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Legends Also Do Their Laundry: How Gloria Estefan Keeps Her Feet on the Ground

Legends Also Do Their Laundry: How Gloria Estefan Keeps Her Feet on the Ground

By Sigal Ratner-Arias | Msn.com – June 7, 2024

Gloria Estefan can do it all – from breaking molds in the music industry to doing her own laundry, literally. And she knows it.

It’s something she learned from the biggest “legends” in her life: her grandmother Consuelo and her mother Gloria Fajardo, whose life circumstances forced them to take the reins and provide for their family. “I grew up with two women who did everything,” Estefan says. “So for me there was never the question [of], ‘Well, as a woman, can I do this?’ Because the women in my life did it all.”

Since rising to stardom in the 1980s as the lead vocalist for the Miami Sound Machine – alongside her husband, visionary producer Emilio Estefan – Gloria Estefan has helped infuse Latin flavor into English-language pop music, breaking barriers with hits like “Conga” and “Rhythm is Gonna Get You,” and singing at the same time en Español.

On the Billboard charts, she has placed 29 songs on the Hot 100, including three No. 1 hits (“Anything For You” in 1988, “Don’t Wanna Lose You” in 1989 and “Coming Out of the Dark ” in 1991) – as well as 30 hits on Hot Latin Songs, 15 of which reached the top spot (from “No Me Vuelvo A Enamorar” in 1986 to “Hotel Nacional” in 2012). Her first full-length album in Spanish, Mi Tierra (1993), spent a whopping 58 weeks at the summit of Top Latin Albums, and won her first of three Grammy Awards.

This weekend, the Cuban-American superstar – who only six months ago became the first ever Latina artist to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame – will receive the Legend award at the 2024 Billboard Latin Women in Music gala in Miami.

You are a music icon and a legend. What many may not know is how down to earth you are. I remember I interviewed you a few years ago over the phone and you apologized for the noise of the washing machine – you said that you were doing laundry because you were going on a trip, and I confess I was impressed. I didn’t imagine that Gloria Estefan washed her own clothes.

Sometimes I have to, you know? [Laughs.] I am blessed to have staff at home who are really family – they have been with us for more than 30 years, and they pamper and spoil me a lot – but there come times when there are some things that you have to do yourself. And of course, I know how to do everything! And Emilio is the same too. Emilio starts cleaning because he is meticulous, he sprays water everywhere with the hose. It’s hilarious to watch.

How have you managed to stay so grounded despite all the fame and success?

You know what, I went through a lot as a child. Taking care of my dad [who had multiple sclerosis], trying to help my mother, who had everything left on her shoulders – raising her two daughters, helping my grandmother. My grandmother helped us too. I believe that when you have the example of knowing what’s really [worthwhile] in life, the things that have real value, which is health primarily, love, affection, family – and if it weren’t for my family I wouldn’t know where I’d be – that helps me a lot.

Also, I already had a son when we achieved great global success, and I was still a mother; I would take him on tour with me and he would see me on stage and see that part, but when I got off I was just a mom. Having family with you like that really keeps you grounded.

Who have been the female legends in your life, as a woman and as a musician?

My grandmother Consuelo, who came to this country at 57. She didn’t speak English. She grabbed my grandfather and told him, “This is what we’re going to do” – and she created a food business, with which she managed to buy her home and help us. She was an entrepreneurial woman who unfortunately was taken out of school in Cuba when she was 9, because it was the global Depression and she had many siblings and they had to help the family work to survive. She wanted to be a lawyer, she was born in 1905 – a woman in Cuba! She was brilliant. She was spiritual, someone who gave everything and helped many people.

My mother too. I grew up with two women who did everything, so for me there was never the question, “Well, as a woman, can I do this?” because the women in my life did it all. My father was sick, my grandfather too, so women had to take charge of everything.

And on a professional level, Celia Cruz was an inspiration for me – a woman whose humbleness, professionalism, love for what she did, for her people, for her fans, her family… I had the joy of being able to be her friend and share time with her, and she was a very big example for me. She was ageless on stage! For me, that is a legend, someone who really breaks all the molds that exist. That was Celia. So that is the triangle of women who have somehow left their mark on me in a thousand ways.

You’ve stayed active in music. Only last year, you released a Christmas album with your family and recorded the main track from the movie 80 For Brady (“Gonna Be You”). Now you’re writing a Broadway musical with your daughter Emily. You could easily retire and live off the royalties of your many hits. What keeps you going?

For me, it is a blessing and a privilege to be able to make music and in some way inspire others who listen to it; That is what I enjoy the most. Right now, we’re in the workshop of a musical that we have been working on for two years. It has been an inspiration to be part of the process and even more so working with my daughter, which is a very unique opportunity, and to put new songs in the hearts of people tied to an original musical based on the real life story of The Cateura Orchestra of Recycled Instruments [in Paraguay]. They are children who live next to a landfill, and the man who did all this created a music school and they have made instruments from waste and live off that landfill.

It is inspiring to see the triumph of the spirit of young people who, under the most difficult circumstances, have managed to send music to the world. This is not work for me. The luxury I have now is that I can choose the projects to which I say yes […] because now I also have a grandson and I don’t want to be away, I don’t want to miss those years that go by so quickly. So it’s a nice balance.

You have also remained active with the Gloria Estefan Foundation, which you created in 1997 in response to your accident (of 1990, when a truck crashed into your tour bus and left you temporarily paralyzed). What would you say has been the greatest satisfaction it has given you?

Being able to be of service to others. It is a privilege to be able to help in any way. We have many organizations that we support […] I also want to be part of the paralysis cure, because I was paralyzed and I was a positive story after that accident, so I want to help in any way. We help teachers a lot, because my mother was a teacher, so that they can help their children, because sometimes public schools don’t have the funds.

And a strange thing, but something I love: the Miami Beach Police can’t buy bulletproof vests for the police dogs, because they are very expensive and are not in the budget. So many of the dogs were dying – and I was able to buy vests and donate them, so they are more protected, because I also love animals. It is a nice way to be part of the community, be of service to others and find the best way to help.

Would you say that the accident was the most difficult moment you have ever had to go through?

It wasn’t fun, I can tell you that. But I wouldn’t change it. I wouldn’t want to go through it again, but, although I already appreciated life a lot, it gave me a way to live totally grateful every day of my life – for simply being able to stand up, go get a glass of water myself. Because my father was in a wheelchair, I knew what my family would experience if I remained in a wheelchair. Although I am very positive, and if I had stayed in the chair I would be playing basketball. [Laughs.]

It was difficult, but I had so much support, so many prayers that I felt and absorbed and that I know are part of my recovery. I worked very hard, doing six to seven hours a day of rehab – first floating in the pool, because I couldn’t walk. Until I was able to step on stage, 20 days before the one year anniversary of the accident. Every year when that date arrives, the day I broke my back, March 20, […] I celebrate my rebirth. So I’m only 34 years old right now.

How would you describe the role that music has had in your life?

Music for me has been the vehicle of my soul. To express myself. To stay strong. To vent. To have fun, celebrate. Music is the center of my life. Always has been. I’ve been singing since I’ve been able to talk, it came with me. And it’s not that I had to be famous or anything, because I had to get used to being the center of attention – it’s not part of my personality. But I can’t imagine my life without music. And having the privilege of other people listening to my lyrics, my melodies, is something I feel grateful for every day of my life.

When you look back, what moment as a Latin woman in music do you view with greatest pride?

The album Mi Tierra. Definitely. Because although I grew up in this country – I came when I was two and a half years old, and American music and everything I listened to became part of me – to be able to share my culture, an era of Cuban music that was paralyzed with the revolution and didn’t grow any more, being able to make original songs that celebrate and honor Cuban music and spread it throughout the world, for me is my greatest achievement. And if I had to leave only one album, it would be that one.

Billboard Latin Women in Music 2024 will air exclusively on Telemundo Sunday (June 9) at 9 p.m. ET, and will also be available on the Telemundo app and on Peacock.

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