After a bitter split from her footballer ex Gerard Pique, Colombian superstar Shakira is back with a vengeance. First she released a diss track that nearly broke YouTube and on Monday she struck a deal with Spanish authorities to avoid the embarrassment of a tax fraud trial related to her years in Barcelona with Pique. The legal woes of the woman dubbed the queen of Latin music since her 2005 smash hit “Hips Don’t Lie” are not yet at an end, with a second Spanish investigation into alleged tax evasion still hanging over her. But the trial that had been due to start on Monday was the bigger of the two cases.
Prosecutors had been seeking a jail sentence of eight years and two months for the 46-year-old, whom they accused of defrauding the Spanish state of 14.5 million euros ($15.7 million) between 2012 and 2014. Shakira admitted guilt and agreed to pay a fine of 7.3 million euros, saying she needed “to move past the stress and emotional toll of the last several years and focus on the things I love”, including her two sons, Milan and Sasha.- Dark times -But the last few years have not been easy for Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, an icon of Latina girl power, who has sold some 80 million albums worldwide and won three Grammy awards. In 2021, she was named in the “Pandora Papers” leaks, which revealed the wealth and tax avoidance strategies of the global elite. And in June 2022 she announced her split from Spanish footballer Pique, ending one of the world’s most famous celebrity couples.
The breakup came around the same time as her elderly father suffered a bad fall. “Everything happened at once. My home was falling apart,” she told People Magazine in 2023. “I thought I wasn’t going to survive so much. “Picking herself up through her music, Shakira released a searing revenge song with Argentine DJ Bizarrap that has been viewed 645 million times on YouTube. Slamming Pique and his new love interest, she sings: “You swapped a Ferrari for a Twingo/You swapped a Rolex for a Casio.”- ‘Like a goat’ -Her phenomenally successful career is a story of serial reinvention, from teen crooner to Colombian rock chick to Latina bombshell. She grew up in a family of Arab descent in the Colombian port city of Barranquilla and began performing at the age of four, when she hopped up onto a table in a Middle Eastern restaurant and had the room clapping and cheering as she bellydanced. “I fell in love with the sensation of being on stage,” she told Britain’s Guardian newspaper in a 2002 interview.
Her friends were less complimentary about her voice, declaring she sang “like a goat”, but Shakira was undeterred, recording her first single “Magia” as a denim-clad 14-year-old pining for her first love. Her breakthrough came in 1996 with her third album “Pies Descalzos”, featuring a young rocker with jet black hair and a guitar slung across her shoulder.- ‘Innocent sensuality’ -By 22, she had become Latin America’s biggest pop star, with fans including Colombian Nobel literature prize laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who declared she had “invented her own brand of innocent sensuality”. To help her break out of Latin America, US-Cuban diva Gloria Estefan encouraged her to sing in English and in 2002 she went on a world tour with her first bilingual album, “Laundry Service”. She had become blonde by this point, mixed salsa and merengue with RnB, electro and hip-hop on chart-topping tracks like “Whenever, Wherever”, and infused her routine with the head-spinning hip gyrations that would become her trademark.
By the time she got to the World Cup South Africa, where she met Pique and headlined the closing ceremony, she was a superstar. In 2017, she temporarily lost her voice after suffering a hemorrhage on her right vocal cord and was forced to call off a world tour for seven months. But she recovered and enjoyed a new career high in 2020 when she shared a half-time show with Jennifer Lopez during the Super Bowl. This year she collaborated with one of her new, younger rivals on the Colombian music scene, Karol G, on the reggaeton hit “TQG” (acronym for “Too Big for You” in Spanish). – Emilie BICKERTON