'm gonna be there, giving it all."

This is what Shakira dreams for her future

With all that Shakira has in her life — her career, her partner, her children, and her charitable work — you may be tempted to think that she has checked off every item on her bucket list. But as it turns out, that's not quite the case. "There are so many other things that I still want to achieve," she revealed in an interview with The Guardian. "Like one day waking up on a farm and being able to just mow the lawn, and milk some cows. One day I want to have a farm life."

While that may sound a little out of character for a worldly superstar, Shakira does have a hankering for the quiet life that she dreams about. "I don't think I could ever be bored of being in nature. Eat all I want," she continued. "Sometimes I think there's going to be more to life than my actual life." Perhaps that will be where she goes when she retires, if that day ever comes.