Shakira Mebarak Ripoll, better known to the world as simply Shakira, was born in Barranquilla Colombia on February, 2, 1977. Her father William Chadid was a well respected Lebanese jeweler, while her mother Nidia Torrado was his Colombian bride. After several names came and went through her mothers mind she settled on Shakira which is a derivative of the word “shakurum” which translates to English as “Woman full of grace.” How fitting that name would be was unknown then, but to millions around the world that have come to know and love her as a performer, there could be no better description. Personally however, Shakira said she identifies to it’s secondary meaning more which is “grateful.”

While Shakira was the only daughter the couple had, she did have several half siblings from her fathers previous marriage dating back to when he lived In New York. As the baby and admitted apple of her fathers eye, he had no problem indulging “Shaki” as she is known to family and friends in whatever pursuits she desired. Shakira proved to be an extremely intelligent child whom was thought would go on to great academic pursuits. She had learned the alphabet around 18 months old, was reading by three, and it is recorded she began school at only four years old. As Shaki was tested at the genius level and had a string of older siblings that went on to wonderful careers; a surgeon, attorney, special education teacher, and her future road manager whom had a heavy business background.

Shakira seemed headed down a different road however as very early on her gift for writing was noticed and nurtured. The second thing that was evident was she was a gifted dancer progressing through learning complex tap and belly dance routines she began mimicking, again at only four years old. and without the benefit of lessons. To the dismay of her parents, as Shakira progressed through school she seemed to have little interest in her studies, however that did not mean she had trouble maintaining good grades. teachers remarked she had a gift for understanding even complex concepts rather quickly, and then retained them even easier.

At thirteen she moved to Bogota to pursue a career in modeling. While music was her true love she wasn’t sure if it was going to be in her future after her school choir director commented she sounded like a sick goat. She proved her wrong as by the time a year had passed she inked her first recording deal with Colombia Records. Maga which debuted in 1991 barely sold 1,000 copies and her second release Peligro in 1993 didn’t do much better. After that somewhat failure, she turned her attention to acting taking a role on the soap opera El Oasis while she finished high school. While nobody was very kind as to her ability as an actress, there was no argument she steamed up the screen with every appearance and became a quick favorite.

In 1995 she returened to the studio to record what would be her first regional hit, thanks in large part to her tenure on El Oasis, Pies Descalzos. The single Estoy Aqui even managed to make it to the international market including some stations in the U.S. which targeted a heavy Latin American demographic. Her 1998 release of Donde Estan Los ladrones? launched her to the head of the class on the Latin music scene as the hot new “it” girl. By 2000 MTV featured her for their Unplugged series largely based on the success of her hit Ojos Asi. Within a year she was poised to take on the English speaking markets and release Laundry Service.

By this time Shakira had been approached for and rejected numerous major projects which she felt she could not do proper justice. She never quibbled about money, or artisitc differences, but she hadn’t yet found the confidence to see herself as the mega-star others did. Steven Spielberg wanted her to Play the female lead in the Mask Of Zorro before he abandoned the project because she felt her English was not Good enough. She was asked to take a lead role in a television series opposite Neil Patrick Harris based on the Musical Rent, but that fell through as well due to problems concerning the musicals rights and her not feeling she was really cut out for another run on a television show. Speculation was, that is she accepted the role, the issues with the Musicals rights would have been worked out. Still her fame was reaching such a head, Mattel produced a series of Shakira dolls which wound up selling well and are considered highly collectible still today.

Laundry Service marked her major breakthrough. Released in English and Spanish it garnered hits worldwide, particularly her trademark single Whenever, Wherever/Suerte. At one time that single charted in the top ten on all the major Latin American charts, the U.S., Canada, U.K., and much of Europe. Within the year it had reached the top ten in almost every major music market in the world. Shakira re-released collections of her earlier work mixed with some new material as well as a DVD from her Tour of the Mongoose which all sold very well but never matched laundry Service. 2005 also marked the year Shakira became a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador.

2005 wound up being a very busy year as she released the album Fijacion Oral which was produced by Rick Rubin. Like Laundry service this was dual released in English and Spanish, however unlike Laundry Service, the Spanish version, Vol. 1, reached the top ten in the U.S. as well. Her song Hips Don’t Lie featuring Wyclef jean began an instant international hit. Her endorsements with both Pepsi and Reebok were renewed after this success as there was no longer any doubt Shakira was a global force to be reckoned with, and promoted, for years to come.

Beyond the music and the televison appearnces Shkira is always in demand for, she has established herself as a true humanitarian. Through her Latin America For Solidarity foundation she has raised and donated $40 million (U.S.) to rebuilding disaster stricken areas. She regularly donates personal items and memorabilia to raise money for any cause aimed at helping relieve the suffering of others, especially children. She has even approached Congress on Capitol Hill as well as many other world leaders to promote awareness of and the need for a global education initiative for some 72 million children who either have no access to or cannot go to school due to numerous situations beyond their control.

While many use their celebrity to promote them self or live a lavish lifestyle which is secluded from the realities of the world, Shakira has dedicated herself to doing what she can to try to help those who are often forgotten. Instead of lining her pockets with money from every appearance she often donates part or even all of the proceeds at times to her foundation or any organization which it can immediately help. While she lives each day grateful for what she has been given in life, we too should be grateful to her for not just the entertainment, but more importantly the tireless effort to mend the world. Her attitude can best be summed up by what is often her concert closing quote: “The leaders are lacking love, and love is lacking leaders.”

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