shakira-1Shakira is the most famous Colombian in history: the face of modern Colombia. When it comes to celebrity, she towers over her fellow Colombians in entertainment (Sofia Vergara, Juanes), politics (Juan Manuel Santos, Alvaro Uribe) and even the arts, where painter Fernando Botero and Nobel-prize winning writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez have left lasting cultural legacies.

The first thing that most people don't know about Shakira is that she is half-Lebanese, from her father's side, and a quarter Italian and a quarter Spanish, from her mother's side. Shakira's heritage reflects the rich ethnic tapestry that makes up the Colombian people today. Born Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll in the Caribbean coastal city of Barranquilla, Shakira soon made her way to the capital city of Bogota to try to make it in the music industry.

At the age of thirteen, she sufficiently wowed Sony Colombia record executives, who signed her to a three album contract. Her first albums, Magia and Peligro, were hindered by production and marketing problems, although they gained her much-needed exposure on Colombian radio. Following their disappointing sales, Shakira took some time of from recording to graduate from high school.

When she returned to the studio in 1995, she began working with famed Latin producer Luis Fernando Ochoa, and their collaboration led to a stunning breakthrough, spawning the album Pies Descalzos (Bare Feet), and releasing six singles, including "Estoy Aqui", "Donde Estas Corazon", and "Pies Descalzos, Suenos Blancos". She subsequently embarked on her first international tour, and was nominated for numerous awards.shakira-2

1998's Donde Estan los Ladrones (Where Are the Thieves), was Shakira's fourth studio album, and an even bigger hit than Pies Descalzos, with the hits "Ciega, Sordomuda", "Moscas en la Casa", and "No Creo". This album would launch Shakira on a path to true global stardom, and an appearance on MTV Unplugged in New York, soon followed. This album went on to win the 2001 Grammy Award for Best Latin Pop Album.

In 2001, Shakira embarked upon a path to transform herself into an English-language crossover star. Her album Laundry Service was wildly successful, resulting in the hits "Whenever, Wherever" "Underneath Your Clothes" and "Objection (Tango)". It went on to be the highest selling album of 2002, selling more than 20 million copies.

shakira-3She continued her recording career with Oral Fixation 1 and 2, She Wolf and Sale El Sol, in the process signing a touring and promotion contract with Live Nation. Oral Fixation 2 spawned the massive global hit "Hips Don't Lie" featuring Haitian singer Wyclef Jean. She also was listed by Forbes in 2008 as the fourth highest paid female entertainer in the world.

Following the election of Barack Obama, Shakira was honored by being invited to perform in January 2009 at the inauguration festivities, where she appeared with Usher and Stevie Wonder. Then, in 2010, she was invited to record the official song of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)".

Shakira has branched out into other endeavors, including a charitable foundation called Pies Dezcalsos which provides education for underpriveleged Colombian children. She also has worked on the American television show The Voice, had several television cameos, appeared in numerous commercials, and launched her own fashion line "S by Shakira". She had a long-term relationship with Antonio de la Rua, son of former Argentine President Fernando de la Rua, but currently is in a relationship with Spanish soccer star Pique. In January of 2013, Shakira gave birth to her first child, Milan Pique Mebarak, in Barcelona, Spain, where Shakira currently resides.

Shakira is the face of modern Colombia, and has found remarkable artistic and commercial success during a career spanning more than two decades. Her popularity in Colombia is unequaled, although some Latinos accuse Shakira of abandoning her roots, embracing recording in English, and going too mainstream. Regardless of your opinion of Shakira, one thing is indisputable. She has been, and most likely will continue to be, the most enduring celebrity Colombia has seen, although Sofia Vergara may soon be giving her a run for her money!shakira-4

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