Gloria and Emilio Estefan continue to pave their way with their influence around the world as one of the most prominent and successful powerhouse couples. As world renown musical legends, entrepreneurs, creatives, and philanthropists, these two have truly done it all, and continue to do so. The iconic duo shares their stories of their rise to success against all odds, inspiring others to pursue their dreams.
Tell us how you met, and launched your careers together?
G: I met Emilio when I was about to graduate from Our lady Of Lourdes Academy High School in Miami. A friend from our brother school was putting a band together for one night and had asked me to be the singer. We were rehearsing at his house when his father mentioned that he had invited a young man that worked with him at Bacardi Imports who had a band that had just played for the mayor, and he had asked him to come over to give us some pointers. When Emilio arrived, he had an accordion slung over his shoulder and was wearing very short shorts. He heard us perform one of the songs we were working on, played for us, gave us some pointers, then left. Three months later, I went to a wedding of the daughter of one of my father’s army buddies and The Miami Latin Boys, Emilio’s band, was playing. We recognized each other and he asked me to sit in and do a couple of songs with the band. Later that night he asked if I was interested in joining since he didn’t really have a lead singer. Although I said no that night, two weeks later he tracked me down and invited me to a rehearsal and the rest is history. He was my boss for an entire year before we started dating, which we did for two more years then got married September 2nd of 1978.
What has been the biggest highlight of your careers working together?
E: I think our career is so beautiful because we were two kids, with no money, no support, nobody to believe in what we were doing. We've now done so many things, and I'm so glad. I always tell people that I hope our careers are a role model for a lot of people. Don't let anybody change your life or who you are, because in the long run, people need to accept you how you are. Gloria and I are leaving a legacy of pride, and it doesn't matter where you come from. I think we believe that we got a sound that was coming from Cuba, being kids, growing up in a Cuban house, playing Celia Cruz and Cachao, and then playing old Motown, The Beatles. So, our influence was all these kinds of music. We used to have only rice, beans and a hamburger, so you never know what the future can hold. We had so many people that said no, but we also had so many people that opened the doors for us. It has been a lot of hard work, but it's also very rewarding. Keep pushing and never give up.
G: We have been fortunate enough to have so many highlights in our careers that it’s very difficult to choose only one. Winning our first Grammy for “Mi Tierra,” which was a labor of love celebrating our homeland, Cuba, was momentous because Emilio produced that album and it included the first song we wrote together, “Con Los Años Que Me Quedan,” among others. Another standout was The Gershwin Prize, which we received together as well and is one of the highest honors that can be given to a songwriter or musician. Also having our song, “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You” be inducted into the Library of Congress as one of the songs that has changed the cultural fabric of the nation and is saved in a vault for posterity is another standout.
What piece of advice you would give to anyone that's trying to pursue their dreams?
E: Be real and be who you are. It feels good when you're honest with yourself and your honest with your fans. We were so blessed to become successful in the States, Japan to Africa, and all over Europe and Latin America. What I always tell people is music has no language, it's about feeling, it's about a message. It is so beautiful to see how people react to music.
What inspires you to create your music?
G: Music has always been an inspiration to me, and other people’s music has gotten me through some of the toughest moments in my life. So, I consider having peoples’ ears and hearts a blessing and a privilege. I write songs that will either inspire, empower or, at the very least, entertain or give people words to express the emotions that they might not be able to find on their own with their words. The things that inspire me are emotions, experiences, curiosities, and wonderment, whether mine, or those of the people around me with which I share experiences.
How can people get involved and support The Gloria Estefan Foundation?
G: I jokingly refer to the GEF as the Anti-Houndation Foundation because I don’t like bothering people for donations. So up to now, I found it through my songs or wonderful friends like The Smith family who are ardent supporters. I have also performed on several occasions where I will put the profits into my foundation. Yearly I have also received donations from hard core fans who have supported my foundation for years as a birthday gift to me. My favorite event every year that my foundation supports and created is “Feed A Friend,” a Thanksgiving Event that we’ve held for 15 years that feeds and entertains several organizations in need on Thanksgiving Day.
How have you inspired your children to pursue their dreams?
G: I never wanted to push either one of my children into a career in music because that’s a very personal decision that encompasses commitment and very hard work along with uncertainty and risk. However, they have both ended up along the spectrum of the entertainment industry because they grew up around it and it’s a natural and beautiful outlet for them. My son loves the film side more and has his own Drive-In Theater that he has had in different locations though the years. After the pandemic he opened a wonderful one, The Nite-Owl Drive, spanning an entire city block close to Downtown Miami where he curates amazing films and brings concessions to your car. He has a fervent following, a vast knowledge and interest in film and graduated from the L.A. Film School years ago. My daughter, Emily, is, hands down, the best musician in the family and is an amazing singer, songwriter, producer, and actor. She is currently working on new material and has been tapped for roles in various movies, so you will see her very soon on the big screen.
What is the key to the success of your long-lasting relationship in this industry?
G: We will be married 43 years this coming September. I think our relationship has worked well because, although we have very different personalities, we are on the same page on a lot of things including our priorities, values, music and business, where we rarely differ. The lack of arguing and the extreme respect and love we have for one another makes it a great match.
Do you have any upcoming projects you are working on?
G: This year I’ve recorded a duet of my song, “Puedes Llegar” (Reach) with the wonderful Carlos Rivera and another duet that I can’t yet talk about but should be out by Christmas. I also had a role in the soon to be released animated film, “Vivo”, and am currently shooting the third incarnation of “Father of the The Bride” with Andy Garcia and an incredible cast where I play the mother of the bride. I am thoroughly enjoying this and am very much looking forward to starting production on the next 12 episodes of our Emmy nominated show, Red Table Talk: The Estefans. It’s been a busy but very fruitful time despite the pandemic.
Why do you love Miami, and how does the city inspire you?
E: Miami is such a special and unique place. We are a very multicultural city where everyone gets along. I love that we have different cultures because it makes you more open. I think people don't realize, but when so many cultures are intertwined we all learn from each other and have greater respect for one another. I speak Arabic, Spanish, and English. Gloria speaks perfect French. My grandson speaks five different languages at the age of four. It's so great because it opens your mind to new things. Gloria and I never left Miami, even when I became president of Sony, they told me you must go to England, you must go to LA, I said, "I am staying in Miami, I'm not going anywhere, this is my home."
G: I love Miami primarily because it is the place that I call home and has been an integral part of nurturing my heart, mind and spirit since I moved here from Cuba at the age of two. It embodies everything I love and enjoy, sun, surf, beautiful sunsets, exciting nightlife, tropical climate, and is the place that helped create and inspire the music that has come from my soul. Even though I have traveled and enjoyed many different countries throughout the world, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.