Ximena Diego Shakira: Woman Full of Grace

ISBN 13: 9780743216234

Shakira: Woman Full of Grace

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9780743216234: Shakira: Woman Full of Grace

Shakira's crossover success has been predicted for years by those in the know. She landed her first record deal when she was a mere thirteen years old, recorded her second album at fifteen, and starred in a popular soap opera in her native Colombia. She was only nineteen when her third album, Pies descalzos (Barefoot), made her the bestselling female rock star in Latin America. Though her fourth album, Dónde están los ladrones? (Where Are the Thieves?), went platinum eight times in the U.S., it was her electrifying performance at the first annual Latin Grammys that captured the attention of the nation.
Despite finding great success at such a young age, twenty-four-year-old Shakira remains remarkably balanced, confounding the usual stereotypes associated with rock stars. She is a devout Catholic, lives with her parents, and travels everywhere with them. She is one of those rare stars who combine talent, charisma, and boldness, and at the same time keep their feet firmly planted on the ground.
For the most exciting singer-songwriter to come out of Latin America since Ricky Martin, the possibilities are endless. For the millions who already buy her albums, Shakira represents the voice of a new generation.

"Sinopsis" puede pertenecer a otra edición de este libro.

About the Author:

Ximena Diego is the entertainment editor at Starmedia.com, the leading Internet media company targeting Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking audiences worldwide. She has written, translated, and copyedited for TV Guide en Español, Latina, and Impacto Latin News.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One: Beginnings

"Barranquilla is my land, my people, my family, my friends..."

"I am a walking contradiction. A mix of elements that come from far and different worlds." That was how our artist described herself a couple of years ago, and she went on to explain: "But these elements are not in conflict, they coexist peacefully. I accept all of the contradictions within me and they accept one another." And no city could better represent Shakira's soul than the city where she was born. Just like her persona, in Barranquilla disparate and distant elements coexist in harmony and mutual respect.

Bathed by the Caribbean waters and visited by almost countless merchants since the colonial era, Shakira's home is one of the most joyful and vibrant cities in Colombia. Barranquilla is the most important port in the country, through which tons of coffee and petroleum are imported and exported, and through which almost every race in the world has passed. Since its founding in the seventeenth century, the city has grown with a mixture of three races: the Indigenous, the Spaniard, and the African. But during the last one hundred years this area was the final destination of immigrants from various countries and cultures, among them German, Jewish, Italian, Irish, Chinese, Lebanese, and Palestinian. They settled peacefully, having nothing to lose just dreams to fulfill, in search of a better life. With time, these cultures began to settle in, leaving their marks in the architecture, the music, and the food, whether in the construction of a new synagogue, the proliferation of Chinese laundromats, or the aroma of fried arepas and barbecued sausages.

These communities began to expand and integrate, making this beautiful coastal region a privileged center that earned the nickname "the golden door" or "carrumba the beautiful," an imaginative city, economically active and tolerant of differences. "The Barranquillero is a simple, open, and hard-working person. He knows how to live life but isn't a fanatic. He won't kill himself over politics or religion...When it comes to soccer, however, they will kill anyone," joked one Caribbean Colombian in describing her people. "Barranquilla is a melting pot of many nationalities, which is why the people assimilate foreign cultures rather than fight them," she said.

No other event exhibits this cultural mix with as much splendor as Carnival: the ultimate party. Once a year, men, women, and children take to the streets dressed in colorful costumes and makeup for the parade of floats and to dance, to play the drums, and to celebrate rambunctiously in the purest Caribbean spirit. During Carnival, anything goes and the sky's the limit when it comes to the imagination: there are parodies and political satires, there are carnival queens and traditional songs...The days of Carnival are wild, the streets are packed, and no one is left out. During these four days, rich and poor are equals, and the only law is fun.

Religious festivals are celebrated with the same passion. Even though each religion celebrates in its own way, the majority of the population in Barranquilla is Catholic, and thousands of families get together to celebrate Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Perhaps as another example of integration, the faith brought by the Spaniards is practiced today by members of other communities that were not Catholic originally, like much of the Arab community. This includes Shakira's family, who are Lebanese but practice the Catholic faith while retaining many of their Arabic customs, such as music and food.

Unlike Bogotá and Medellín, Barranquilla is a peaceful city that remains far removed from political intrigue and drug trafficking. Barranquilleros didn't experience the constant terrorist attacks and the political kidnapping that gave Colombia such a bad reputation, especially during the nineties. As if the closeness to the sea tamed the beast, Barranquilla did not have to endure the fear of the almost daily exploding car bombs or the horrendous assassinations of powerful officials. As many residents proudly point out about this city, Barranquilla is tolerant and "Caribbean."

Perhaps because of the latter, when this city is not working, it's partying or socializing till all hours of the night. Its residents live according to the city's own schedule, very calmly, as though savoring the day. After all, a large part of the year they live in a humid heat, more suitable for chatting while drinking a cool soda than working up a sweat while running for the bus.

In this privileged urban center, within the harsh reality of Colombia, Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll was born on Wednesday, February 2, 1977, in the Clínica Asunción de Barranquilla. Daughter of a respected jeweler of Lebanese descent, Don William Mebarak Chadid, and his Colombian wife, Nidia Ripoll Torrado, the child was the couple's blessing and their only daughter. In naming the newborn, Nidia had shuffled through several names containing the letter "k" to go well with the sound of the "k" in Mebarak. She had considered Karime and Katiuska but finally chose Shakira, an Arabic name derived from the word shukram, which means "grace." The most literal translation is "woman full of grace," even though Shakira has said she identifies more with its second meaning, "grateful."

Colombians said that the newborn was chubby and had curly hair, thick eyebrows, and a healthy set of lungs. What nobody knew was that those lungs would inscribe her name in music history.

Her People and Her Family

"I come from a traditional society, not only because I went to a Catholic school, but because I was raised in a house that is half Arabic and half Barranquillera, in a small coastal city."


According to Colombian reporters, Don William Esteban Mebarak Chadid was born in New York City, but shortly after he was born his family moved to Barranquilla. Nidia Ripoll Torrado, on the other hand, was born in Barranquilla and has Catalan blood. When they married Don William was divorced and already had seven children from his previous marriage. So Shakira came into this world as the youngest child with quite a few siblings willing to spoil her.

Don William has been a key figure in Shakira's formation and sensibility. Proud of his Lebanese roots, he was a professional jeweler and a vocational writer. According to the magazine TV y Novelas Colombia, during his days as a jeweler he built his clientele and was able to maintain a jewelry store in Barranquilla for almost two decades. But shortly after Shakira was born he had already liquidated that business and was just selling watches close to where he lived. Nidia was the homemaker and by closely minding her daughter, she was the one who first suspected the little one's artistic tendencies.

Don William's passion for literature and all things intellectual and artistic made Shakira grow up surrounded by all kinds of books and Arabic music, but it may have been because of Nidia's religious fervor that the child came to know the Bible. In Shakira's own words, her parents are very different but complement each other: "My father is idealistic, my mother realistic, and because of that, in my home I find both earth and air. My father is the insanity and my mother the sanity."

For many years the couple belonged to a social club where the families of the Lebanese community would get together and enjoy their traditions through food, dance, and music. This was one of the places where the Mebarak family socialized and it is where Shakira began to taste Arabic dishes and observe from a young age how the hips of the dancers moved.

The Mebaraks made a good living. They were a middle-class family able to send their only daughter to a good Catholic school and to pay for private lessons in singing, modern dancing, and modeling. They kept a nice house in the northern part of Barranquilla and had the luxuries of a family that knew how to make the best of simple things. But beyond material abundance, William and Nidia raised their daughter with Christian values and were attentive to her every need: they knew how to listen to the desires of the restless and curious child and quickly realized that she would not have an ordinary life.

When Shakira was a child, Nidia discovered that she had a gift for writing. According to Colombian columnists, the child knew the alphabet by the age of eighteen months, at three she knew how to read, and by the time she was four she was ready for school. It seemed as though she might have been a child prodigy. At least that's what Nidia believed, so she had her academically tested to determine if the little girl was a genius.

Shakira lived alone with her parents, though it was quite frequent for her half siblings to come over, be it to baby-sit or to play with her, since they lived only a few blocks away. That may be why when Shakira talks about her family she includes her brothers and sisters (omitting the "half") as well as her parents. Of all her father's children, Shakira never met her oldest half brother, because he died before she was born. Her oldest sister, Lucy, is a surgeon living in Colombia, like most of her siblings. Next is Alberto, a lawyer who lives in Barranquilla and got married in January 2001. Moisés, also married, is the third child. Tonino is the fourth child and the closest to Shakira, having worked for many years as her road manager. Tonino was going to follow in his father's footsteps but found that Shakira's success promised him a more entertaining career. He is married and has a little girl who is Shakira's goddaughter. "As the youngest, she is the pampered one in the family. She's not spoiled but knows exactly what she is doing and has a great disposition," he told a Colombian magazine a few years ago.

Following Tonino is Patricia, who lives in Spain and is a special education teacher. And finally, there is Antonio and Edward, the youngest, who lives in Miami.

Probably because of her Catholic upbringing or having grown up among so much affection, family has a sacred meaning to Shakira. She is extremely proud of her family nucleus, an entity that gives her strength and joy, the circle that nourishes her during her moments of searching. Asked about their family dynamics, Don William seized the opportunity to speak of Shakira's generosity with her brothers and sister: "She paid for Lucy's medical school, she pays Edward's schooling in the United States, she bought Alberto a car, and she employed Tonino as her representative."

But before she came into the active and complex existence she has today, Shakira's childhood was tranquil, filled with the adventures and discoveries of just another Barranquillera.

A Childhood between the Neighborhood and the Beach

"I remember having very loving parents, with whom I always had great communication. I remember that I would pray to God singing."
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The Mebaraks lived in a neighborhood called El Limoncito, a safe family suburb where people knew one another by name. In the afternoons the boys would play soccer in the streets and the girls would get together on the sidewalks, or mixed groups would play cops and robbers. Sometimes they would simply be in one another's houses doing one of the numerous activities that children do when they have their whole lives in front of them.

Shakira's childhood was full of strong relationships with neighbors and friends, some of which have lasted. In fact today when she is asked if she has many friends she always and frankly answers no, that she could count all of her friends on just one hand and they are the same ones she had when she was growing up in Barranquilla. In her neighborhood she built relationships that have lasted years, and she is still friends with some of her neighbors to this day.

One of her best friends while growing up was Vanesa Vengoechea, who was interviewed years ago by TV y Novelas. When they were children they used to play in the street, get ready for parties together, and watch movies at each other's houses. She remembers it was rare to see Shakira sad. She was very good at listening to problems and giving advice, Vanesa told a Colombian magazine, but even though they both would talk a lot about their issues, what they loved most was going out. "Our favorite plans were going to the beach or playing volleyball," she said. On the weekends they would meet at Vanesa's house to watch movies until late into the night. Among Shakira's favorite movies were horror flicks: she loved to be scared half to death. The problem, said Vanesa, was that Shakira would always talk during the movie, making some sort of observation. "And when it was over she would want to talk about the plot, but rarely found anyone up for it." Restless and articulate, Shakira always had something to say.

The little Mebarak loved carnivals, dances, french fries, Coca-Cola, and the patacones (fried plantains) that "El Viejo Paco" fired up at the Vengoecheas' house. According to Paola, Vanesa's sister, Shakira loved parties, but other than óscar, her first boyfriend, no one liked to go with her, because "Doña Nidia made her come home early, before midnight." According to this family, our artist remains unchanged, just as simple and happy as before. However, now when she stops by for a visit, she wears a wig and dark glasses to prevent her fans from recognizing her.

The rest of her neighbors who still live in El Limoncito also remember her as happy and lively, regularly sitting on her doorstep with her guitar. "She never took off her uniform when she got home from school, but she did take off her socks and shoes. Sometimes you would see her walking barefoot alone around the block and other times with her group of friends."

Like every good coastal girl, Shakira spent much of her time outside. "I would play with boys and that helped me in the long run, because in this career one has to deal with a lot of men," she acknowledged years later.

To find the more feminine side of Shakira, one would have to go inside her house. In her room she played with dolls like any girl her age. While she made up stories about her dolls, her father would re-create other ones. As an avid lover of music and of words, Don William spent a great part of his day in front of his typewriter creating stories and poems. And even though he was in his own world, Shakira would observe him without missing a detail. "The image of him writing was so strong," said Shakira as an adult, "that I wanted to be like him." And that was how she started to imitate him, first in her gestures, and later mentally: starting a short time after learning how to write, she would lock herself in her room, surrounded by teddy bears and dolls, and write poetic passages that she would later recite to her parents.

In addition to her father's example, Shakira's mind was nourished by the stories her mother read to her as a child and the books she started reading as soon as she was able. Her first book was Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, a gift from her father. One can only imagine the fantasies that this story might have awakened in the adventurous mind of this child from the Caribbean Sea. But the book she talks about most is The Prophet by the Lebanese Kahlil Gibran, which she says has influenced her profoundly. The third book that Shakira remembers from her childhood is the Bible. And not just from parochial school; Nidia read the Bible every single day, and this had a lasting influence on Shakira.

Accompanying these books were the sounds of records playing in her home. In addition to the Arabic music that her father played, she listened to Donna Summer a...

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