Biography of a Latin Superstar
Watching Gloria Estefan perform is deceptive. When she sings in English, you hear an all-American pop star with a great voice and a lot of style—Miami style. When she sings in Spanish, Cuban soul shines through her every move and gesture. So which is she?
According to Gloria, she’s not one thing or another. She calls herself a Cuban-American with an American head and a Cuban heart.
Born: September 1, 1957, in Havana, Cuba
Gloria Estefan was born Gloria Maria Milagrosa Fajardo. At the time, her father Jose Fajardo was a personal bodyguard to Cuban president Fulgencio Batista’s wife; her mother was a kindergarten teacher. The family immigrated to Miami in 1959, following Fidel Castro’s successful overthrow of the Batista government.
Estefan took up the guitar and singing at an early age, but she received her B.A. from the University of Miami in psychology with a minor in French. In fact, while attending college she worked as a Spanish/French translator at Miami International Airport.
Gloria Meets Emilio Estefan. Jr.
In 1975, while still in college, Gloria had an opportunity to sing at a Cuban wedding; the band performing was called the Miami Latin Boys, led by keyboardist Emilio Estefan. A few weeks later, Gloria signed on to sing with the band and in 1978 she and Emilio were married, cementing a personal and musical collaboration that is approaching three decades.
Miami Latin Boys Become Miami Sound Machine
Around 1977, the band changed their name to Miami Sound Machine and scored their first record contract with Miami-based CBS Discos. They made 7 albums in Spanish between 1977 and 1984, garnering a large fan base in Latin America and among the Hispanic population in Florida. Leveraging their growing popularity, Emilio was able to persuade the larger CBS International division to release their first English-language LP on Epic Records.
The album was Eyes of Innocence and its first single, “Dr. Beat” became the group’s first English-language hit.
From Primitive Love to Crossover Soloist
In 1985, Primitive Love was released. It became Miami Sound Machine’s first U.S. chart album and the single, “Conga” was the group’s first U.S. hit. “Conga” was a crossover phenomenon in that it topped the pop, dance, R&B, and Latin charts at the same time. Three other hit tracks kept the album on the charts from 1985-1987.
By 1989 the composition of the band was changing and so was the name. Gloria released her first solo album, Cuts Both Ways as Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine.
1990 Bus Crash
While on tour in support of Cuts Both Ways, Gloria’s tour bus was hit by a tractor-trailer in Pennsylvania. The crash broke her back; her husband and son were also injured, but not as seriously. Gloria was airlifted to New York where she underwent extensive surgery and had her back stabilized with a titanium rod. She spent the next year recuperating and undergoing physical therapy.
With incredible strength and will, Gloria announced her recovery and a new record, Into The Light, The new album’s single, “Coming Out of the Dark” was inspired by the previous year’s struggle.
Gloria has a son, Nyab, and daughter, Emily Marie. She lives on Star Island, near Miami.
Gloria Goes Back to Her Roots
Having established herself as a pop star in the English-language market, Gloria took a step back to her roots with 1993’s Mi Tierra which sold more than 8 million copies and she earned her first (but certainly not last) Grammy Award for ‘Best Tropical Latin Album’.
While Gloria has announced that she will no longer tour, her musical output continues unabated in both English and Spanish. Her new album, 90 Millas, the 4th Spanish-language recording, was released in September 2007.
Movies and Books
Gloria can also be seen on the large screen in 1999’s Music of the Heart with Meryl Streep; in 2000, she performed in For Love of Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story with Andy Garcia.
She’s also an author; Gloria published her first book (in English and Spanish) in 2005. A picture book for young readers, The Magically Mysterious Adventures of Noelle the Bulldog was followed by in 2006 by Noelle’s Treasure Tale: A New Magically Mysterious Adventure. Noelle was the name of the family’s bulldog.
- The Magically Mysterious Adventures of Noelle the Bulldog
- Las Magicas Y Misteriosas Aventuras De Una Bulldog Llamada Noelle
- Noelle’s Treasure Tale
- El Tesoro De Noelle
Miami Sound Machine
- Eyes of Innocence (1984)
- Primitive Love (1986)
Gloria Estefan in English
- Cuts Both Ways (1989)
- Into The Light (1991)
- Unwrapped (2004)
Gloria Estefan in Spanish
- Mi Tierra (1993)
- Abriendo Puertas (1995)
- Alma Caribena (2000)