Shakira: Earth Angel

I first heard Shakira Mebarak’s voice in 1998, when a friend recommended I check out the record of this “bizarre chick” from Colombia. I listened, and even though I wasn’t sure if I was hearing Arabic, Spanish, rock or folk music, I was hooked. The more I’ve learned about her over the years, the more I’ve learned why her unique spirit is so infectious.

Shakira Mebarak was born in Barranquilla, Colombia, yet she speaks five languages and has Lebanese roots. She recorded her first album, Magia, at the age of 13, yet the nuns at her school told her she had the “voice of a goat.” And just after Pies Descalzos -- the album I loved -- was released, she started her own foundation to open new schools for poor children in Colombia, even though her career started to take off at a stratospheric pace. It was clear that Shakira had her own message and sound to share with the world.

In 2001, her English-language album Laundry Service debuted at No. 3 on the charts and went on to sell 20 million copies since.

Over the years, she hasn’t just relied on her hip-shaking moves: An astute businesswoman and philanthropist, she has launched her own perfume and has fought for access to clean water and education around the world. For me, she’s a role model to last through the ages. So in time for Earth Day, let’s say it all together: Viva la Shakira!

by Michelle Herrera Mulligan