She also began singing and, from the start, displayed a unique voice that stood out among her peers. Because of her already developed strong vibrato, she could only sing the solos in school because her voice overpowered her class mates. Some of her school pals would laugh at her singing and called her sound“animal-like.” But Shakira was undeterred by the criticism. Early on she decided to embrace her individuality and cultivate her unique voice and dance moves.
In a twist that seems like something out of a made-for-TV movie, a local theater producer whom Shakira had befriended met a Sony Music executive on a flight and convinced him to audition Shakira in a motel lobby. He liked what he heard, but his Sonycolleagues in Bogotá felt her voice was too unusual. In a sneaky, yet clever move, the label executive arranged an in-person audition for Shakira, but told his record company staffers they were seeing someone else since they had only heard Shakira and never met her. Her talent won over any doubters and the label signed her to a three-album deal. But she was hardly an overnight sensation. Her firstalbum, “Magia," recorded when she was only 14 in 1991, failed to find an audience. She returned to the studio to record “Peligro", which came out in 1993 and although the album began to build an audience for her, she felt distant from the songs, feeling the project was more a reflection of her producer’s taste than her own.
Although she was barely known outside of Colombia, Shakira was invitedto appear at Chile's Viña del Mar International Song Festival in February 1993. The Festival featured aspiring Latin American singers performing in front of a huge audience and such well-known judges as soon-to-be fellow Latin superstar Ricky Martin. Shakira’s emotional performance of powerful ballad “Eres" (You Are) landed her in third place and began to build her profile outside of Colombia.After taking time to finish high school, Shakira returned to the studio to make her third album, which reflected her various eclectic influences. The 1995 “Pies Descalzos” album brought her great popularity in Latin America bolstered by the hit singles "Estoy Aquí," "Pies Descalzos, Sueños Blancos" and "Dónde Estás Corazón." The album sold more than 4 million copies and prompted the release of a remixalbum, which sold another 500,000 copies.
Shakira then turned to renowned producer Emilio Estefan, also known as Gloria Estefan’s husband, to executive produce her fourth album, 1998’s “¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones?.” The album drew the attention of not only her loyal and ever-expanding Latin American audience, but Shakira gained fans in non-Spanish-speaking countries like France, Switzerland,Canada and especially the United States. An impressive eight of the album's 11 tracks were singles, including "Ciega, Sordomuda," "Moscas En La Casa," "No Creo," "Inevitable," "Tú," "Si Te Vas," "Octavo Día" and fan favorite "Ojos Así.” To solidify further Shakira’s growing popularity in America, she performed on MTV’s first Spanish-language edition of “MTV Unplugged.” The subsequent album...