Gloria Estefan

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Gloria, Live & Re-wrapped Tour Promo Poster
Gloria Estefan (birth name Gloria María Milagrosa Fajardo, born September 1, 1957 in Havana, Cuba), is a five-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, who began her career as lead vocalist for the then exclusively Spanish-language band, Miami Sound Machine, in 1977, and crossed over to mainstream popular success with English-speaking audiences with the international hit single, "Conga," in 1986.


Known as the "Queen of Latin Pop," Estefan is one of the most recognized music artists in the world. Billions have heard her, millions have seen her perform — and with over 70 million albums sold worldwide, she is the single most successful crossover performer in Latin music history.

In addition to her music career, Estefan has appeared in two movies, Music of the Heart (1999) and For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story (2000). She is slated to star as Connie Francis, a U.S. pop singer whose peak commercial success was in the late 1950s and early 1960s, in an as yet untitled film based on Ms. Francis' life.

Early years

Cuban-born, Estefan's family moved to Miami, Florida when she was two years old, following the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Estefan's father, Jose Fajardo, was captured in the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion that failed to overthrow the new communist government established by Fidel Castro. Her father was held as a prisoner until an exchange was arranged by then-President John F. Kennedy.

Estefan's father also served as an officer in the United States Army in Vietnam, where he is suspected of having been poisoned by Agent Orange, a defoliant used extensively during the Vietnam war. He contracted multiple sclerosis, and was nursed by a young Estefan for many years. He died in 1980.

Gloria Fajardo became romantically involved with the Miami Sound Machine's band leader, Emilio Estefan, in 1976. She and Emilio married on September 2, 1978. They have two children: Nayib Emil,(born September 2, 1980) and Emily Marie (born December 5, 1994).

Estefan was raised primarily in Miami (though she accompanied her mother, father and younger sister, Becky, to several military bases in the 1960s during her father's military service). Estefan graduated from the University of Miami with a degreee in psychology, and is a prominent advocate for the university. Gloria also as worked Spanish and French translator at Miami International Airport while attending the university.

Miami Sound Machine

Estefan's first major public performance was at a large Cuban wedding when Emilio asked her to join the band to sing on stage, after which she received a standing ovation.

A few weeks later, she became the lead singer for the Miami Sound Machine, which performed and recorded in Spanish in the early years of its existence. The Miami Sound Machine soon gained a large fan base and released an LP in 1977 with a local company. It was the first all-Spanish album from CBS International.

With Estefan on vocals, The Miami Sound Machine had its first English-language hit with "Dr. Beat," which topped the dance charts across Europe, from the album Eyes of Innocence, in 1984. Primitive Love was released in 1986; "Conga," "Bad Boy," and "Words Get in the Way" were crossover hits. Her next album, 1988's Let It Loose went multi-platinum, with several million copies sold and the following hits: "Anything For You" (#1 Pop), "1,2,3" (#3 Pop), "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You" (#5 Pop) and "Can't Stay Away From You" (#6 Pop and #1 Adult/Contemporary).

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Unwrapped Series 2003 (Photo by Carlos Betancourt)
In 1988, Estefan took top billing as the band's name changed to Gloria Estefan and The Miami Sound Machine. Beginning in 1989, Estefan recorded as a solo artist for the first time. That year, she released her best selling album to date, Cuts Both Ways (which refers to Estefan's desire to appeal to both English and Spanish-speaking fans) with hits like "Don't Wanna Lose You" (a USA #1 hit), "Oye Mi Canto", "Here We Are", "Cuts Both Ways" (#1 in Australia) and "Get On Your Feet". Cuts Both Ways sold more than ten million copies worldwide and reached number one in several countries.

1990 tour bus crash in Pennsylvania

While touring in support of Cuts Both Ways, on March 20, 1990, near Scranton, Pennsylvania, a tractor trailer crashed into Estefan's tour bus, critically injuring her and breaking her back. Estefan was flown by helicopter to New York City, where surgeons permanently implanted two titanium rods to stabilize her spinal column. The grueling recovery took almost a year.

After extensive physical therapy, Estefan returned to the charts with a concept album, Into the Light, in 1991. The lead single "Coming Out Of The Dark," whose title was based on a phrase her husband, Emilio, hastily jotted on a piece of paper as a helicopter transported her for delicate surgery to repair her broken back, was a hit worldwide. "Coming Out of the Dark" was performed for the publicly for the first time on the "American Music Awards" in January 1991, for which Gloria recieved a rousing standing ovation.

The "Into the Light World Tour" displayed the relentless energy, personal warmth, and crack musicianship that Estefan had developed through her old band, the Miami Sound Machine, and through her solo career. This tour covered 100 cities in nine countries and was seen by more than 10 million people worldwide.


1993's Mi Tierra saw Estefan return to her Cuban roots with a Spanish-language album, for which she won a Grammy Award for Best Tropical Latin Album. Mi Tierra was a successful album worldwide, with over eight million copies sold. In Spain, Mi Tierra became the country's best selling international album ever.

The Classics Collection Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, a cover album, was released in 1994. "Turn the Beat Around", the first single, a disco hit from the 1970s, became one of the most successful singles of the 1990s. "Everlasting Love" was a successful club and pop hit.

1995's Spanish-language album Abriendo Puertas earned Estefan her second Grammy Award for Best Tropical Latin Album. It spun off two #1 Dance hits, "Abriendo Puertas" and "Tres Deseos", and two #1 Latin singles, "Abriendo Puertas" and "Mas Alla." The Miami Herald called Abriendo Puertas "a danceable pan-Latin American fusion, brilliantly built on improbable instrumental combinations and layers of styles and rhythms." In 1995, Estefan sang the Billboard Latin #1 song "Mas Alla" for the late Pope John Paul II as part of the celebration of his 50th anniversary in the priesthood. She was the first pop star invited to perform for the Pope. At their meeting, Estefan, an anti-communist Catholic, asked the Pope to pray for a free Cuba. She has been an active opponent of Fidel Castro's government, and supported the unsuccesful effort to keep young Elián González in the United States.

The Platinum album Destiny, released in 1996, featured "Reach," the official theme of the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics. Estefan performed in the opening ceremony, in front of an audience of 2 billion people worldwide.

On tour with "Evolution"

On July 18, 1996, Estefan embarked on her "Evolution" world tour (her first tour in five years), which covered the United States, Canada, Europe, Latin America, Australia, South Africa and Asia.

Estefan appeared in a movie, Music of the Heart (1999) and dueted with 'N Sync on the Billboard #1 and Academy Award Nominated "Music Of My Heart." She also released a Latin hit with the Brazilian group So Pra Contrariar called "Santo, Santo," sang with Luciano Pavarotti in "Pavarotti and Friends for Guatemala and Kosovo," released the benefit album "A Rosie Christmas," and sang with Stevie Wonder at Super Bowl XXXIII in Miami. Estefan is the only artist to perform twice at the Super Bowl.

In addition to her musical success, Estefan and her husband are entrepeneurs. Together, they own five business establishments in Florida: three Cuban-themed restaurants (Bongos) in Miami, Miami Beach and Orlando, and two hotels, the Palm Court Resort Hotel in Vero Beach, which was destroyed by hurricanes in the fall of 2004 (Estefan's management says it will be rebuilt and reopen as the Cabana Beach Resort in late 2007), and The Cardozo in Miami.

In addition to her five Grammys, Estefan has received a number of other prestigious awards. In May, 1993, she received the Ellis Island Congressional Medal of Honor, which is the highest award that can be given to a citizen who was born outside the United States. She has won the Hispanic Heritage Award, an MTV Music Award, two cable television "ACE" awards and the 1993 National Music Foundation's Humanitarian of the Year award. The singer is the recipient of the American Music Award for Lifetime Achievement. She also has a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. Her husband, Emilio, a world-renowned music impresario, received a star adjacent to his wife's on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2005.

In 2003, she was inducted into the Florida Women's Hall of Fame. The City of Hope, one of her favorite charities, in 2004 presented her with the Spirit of Life Award in recognition of her contributions to the Hispanic community and in support of its charitable endeavors. Her hometown of Miami honored her, in 2004, with the Mayor's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Estefan holds an honorary Doctoral Degree in Music awarded by the University of Miami in 1993. In 2002, Barry University {Miami, Florida} bestowed upon her an honorary law degree.

She has scores of encomiums for her musical accomplishments, humanitarian and philanthropic work. In 2002, she received the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Medallion of Excellence for Community Service. The singer was Musicares Person of the Year in 1994. The Alexis de Tocqueville Society awarded her the United Way Outstanding Philanthropy Award in 1993. She was inducted into the Movieland Star Hall of Fame in 1991.

She has been honored twice by the Songwriters Hall of Fame: in 1996 she won the Hitmaker Award; she and her husband, Emilio, won the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001.

In 1992, she served as a public member of the United States Delegation to the 47th General Assembly to the United Nations.

Estefan was BMI's Songwriter of the Year in 1992. Bnai Brith honored her as Humanitarian of the Year in 1992. Also in 1992, she won the Premio Lo Nuestro Lifetime Achievement Award. Miami Sound Machine won the American Music Award for Best Pop Band in 1987.

In March of 1990, on the day before her back was broken in a bus accident, she was honored by President George H.W. Bush for her anit-drug efforts.

At the 2005 Billboard Latin Music Awards, Estefan won the award for Tropical Airplay Track by a female artist for "Tu Fotografia."

Estefan's next album, 2000's Alma Caribeña won the first Latin Grammy for Best Music Video for No Me Dejes de Querer. The album reached number one in Spain, the United States and several South American countries. That year, she also won the American Music Awards Award of Merit.

Greatest Hits Vol. II was released in 2001. It contained hits from 1993 to 2000, three new songs and a remix of her first hit "Conga", now called "Y - Tu - Conga". Greatest Hits Vol. II was a commercial disappointment, however, selling fewer than 200,000 copies, comparing unfavorably to 1992's original Greatest Hits CD, which sold 2.5 million copies.


In 2003, Estefan released Unwrapped, her first English-language CD in five years. She also toured Europe, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the United States in a promotion tour. The CD's first video, for the single "Hoy/Wrapped," was shot in Machu Picchu, Peru. "Hoy" and the next single, "Tu Fotografia," were #1 on Billboard's Latin chart.

In April, 2004, Estefan appeared on the Fox Broadcasting Company's program, "American Idol," but she declined an offer to be an official judge because, she said publicly, she does not like to "judge" others.

On July 28, 2004, at the Trump Tower Building, in a press conference hosted by Donald Trump, Estefan announced that her then-upcoming tour would be her final one. The "Live and Re-Wrapped" Summer/Fall 2004 Tour, her first tour in eight years, produced by Clear Channel Entertainment, featured Estefan’s greatest hits, along with new material from her recent CD, Unwrapped, in an explosive, multi-media concert production.

Estefan began the "Live & Re-wrapped Tour" in McAllen, Texas on July 30, 2004, and played in 28 cities. She finished her final concert tour in her home town of Miami on the weekend of October 9th and 10th, a finale in a sold-out American Airlines Arena that was delayed for two weeks by a hurricane.


HarperCollins announced in December, 2004 that Estefan will publish her first book, in English and Spanish, on October 1, 2005. In early 2005, Estefan issued a statement that updated progress on her forthcoming children's book, which is complete. The "Magically Mysterious Adventures of Noelle the Bulldog" ("Las Magicas y Misteriosas Aventuras de Un Bulldog Llamado Noelle") is a picture book, in verse, aimed at beginning readers. The respective editions will have a new English or Spanish single CD composed and sung by Estefan. The entertainer will embark on a promotional book-signing tour beginning in October of 2005.

The first draft of the screenplay for the Connie Francis movie is complete. Casting and other preliminary pre-production work is anticipated in 2005.

In January 2005, Estefan performed "My Picture"' at a pre-inaugural concert attended by President George W. Bush that saluted the U.S. military. The singer can, apparently, count President Bush among her fans. In May of 2002, she attended a celebration of the 100th anniversary of Cuba's independence hosted by President Bush. "Every time I see and hear Gloria Estefan sing, it makes my heart feel better," Bush said.

After the Connie Francis movie is released, based on her public statements, it is anticipated that Estefan will focus on writing her autobiography.

Estefan is currently planning her next album, which is the last under her current contract with Epic Records. "I already have in mind what I want to do," she said, "but I usually wait at least a couple of years between albums." Her last studio album was 2003's "Unwrapped."

After thirty years as an entertainer, Estefan's one unfulfilled aspiration is to perform -- as a gift to her native land -- "a free concert in a free Cuba," after U.S.-Cuba relations are normalized, she said in a televised interview.

A Biography Channel profile estimated the Estefans' current net worth at 200 million dollars.

Estefan currently lives with her husband and daughter on Star Island in Miami, Florida.


In early 2005, Estefan participated in two charity concerts to aid the victims of the 2004 Asian tsunami. She sang "There's Always Tomorrow" on a live NBC broadcast, "Tsunami Aid: A Concert of Hope," with other superstar musical acts, that raised over $18 million dollars for the Red Cross International Response Fund. Estefan also raised $120,000 for tsunami relief efforts with her performance at a private benefit concert at financier Donald Trump's Mar-A-Largo resort in Palm Beach, Florida.

The Gloria Estefan Foundation, funded in significant part by the royalties from three of her popular songs, quietly disburses a half million dollars to various charitable causes annually.

Estefan sang "I Could Fall in Love" (Selena's posthumous crossover hit) at a sold-out Selena Vive! (Selena Live!) tribute concert honoring Tejano-music singer Selena Quintanilla. The Houston concert commemorated the tenth anniversary of Selena's murder in March of 1995. In pre-concert comments, Estefan, the legendary lead singer of the Miami Sound Machine, lamented Selena's death at age 23 when she was "poised to [become a] crossover sensation" appealing to mainstream English-speaking audiences — following by about a decade in Estefan's own musical footsteps. "[Selena] was on the cusp of greatness," Estefan said. Noting that she no longer tours, the Houston Chronicle described Estefan's performance as "a rare treat."


Releases with the Miami Sound Machine:

  • Renacer (1977)
  • Miami Sound Machine (1978)
  • Imported (1979)
  • MSM (1980)
  • Otra Vez (1981)
  • Rio ((1982)
  • A Toda Maquina (1984)
  • Eyes of Innocence (1984)
  • Primitive Love (1986)
  • Let It Loose (1987)
  • Anything For You (Let It Loose, UK release) (1988)

Solo releases:

  • Cuts Both Ways (1989)
  • Exitos de Gloria Estefan (1990)
  • Into the Light (1991)
  • Greatest Hits (1992)
  • Mi Tierra (1993)
  • Christmas Through Your Eyes (1993)
  • Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me (1994)
  • Abriendo Puertas (1995)
  • Destiny (1996)
  • gloria! (1998)
  • Alma Caribeña (2000)
  • Greatest Hits, Vol. II (2001)
  • Unwrapped (2003)
  • Amor y Suerte: Exitos Romanticos (2004)


  • Music Of The Heart (1999)
  • For Love Or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story (2000)


  • Homecoming Concert (1989 SMV)
  • Evolution (1990 SMV)
  • Coming Out Of The Dark (1991 SMV)
  • Into The Light World Tour (1992 SMV)
  • Everlasting Gloria! (1995 SMV)
  • The Evolution Tour Live In Miami (1996 SMV)
  • Don't Stop (1998 SMV)
  • Que siga la tradición (2000 SMV)
  • Live In Atlantis (2001 SMV)
  • Live & Unwrapped (2003 SMV)


  • Conga Tour (1985 - 1986)
  • Let It Loose Tour (1987 - 1988)
  • Get On Your Feet Tour (1989 - 1990)
  • Into The Light World Tour (1991 - 1992)
  • Evolution World Tour (1996 - 1997)
  • Live & Re-wrapped Tour (2004)

See also

External links

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