With her effervescent persona, bold vocal stylings, and gyrating hips that seemingly defied the laws of physics, Latin pop sensation Shakira burst onto the international music scene in the late 1990s to become one of the most successful musical acts in history.
Born Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll on Feb. 2, 1977 in Barranquilla, Columbia, she was the only child of Nidia Ripoll and William Mebarak Chadid, a jeweler and writer. Of Lebanese, Spanish and Italian descent, she grew up in the northern region of Colombia with eight older step-siblings from her father’s previous marriage. Shakira began writing poetry and song lyrics at an early age, and after being taken to a Middle Eastern restaurant by her father, she became fascinated with Arabic music and belly dancing.
Undeniably talented and unswervingly determined, she signed her first recording contract at the age of 13. After her first two albums performed poorly outside her native Colombia, Shakira took a firmer hand in the production and direction of subsequent efforts, infusing her music with a rock sensibility and the Arabic rhythms that had influenced her in her youth. It was a bold decision that paid off handsomely with the release and chart-topping domination of hit singles like "Ojos Así" and "Hips Don’t Lie." While the former song would earn Shakira a Latin Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, the latter broke a record for the most airplay during a single week in the history of American radio. By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the entertainer was one of the top-earning women in music and a featured performer at the inauguration of President Barack Obama. As a singer, songwriter, dancer, producer, philanthropist and even judge on"The Voice" (NBC, 2011- ), Shakira consistently exceeded expectations in a career that endeared her to legions of fans from every corner of the globe.