Queen of Latin Pop
Grammy Award-winning star Gloria Estefan first shot to stardom as the lead vocalist for the exclusively Spanish-language band Miami Sound Machine and crossed over to mainstream popular success with English-speaking audiences with the international hit singles “Dr. Beat” (1984) and “Conga” (1986). For the band’s outstanding body of work in 1986’s Primitive Love album, Gloria and the group nabbed American Music Awards in 1988.
One of the most-recognized music artists in the world, Gloria received even more acclaim and recognition with the international hit album Mi Tierra, in which she was handed a 1993 Grammy Award. Two years later, she picked up another Grammy Award for her bravura work in the Spanish-language album Abriendo Puertas (1995), and in 2000, the sparkling video music of “No Me Dejes de Querer,” from the No. 1 hit album Alma Caribeña, garnered Gloria a Latin Grammy Award.
Known as “The Queen of Latin Pop,” Gloria is always remembered by many as the single most successful crossover performer in Latin music history with over 70 million albums sold worldwide and numerous hits that include “Don’t Wanna Lose You,” “Cuts Both Ways,” “Get On Your Feet,” “Here We Are,” “Oye Mi Canto (Hear My Voice),” “Coming Out Of The Dark,” ”Turn The Beat Around,” “Everlasting Love,” “Music of the Heart,” “Abriendo Puertas,” “Tres Deseos,” “Mas Alla,” “Reach,” “Hoy/Wrapped “ and “Tu Fotografia,” among others.
Aside from her music career, Gloria also appeared in two films, Music of the Heart (1999) and For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story (2000, TV) and is set to star in the upcoming biopic Who’s Sorry Now, which is based on a true story of the 1960s U.S. pop singer Connie Francis. In addition, she enjoys victory as the writer of the best seller book “The Magically Mysterious Adventures of Noelle the Bulldog.” Released in 2005, the first of the three serial picture books was dedicated to her real-life pet bulldog Noelle. The Noelle book was an immediate hit, debuting in second place on The New York Times picture book children’s bestseller list a week after publication. In an interview with a Belgium television news network in late 2005, Gloria announced she is writing the second book in the “Noelle” series and after publication of the third and final book in the “Noelle” series, she will concentrated on writing her autobiography.
A triumphant entrepreneur, Gloria, and husband Emilio, share a lot of business establishments which consists of five Cuban-themed restaurants (Bongos) in Miami, Miami Beach, Orlando, Mexico City, and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, along with two hotels, the Palm Court Resort Hotel in Vero Beach, which was destroyed by hurricanes in the fall of 2004 (Gloria’s management says it will be rebuilt and reopen as the Cabana Beach Resort in late 2007) and The Cardozo in Miami.
Childhood and Family:
In Havana, Cuba, Gloria Maria Milagrosa Fajardo, who would later be famous as Gloria Estefan, was born on September 1, 1957. Gloria’s father, Jose Fajardo, was a Vietnam veteran who in the 1950s was a personal bodyguard to then-Cuban President Fulgencio Batista’s wife. He was arrested in the 1961 ill-fated Bay of Pigs’ invasion and spent 18 months in jail. After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, young Gloria nursed him until his death in 1980. Her mother, Gloria Garcia Perez de Fajardo, managed a school in Cuba in the 1950s for kindergarten students. Gloria has one younger sister named Rebecca.
A native of Cuba, Gloria moved with her family to Miami at age 2 after the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Despite residing in several military bases in the 1960s, during her father’s military service, Gloria was raised primarily in Miami. She attended high school at Our Lady of Lourdes Academy Catholic School in South Miami, Florida, and graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in communications and psychology. While a student at the University of Miami, she took a job as a Spanish and French translator at Miami’s International Airport, in the Customs Department. An extremely shy girl, Gloria was encouraged to become an accompanist and occasional lead singer of a local Cuban-American group named the Miami Latin Boys. Later renamed Miami Sound Machine, the band marked Gloria’s first engagement to a successful career in music.
“I was very shy. I never thought I’d be a performer really. Music was so, for me, a very private thing. I’d been saying since I talked, that I would sit in the kitchen with my grandma and learn all these really old Cuban songs from way back when. I was just singing for her, doing a performance.” Gloria Estefan
Gloria began her relationship with the Miami Sound Machine’s band leader Emilio Estefan in 1976 and decided to marry him two years later on September 2, 1978. From the marriage, Gloria and Emilio share two lovely children, Nayib (born on September 2, 1980) and Emily Marie (born on December 5, 1994).
Who’s Sorry Now?
Incredible shy Gloria Estefan found comfort in playing the guitar and singing in the privacy of her room. She was asked to join the Miami Latin Boys at a performance at a large Cuban wedding. Gloria was so impressive that she earned a standing ovation after the performance. With great support from Emilio, she eventually joined the band and it was renamed Miami Sound Machine (MSM). Starting out launching albums on a local and independent label, the group soon achieved a large fan base.
In 1984, MSM gained wide attention with their first English-language hit “Dr. Beat” from the album Eyes of Innocence (1984). The track became the Top Ten hit on the U.S. dance chart and even reached No. 1 on dance charts across Europe. The album received gold certification in America. Switching from the Hispanic division of CBS Records to its international rock division, Epic Records, MSM’s raising popularity was further established in 1986 by the release of triple-platinum album Primitive Love (1986), which generated such crossover hits as “Words Get in the Way,” “Bad Boys” and “Conga.” The latter dance hit became the first song to stay on the Billboard’s pop, dance, black, and Latin charts concurrently. As for the album, it was garnered a Best New Pop Artist Award and a Top Pop Singles Artist from the American Music Awards. The band’s next album, Let It Loose (1987), helped keep MSM at the top with multi-platinum certification and several popular songs like “Anything For You” (#1 Pop), “1,2,3” (#3 Pop), “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You” (#5 Pop) and “Can’t Stay Away From You” (#6 Pop and #1 Adult/Contemporary). In 1988, Gloria took top billing as the group’s name was modified to Gloria Estefan and The Miami Sound Machine.
Riding high with the phenomenal success of the band, Gloria started her solo career in the following year. Her debut album, Cuts Both Ways (1989), was released to strong reviews and went multi platinum with over ten million copies sold worldwide. With hits like “Don’t Wanna Lose You” (a USA No. 1 hit), “Cuts Both Ways” (No. 1 in Australia), “Get On Your Feet” (#11 US), “Here We Are” (#6 US) and “Oye Mi Canto (Hear My Voice),” Cuts Both Ways became Gloria’s best selling album to date.
In its height of popularity, however, Gloria was forced to abandon her singing career due to a serious back injury when a tractor trailer crashed into her tour bus in 1990. With the support of her fans, tremendous willpower and extensive physical therapy, Gloria finally made her way back to the music industry a year later with the concept album Into the Light. Its first single, “Coming Out Of The Dark,” whose title was based on a phrase her husband Emilio jotted on a piece of paper as a helicopter transported her to delicate surgery to repair her broken back, was an international hit, reaching No. 1 on the US charts, where it stayed for two consecutive weeks. The track was shown publicly for the first time on the “American Music Awards” in January 1991, for which Gloria earned a stirring standing ovation.
Gloria’s Greatest Hit album was launched in 1992 and sold four million copies in America. In 1993, Gloria scored an even bigger victory when she returned to her Cuban roots with a Spanish-language album, Mi Tierra. A triumphant album worldwide with over eight million copies sold, Mi Tierra won a 1993 Grammy for Best Tropical Latin Album. Gloria went on to become the center of attention in the following year with the Classic Collection Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, a cover album released in 1994. Its lead single, ”Turn the Beat Around,” a disco hit from the 1970s, was one of the most flourishing singles of the decade and the song “Everlasting Love” became a successful club and pop hit.
In 1995, Gloria once again took home a Grammy for Best Tropical Latin Performance for her brilliant work in the Spanish-language album Abriendo Puertas. The album spun off two No. 1 Dance hits, “Abriendo Puertas” and “Tres Deseos,” and two No. 1 Latin singles, “Mas Alla” and ”Abriendo Puertas.”
The subsequent year saw Gloria release the platinum album Destiny, which featured “Reach,” the official theme song of the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics. She sang it in front of an audience of 2 billion people worldwide in the closing ceremony. Still in 1996, she embarked on her first world tour in five years titled “Evolution,” which covered the United States, Canada, Europe, Latin America, Australia, South Africa and Asia. Back in recording studio, Gloria released the Gold album Gloria, in 1998.
Gloria tried her hand in acting in 1999 when she was cast in the supporting role of Isabel Vasquez in the Wes Craven-directed Music of the Heart, starring Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett and Aidan Quinn. Not only acting, she also recorded a hit song with ‘N Sync for the movie’s soundtrack. The duet became the Billboard’s #1 hit and received a nomination at the Oscars. During this period, Gloria also teamed up with the Brazilian group So Pra Contrariar to release the Latin hit “Santo, Santo,” sang a duet with Luciano Pavarotti in “Pavarotti and Friends for Guatemala and Kosovo,” and collaborated with Stevie Wonder at Super Bowl XXXIII in Miami.
Entering the new millennium, Gloria proved she was still on track with 2000’s album Alma Caribeña, in which she nabbed a Latin Grammy for Best Music Video for “No Me Dejes de Querer.” The album reached number one in Spain, the United States and several South American countries. The same year, she was honored with a Merit Award from the American Music Awards. Also in 2000, Gloria was seen acting on the small screen in the made-for-television movie For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story, playing Emilia.
After 2001’s Greatest Hits, Vol. II, Gloria launched Unwrapped (2003), her first English-language CD in five years, and toured in Europe, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the United States to promote the CD. Unwrapped produced the hit singles “Hoy/Wrapped “and “Tu Fotografia” which topped the Billboard Latin Chart. The next year, she appeared on the Fox program, “American Idol,” but she refused an offer to be an official judge because, she said publicly, she does not like to “judge” others. She also staged the “Live and Re-Wrapped” tour, which she claimed was her final one. The tour began in McAllen, Texas, on July 30, 2004, and finished in her hometown of Miami on October 2004.
Gloria is scheduled to star as Connie Francis, an American pop singer whose climax commercial success was in the late 1950s and early 1960s, in the forthcoming Who’s Sorry Now, based on the true life of Ms. Francis. At a news conference in Mexico City, Gloria announced the film is set to begin production in 2006.
“She isn’t in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and yet she was the first pop star worldwide, recorded in nine languages. She has done a lot of things for victims’ rights since her rape in the ‘70s. There’s a major story there.” Gloria Estefan on singer Connie Francis
- American Music: Merit Award, 2000
- Latin Grammy: Best Music Video, “No Me Dejes de Querer,” 2000
- Grammy: Best Tropical Latin Performance, “Abriendo Puertas,” 1995
- Grammy: Best Tropical Latin Album, Mi Tierra, 1993
- American Music: Best New Pop Artist and Top Pop Singles Artist, Primitive Love, 1988