Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, known better as Shakira, is a Colombian singer-songwriter, dancer, choreographer, model and record producer, born 2 February 1977 in Barranquilla, Colombia. Shakira was raised in her home town where she began performing in school, showing great abilities and passion for Latin, Arabic and rock and roll in addition to belly dancing. Shakira began writing songs when she was barely eight years old and learned to speak English by studying the work of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Walt Whitman. She released her first studio albums called ‘Magia and Peligrio’ (Magic and Danger) in the early 90s, but it wouldn’t be until 1996 when she rose to prominence in Latin America when she released her major-label debut ‘Pies Descalzos’ (Barefoot). With her fourth album, ‘Dónde Están los Ladrones’ (Where are the thieves?), which she launched in 1998 she would continue enhancing her fame worldwide. Over the course of her career, Shakira has sold over 60 million records and has won numerous awards including Grammys, Latin Grammys, World Music Awards, American Music Awards and Billboard Music Awards among others. She is the only artist from South America to have a number one song in the United States and has had four of the 20 top-selling hits of the last decade—including 2006’s unforgettable ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ the biggest-selling single of the 21st century, which was number one on the top of the hits list in at least 55 countries. During her break between different albums Shakira took history classes at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA).
Engagement in Cultural Diplomacy
Shakira’s humanitarian and advocacy work consists mainly on the promotion of universal education and early childhood development, particularly in the areas of health and nutrition of children who are not yet attending school. Her humanitarian causes can be divided in a three-part strategy that includes foundations and associations dedicated to development, not only in her country Colombia, but in Latin America and worldwide. Shakira’s most recognized NGO is ‘Pies Descalzos’, which she founded when she was only 18 years old. This association is engaged in promoting the collaboration and the involvement of society in advocating for the improvement of education, nutrition and health of the most vulnerable children. The organization deals with the support of programs for children and their families and offers real solutions to increase their quality of life, giving them the chances to have a better growth and development in society. Worth noting are also the activities undertaken by ALAS Foundation in which Shakira is engaged. This non-profit organization, created by the most prominent Latin American artists, business leaders and intellectuals to mobilize Latin-American society, promotes early childhood development through the integration of different childhood public policies to put an end to malnutrition and the absence of care in the early stages of a child’s life, one of the main causes of the transmission to an unequal society. Finally, as one of UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassadors, Shakira defends the importance of the establishment of political initiatives in an official way in the international sphere.
Shakira is well-known for her philanthropic donations. In 2002, the singer donated 10,000 pairs of tennis shoes to impoverished children in her hometown of Barranquilla. In 2007 Shakira announced an enormous $45 million charity donation through the charity she co-founded, ‘Latin America for Solidarity Foundation’, to help earthquake stricken Peru and damage caused by a hurricane in Nicaragua. In 2013, when Shakira was expecting her first child, she asked her fans to make charity donations in her honor in place of baby shower gifts. She pro-actively reached out to devotees to request that they use their money to help those less fortunate and donate $5 to $110 to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), of which she is a global ambassador. She and her football star boyfriend Gerard Pique set up a special page at shakira.socialtoaster.com for their "world baby shower to help UNICEF save children's lives."
Shakira has supported, among others, the following charities: ALAS, Children's Defense Fund, CHOC Children's, Global Campaign for Education, Habitat For Humanity, Live Earth, ONE Campaign, Pies Descalzos, Treatment Action Campaign and UNICEF. Additionally, she has supported the following causes: Adoption, Fostering, Orphans, AIDS & HIV, At-Risk/Disadvantaged Youths, Children, Disaster Relief, Education, Environment, Family/Parent Support, Health, Homelessness, Human Rights, Hunger, Mental Challenges, Physical Challenges, Poverty, Slavery & Human Trafficking, and Women.
In October 2011, President Obama appointed Shakira to the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, a commission dedicated to advising Obama and Secretary Arne Duncan on issues for educational success related to Hispanic students. Shakira and Activia collaborated to produce Shakira’s latest video “La La La (Brazil 2014)” and to raise awareness of WFP’s school meals program.
As part of the campaign supporting WFP, Activia and Shakira’s foundation, Pies Descalzos, donated a total of 3 million meals for children in need. Due to the overwhelming success of the campaign, Howard G. Buffett, a United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Ambassador Against Hunger since 2007, announced a commitment by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation to provide additional funding to support WFP’s school meals program.