Shakira: “I’m someone who has always been very stubborn and strong-willed. I never gave up”
LOS ANGELES – Shakira has long been fabled for her fabulous curves and turbo-charged hips. Her ability to turn uptempo Latin songs into international hits has seen her sell over 80 million albums worldwide and ranks her amongst the greatest pop stars in music history. Her golden tresses and buxom beauty are part of her trademark appeal and that’s precisely what Disney Studios wanted to capture when they hired her for their latest animated film, ZOOTOPIA.
Shakira voices the character of Gazelle, a pop princess from Sahara Square who is also a strong-willed social activist who speaks out for social justice. When Disney approached her with the original drawings for he character, Shakira immediately saw that some important changes needed to be made, insisting that Gazelle be given “more meat, more curves, and bigger hips” to reflect her own shape. Having struggled for many years with doubts about her body image, Shakira is very insistent these days that woman take pride in their bodies.
“Women should feel happy with their bodies and not live with the stigma that comes from not looking like models in fashion magazines,” Shakira says. “I wanted Gazelle to reflect my own curves and big hips. As women, we need to embrace our bodies and be confident with who we are.”
The “waka-waka” pop star is also working on a new album, the 11th of her illustrious career that has seen her sing at World Cups, launch fragrance lines, and work tirelessly for her Pies Descalzos (Barefoot) organisation, which she founded at age 19. This charity has proven to be highly successful in building schools and funding rural education across Latin America, while also helping provide food and education to disadvantaged children in the poorest neighbourhoods in Columbia. In addition, she has met with political leaders across Latin America with the goal of upgrading education for young children across the continent.
Shakira lives in Barcelona with her long-time partner, Spanish football legend Gerard Piqué, and their two sons, Milan, 3 and Sasha, just turned 1. She launched her Love Rock fragrance last year, a follow-up to her earlier Elixir perfume brand.
Q: Shakira, you’ve done a movie, you have a new album coming out, and you’ve launched a new fragrance line, Love Rock. You seem unstoppable?
SHAKIRA: (Laughs) I’ve always thought of myself as a woman who works hard, believes in herself, and wants to accomplish as much as possible. My music career has been very rewarding, but success never came easily. You have to be very strong and tough-minded if you want to survive.
Q: Are you looking forward to working on your new album?
SHAKIRA: My little boy (Sasha) is now one-year-old and that makes it easier for me to go back to the studio and work on creating new music. I wanted to wait until he was a little older to start on the album because once I get involved in that process, it’s total commitment. It’s a whirlwind that overwhelms and absorbs you.
Q: Was it fun voicing Gazelle in Zootopia?
SHAKIRA: I fell in love with Gazelle as soon as (Disney) presented me with the character and their concept for the film. I wanted to do this movie for my son, Milan, who’s now 3, not just so he can watch his mother play this character, but also because there are some important messages for children and for adults in the story and my character is a powerful reflection of that.
Gazelle is very similar to me – she’s opinionated, she feels a responsibility to look out for her people, and she’s very socially aware. She feels that her voice needs to be heard so that she can speak on behalf of people whose views and concerns are not being respected. She’s part of a minority and she’s also a pop singer. So there are many aspects to her personality that we share in common.
Q: What do you think audiences will appreciate most about Gazelle and Zootopia in general?
SHAKIRA: I think that many people will identity with Gazelle who represents everyone who has fought to be respected and who fights against all odds to realise her dreams and show everyone what she’s capable of accomplishing in life. The script is so well written and you can feel that the characters are very much alive and charismatic.
The film is also very, very funny, and both kids and adults are going to be laughing from the beginning to the end. I’m really proud and happy to have been part of it. I had such a good experience working on this project that as soon as it was finished I asked my manager to see whether Disney had any more movies I could work on!
Q: You worked very hard to build your career. Did you identity with Gazelle and her ambitious nature?
SHAKIRA: I grew up in Barranquila, Colombia, and I spent most of my childhood dreaming about becoming a singer. Of course for a Colombian girl it was always impossible to even imagine becoming an international popstar, but my dream became reality.
Q: What inspired you to work towards realising that impossible goal?
SHAKIRA: My family endured a big crisis after my father’s business went bankrupt and we went from having a comfortable life to having virtually nothing. I saw from that moment how fragile and precarious life can be and you have to work very hard not just to survive but also to accomplish something in life and fulfill your dreams.
Even after I got some recognition and success, I still had to work hard and prove myself. I consider myself a survivor more than anything else. I’m someone who has always been very stubborn and strong-willed. I never gave up.
Q: Have you changed your approach or slowed down at all since the birth of your first child Milan and now with your second son, Sasha?
SHAKIRA: Becoming a mother has taught me to simply things and also to appreciate being at home more. I had to learn to slow down and to allow myself to enjoy the happiness I have with Gerard (Piqué) and our children.
Q: How would you describe your life with a major sports star like Gerard Piqué?
SHAKIRA: He’s a very generous and reliable man. I always know I can count on him. He’s so solid and caring and ever since the birth of our first child he’s been there to change the diapers, play with the kids, and be very caring. He was always someone I admired for his great character and enthusiasm for life but as a father he’s also shown me how tender and gentle he can be.
Q. He’s known for being a very tough player?
SHAKIRA: Gerard is a man with great charisma and that arouses many passions, starting with me. He lives without fear, and he has a nature. happy and playful. He plays very hard, but that is his nature, too. He’s a very authentic man and someone who has a great sense of humour, too.
Q. What is your life like in Barcelona as opposed to having lived in Los Angeles for many years prior to moving to be with your partner?
SHAKIRA: I’m happy. I have a man who makes me happy. And a family, which is what I most wanted in life. Barcelona is a great city and Spain is a great country to live in. Europe is a very different place from my native country of Colombia and my children are growing up in a very urban setting which is nothing like when I was growing up and would be able to play barefoot in the street. But we have a very good life.
Q: Would you like your sons to follow Gerard’s footsteps and become professional football players or would you prefer that they consider a career in show business or the arts?
SHAKIRA: My main hope for them would be that whatever profession or calling they choose in life, that they pursue it with passion. I don’t think I would want them to enter into my profession. There’s a lot of stress and so much competition. There are easier things you can do with your life.
Q: Is it still fun for you to get on stage and perform. Is that still part of the pleasure that comes with being a pop star?
SHAKIRA: I have always loved performing. Even as a little girl I would get up on a table at a restaurant where they were playing Arabic music and before my father had a chance to stop me, I was dancing on a table for the people in the restaurant! (Laughs) I have never had one moment of stage fright and performing has always been a huge thrill and source of enjoyment for me. It’s part of my personality.
Q: And shaking your hips?
SHAKIRA: (Laughs) I love to shake my hips, my hair, and my boobs. It’s all about having fun and sharing your spirit with other people. I think it’s my energy and love of life that has been the real key to my fame and success. The music, of course, is important, but it’s the energy that I bring to it that I think the public appreciate the most.