Skip to main contentSkip to footer

Shakira - Biography

The pop superstar and mum-of-two has had a successful career spanning over 20 years

Shakira at the Elvis premiere
Chloe Best
Lifestyle Features Editor
Updated: 19 June 2023
Share this:

Shakira was already a pop superstar in Latin America when her first English-language album, Laundry Service, hit the international charts in 2001. The exotic beauty, whose name means "woman full of grace" in Arabic, draws on rock'n'roll, her mum's Colombian roots and her father's Lebanese culture as the inspiration for her award-winning career.

"Somehow I'm a fusion of all those passions," she says of her multicultural heritage, "and my music is a fusion of elements that I can make coexist in the same place, in one song."

Shakira's childhood and early career

Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll was born February 9, 1977, to jewellers William and Nidia in Barranquilla, a town on Colombia's Caribbean Coast. As a child, she seemed destined for showbiz, learning how to belly dance at four, writing her first song aged eight, and playing the guitar at 11 all without formal lessons. The aspiring star began entering talent and beauty pageants, travelling to Bogota for a modelling shoot when she was just 13. While in the city, however, she was sidetracked from a fashion career when a family friend set up a meeting with a Sony executive. After singing acapella for the record boss in a hotel lobby, she was signed to the label, and released a self-penned debut, Magia (Magic), in 1991. 

A fan of Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Police, The Cure and Nirvana, Shakira graduated from high school aged 15, just before she got a part on Colombian soap El Oasis. Her breakthrough disc, 1996's Pies Descalzos (Bare Feet) sold four million copies and put the young star at number one in eight countries. The big-hearted chanteuse used the title for her Pies Descalzos Foundation, a charity to help poor children in her native Colombia and other developing countries.

Shakira's global success breakthrough

Shakira performing on stage in 2010© Getty Images
Shakira has achieved huge success worldwide

Shakira made five Spanish-language albums before her raw energy, wild blonde mane and belly dance moves helped make Whenever, Wherever an MTV staple. The single, inspired by a long-distance relationship with boyfriend Antonio de la Rua, son of a former Argentine president, was the first release from her English-language debut, Laundry Service. The singer came up with the unusual album title because she felt "washed clean of the way I looked at things in the past".

 "I think I am celebrating life more than ever," she said. The language transition, however, was a complicated one for the 5ft singer-songwriter, who used rhyming dictionaries and read poetry to translate her lyrics. "I would feel love in Spanish but I would think about how to express that love in English," she explains. But, she adds, "Afterwards that became such a natural process."

It was a process she pursued on another English release Oral Fixation Vol. 2 in 2005 – the follow up to Fijación Oral Vol. 1 in Spanish. The English language record spawned the immensely popular Wyclef Jean collaboration Hips Don't Lie, which shot to the top of the charts in 45 countries, Don't Bother, and Illegal featuring Carlos Santana.

A duet with Beyoncé – 2007's global hit Beautiful Liar – consolidated her position in the English language market. After her Oral Fixation tour ended that year, she enrolled at university in LA to study the history of western civilization – using her middle and last name Isabel Mebarak – and telling the professor she was visiting from Colombia so she wasn't recognised as a celebrity. 

Shakira's personal life and children

Shakira and Gerard Pique with their sons in 2021© Getty Images
Shakira shares two sons with her footballer ex Gerard Pique

In January 2011, after 11 years together she and Antonio announced that they had separated several months previously. Shakira found love again with star football player Gerard Pique, officially confirming their relationship on March 29, 2011 by posting a picture of them together with the caption: "I present to you my sunshine."

Two years later on January 22, 2013, the singer gave birth to their son Milan. In August 2014, the pop princess confirmed that she was expecting their second child. Their second son, Sasha, was born in January 2015. 

Following an 11-year relationship, Shakira and Gerard announced their split in June 2022. The singer and her children have since left their family home in Barcelona and moved to Miami, Florida, where she said they were starting "a new chapter in search of their happiness".

More Profiles

See more