Mr. Malibu on Shakira Social Currency

Shakira was born in Barranquilla, Colombia—the northernmost location of South America where you can almost throw a Frisbee to Cuba. Barranquilla is where she lived for most of her childhood, often sitting on the beach with her dark hair and backpack full of dreams about becoming a world superstar. 

Reportedly Shak wrote her first poem, The Crystal Rose, when she was 4. When she was a little girl, she saw belly dancing for the first time at a Middle Eastern restaurant. She leapt up and began dancing, and it inspired her to want to be a performer. But there was more than just wanting to be a performer.

“I knew that I was going to be a public figure; it was like a prophecy,” she says, reflecting a truth about the word “Abracadabra,” which literally means in ancient Aramaic: “I create what I speak.” 

Shak was fascinated watching her father writing stories and creating what he spoke on a typewriter, and she asked for one as a Christmas gift. She got one at 7 and it became the magic typewriter that created what she spoke. She has continued writing poetry ever since. Many of her poems became songs. One might say she has surpassed Rumi and even Shakespeare in the number of people reached today with over 100 million fans on Facebook (the highest of anyone in the world) and over 23 billion views on YouTube! 

Shak’s older half-brother was killed in a motorcycle accident when she was 2. At 8, she wrote her first song, “Your Dark Glasses,” which was inspired by her father, who for years wore dark glasses to hide his grief. Shak sang for schoolmates and teachers, including the nuns at her Catholic school. She was rejected in the second grade for the school choir because her vibrato was too strong. The music teacher told her that she sounded like a goat.

Shak was known as “the belly dancer girl” at school as she would weekly demonstrate a new number she learned.

“That’s how I discovered my passion for live performance,” she says. In her early teens, Shak met local theater producer Monica Ariza, who was impressed with her talent. Monica introduced her to a Sony Colombia record executive who then referred to her as “something of a lost cause.” She secured another Sony audition in Bogotá where she performed three songs, which impressed them so much they signed her up to record three albums. One might assume she either knocked their socks off, or they thought you’d have to be an idiot not to sign up a singing goat. 

Shak’s debut album “Magia” was recorded with Sony Music Colombia in ’90, when she was only 13 years old. Shak’s second album sales were marginal, but her third album, “Pies Descalzos,” brought her widespread popularity in Latin America and was certified Platinum. (For those who follow the Recording Industry of America, it has not yet introduced a Benitoite rating, even though it is the official California state gem and is more valuable than a diamond).

Shak’s fourth album, “Where Are the Thieves?” has sold over seven million copies but has not revealed where the real-life thieves are who stole all her lyrics in a suitcase at the airport.

Shak entered the English-language market with her fifth album, “Laundry Service.” She shared her perception: “People are not depressed in Colombia the same way people are in America.”

“Laundry Service’s” lead single, “Whenever, Wherever,” became the bestselling single of 2002. Her success was further solidified with her “Oral Fixation” album that includes “Hips Don't Lie.”

Shak began dating Antonio de la Rua, the son of former Argentine President Fernando de la Rua in ’00 and their relationship lasted for 11 years. After Shak met soccer player Gerard Pique at the World Cup in ’10, she announced she was parting ways with Antonio to date him.

Gerard told her, “I’m gonna win this World Cup, so I can see you at the finals,” after which he won. In the meantime, Antonio sued her for $100 million but the suit was thrown out. 

Shak has sold over 125 million records worldwide and has won five MTV Video Music Awards, two Grammy Awards, eight Latin Grammy Awards, seven Billboard Music Awards, 28 Billboard Latin Music Awards, and has been Golden Globe-nominated. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (which the person who nominated her had to pony up $30,000, as with all the other celebrities who have received one. That might be why Julia Roberts, Clint Eastwood, Denzel Washington and Al Pacino don’t have a star). You can even buy an official Shakira “Oral Fixation” backstage pass for $5 on eBay. But what is her social currency worth? Whose perception defines that value? Is it merely the number of fans she has or how she is being perceived? Interestingly, some say the emotional connection between fans and musicians is beyond that of the connection between fans and actors, as evidenced at the Academy Awards when rock stars walk down the red carpet and the roar is greater than for “movie stars.”

Shak said in a Rolling Stone interview: “My music, I think, is a fusion of many different elements and I’m always experimenting. So I try not to limit myself, or put myself in a category, or be the architect of my own jail.” She utilizes trendy dancing and musical conventions and rearranges them to use the effect of surprise, but not to such an extent that she loses contact with her audience.

So what made her famous? Instead of being inspired to make Capricorn music when she was told she sounded like a goat, she took that remark to empower her childhood dream and become a global superstar. Forbes Magazine says Shakira’s influence “knows no boundaries, whether in the fields of music or philanthropy.” Beyond music, she has managed to impact the world socially and politically as well, amplifying the notoriety of Latin music and culture worldwide.

Mr. Malibu's high-profile events and celebrity interviews reach over 22 million on television, 500,000 via social media and nearly 4 million on YouTube. Visit and to learn more. Look for more Mr. Malibu chapters in next month’s issue.

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