Escaping Cuba and Living as Refugee
Born in Cuba in 1957, Gloria fled to the United States as a Cuban refugee in 1961 to escape the US Bay of Pigs’ campaign. Her father remained in Cuba until he was released by the US government two years later. He also served in the Vietnam War and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis upon returning home.
During her early years, Gloria, with her mother, had little or no social life as most of her time was spent in school, helping her mother (a teacher), and looking after her father and younger sister. Gloria says that due to this weight of responsibilities, she turned to music for comfort.
"When my father was ill, music was my escape," Estefan told Washington Post reporter Richard Harrington. "I would lock myself up in my room for hours and just sing. I wouldn't cry—I refused to cry...Music was the only way I had to just let go, so I sang for fun and for emotional catharsis."
Joining Miami Sound Machine
In 1975, Gloria met Emilio Estefan while she was studying at Miami University. Emilio played keyboard as a part-time job (he was a sales manager for Bacardi during the week) on the weekend. He was the leader of a band called the Miami Latin Boys. They were without a lead singer and after meeting Gloria, he convinced her to join them.
While attending university, Gloria only sang on weekends. Later, the band’s name was changed to Miami Sound Machine and, under a local label, recorded its first album. Gloria is said to have been plump and shy when she first joined the band however through much physical exertion, discipline and exercise she slimmed down. The album was a mix of Latin, pop, disco and original ballads.
After working closely together, Emilio and Gloria’s relationship quickly blossomed into something more than friendship. They married in 1978. Later on, Gloria would say that she only had one boyfriend in her life Emilio and she married him. They soon had a son they named Nayib in 1980, two years after their wedding. Also in 1980, the band signed a record deal with Disco CBS International. At that time, Emilio quit his job as a salesman to help take care of his wife and son and manage his band full time.
Releasing Conga and Other Songs
The band had its first success in Spanish–speaking countries, with dozens of hit songs in Cuba, Perú, Venezuela, Honduras, and Panama. However, they received only small recognition in the United States during that time. Miami Sound Machine’s first big hit was an English album entitled “Eyes of Innocence.” This album with its Congo beat went to the top of the European dance charts and with another song “Conga," the Miami Sound Machine was propelled to fame, cracking Latin billboards and black charts all at the same time.
Miami Sound Machine continued to grow in popularity and in 1986, their album “Primal Love" was recorded entirely in English. It was included in the top 10 Billboard Pop Charts, despite the rifts forming in the group. During this time, Gloria Estefan’s popularity rose and the band became known as Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine, playing in concerts with 40,000 spectators, MTV, and VH-1 shows.
During the mid–80s and 90s, Gloria Estefan was so famous that she was given the title, the Latin Madonna. However, by that time, the founding members of the Miami Sound Machine has left the band. On the other hand, it afforded them greater opportunity for creativity and Gloria and Emilio continued to write and publish songs in English while never forgetting their Latin roots.
Songs such as “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You," "Betcha Say That," and "1-2-3" made it to Billboard's Top 10 list, but it was her ballads "Anything For You" and “It Cuts both Ways" that were her biggest selling successes that became number one across multiple counties’ music charts.
Surviving a Tragic Accident
In 1990, tragedy occurred while on tour. The band’s tour bus collided with a tractor on the Interstate 380 in Pennsylvania. While Emilio suffered only minor head and hand injuries, Gloria had a worse fate. She broke her vertebra. The operation took four hours with the specialists realigning Gloria’s spine and inserting steel rods in spinal cord to help heal her fractures. The doctors could not guarantee total healing. The tour was cancelled and Gloria returned home to Miami to rehabilitate.
After one whole year of extensive physical therapy, personal drive, and determination, along with essential support and caring by her family, friends, extended family, and medical staff Gloria made a miraculous comeback.
Later, when asked about her recovery, she recounted a conversation with her doctor.
Doctor: "Look, I've seen a lot of miracles—what people would consider miracles. And I can tell you a lot of it is gonna be up to you."
Gloria Estefan: “It depends on how you deal with this and what you put into it. And I worked hard. I worked six, seven hours a day in rehab for a year."
Becoming One of the Highest Entertainment Earners of the Year
In March 1991, Gloria Estefan returned to the music world with a performance at the American Music Award and later that year, she launched her tour “Into the Light" that would last a year long. Between 1991 and 1996, Gloria Estefan wrote, and released a total of four albums, a mélange of her contemporary style of English, Latin, pop, dance ballads. In 1996, Gloria toured again with her Evolution Tour generating over $14,000,000 and placed Gloria as one of the highest entertainment earners in the world that year.
Founding the Gloria Estefan Foundation
In 1998 Gloria continued her success with the combination of her music styles and performed alongside Celine Dion, Aretha Franklin, and Shania Twain in a concert to raise money for music education and elementary schools, and by doing so she cemented her place as one of the world’s top female singers and cultural influencers in the world.
Since then, Gloria Estefan founded and chaired the Gloria Estefan Foundation and worked closely with Capital Campaign in raising over $40 million to build the Lois Pope LIFE Centre for the Miami Project. The centre was opened in 2000.
Although achieving financial success, fame, and popularity with her foundation, Gloria Estefan continues to contribute to the world with her music and philanthropy. She has been the recipient of multiple Hall of Fame awards and music writer/singer of the year accolades. She received a Star on the Hollywood walk of Fame. More musical albums came and she collaborated with Carlos Santana, appeared on American Idol and Glee.
Gloria and Emilio also have created a successful restaurant chain named “Bongo’s" with over seven locations, serving up authentic Cuban foods and delights.
What a journey Gloria have had—from a Cuban refugee, supporting her family, music success, tragedy, recovery, philanthropy and much more. She has shown to the world that with commitment, and perseverance, self-belief, and passion to do what you love, you can not only make a positive difference to your own life but also inspire others and in doing so, make the world a better place.
- 1986: Her Album Primal Love achieved double platinum and she was awarded First Prize for Congo at the Tokyo Music Fair.
- 1987: Miami Sound Machine voted Best Pop Band at the American Music Awards
- 1988: Performance Magazine honoured as female vocalist of the year. Her album Let it Loose went double platinum in the USA and five times platinum in the United Kingdom
- 1989: Gloria was again awarded Song Writer of the year by American Billboards. Her song Anything for You achieved double platinum as well as her album Cuts Both Ways.
- 1990: Cuts Both Ways achieved double platinum
- 1991: Gloria is awarded Song Writer of the Year by BMI, Best Latin Female Artist by Billboard, Let it Loose achieves triple platinum, Evolution and Into the Light achieves platinum Gloria receives Hall of Fame status for her work.
- 1992: Becomes a member on the Committee on Human Rights with the United Nations and is awarded Humanitarian of the Year and Lifetime Achievement Award by Premio Lo Nuestro
- 1993: Gloria is given a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, The Medal of Honour by Ellis Island. An honorary PhD. For music by the University of Miami. Outstanding Philanthropy Award from the Alexis De Tocqueville Society and is celebrated by Madame Tussaud Exhibition of Rock.
- 1994: Grammy award for Best Latin Tropical Album, World Music Award Music Person of the year as well as for bestselling Latin performer of the year. Mi Tierra goes eleven times platinum in Spain, and triple platinum in the USA.
- 1995: Double platinum achieved for Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me
- 1996: Grammy Awarded for Best Tropical Latin Album of the Year. Abriendo Puertas. Gloria is voted Most Fascinating Woman of the Year. Greatest Hits Album triple platinum.
- 1997: Gloria is accepted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. American Music Award crowns Gloria Best Female Latin Artist and Gloria and Emilio receive the Prestigious BMI President's Award.
- 1998: Album titled Gloria goes four times platinum in Spain and is awarded the Amigo Award as the Best Latin Female Artist of the Year
- 1999: Life Time Achievement Award by World Music
- 2000: American Music Award, Harry Chapin Memorial Humanitarian Award, Best Latin Singer Award (Amigo), Latin Grammy Award, International Women’s Hall of Fame, Greatest Hits four times platinum.
- 2001: Grammy for Alma Caribena, Publisher of the Year Award “Foreign Imported Productions & Publishing". Best Tropical Salsa Album, Latin Music Awards.
- 2002: Received the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Medallion of Excellence for Community Service. Honorary degree at Barry University of Miami. Founded the Gloria Estefan Foundation whose goal is to help those with spinal cord injuries.
- 2003: Gloria receives The Buoniconti Fund Humanitarian Award
- 2004: Latin Billboard Award for Track of the year “Oye" and Gloria receives the Magic 106 Exceptional Women's Award.
- 2008: Received the Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year award at the Latin Grammy Awards becoming the first female singer to receive this award.
- 2009: Honoured as a BMI Icon at the 16th annual BMI Latin Awards.
- 2010: Received a star in the "Walk of Stars" in Las Vegas for her contribution to music industry.
- 2011: Was honoured with the Billboard Spirit of Hope Award for her philanthropic work.
|1977||Renacer / Live Again||Epic Records|
|1978||Miami Sound Machine|
|1983||Lo Mejor De Miami Sound Machine||Compilation album|
|1983||-Up Presents Los Hits
De Miami Sound Machine
|7-Up||Promo Compilation album|
|1984||A Toda Maquina|
|1984||Eyes of Innocence||Epic Records||Emilio Estefan, Jr.|
|1985||Primitive Love||Epic Records||Emilio Estefan, Jr.|
|1987||Let It Loose||Epic Records||Emilio Estefan, Lawrence Dermer, Rafael Vigil (Tracks 1 to 8 & 10), and Jorge Casas & Clay Ostwald (Track 9)|
|1988||Anything for You (Retitled Let It Loose)||Epic Records||Emilio Estefan, Lawrence Dermer, Rafael Vigil (Tracks 1 to 8 & 10), and Jorge Casas & Clay Ostwald (Track 9)||Changed the title and cover design of Let It Loose album for European and Australian release|
|1989||Cuts Both Ways||Epic Records
|Emilio Estefan, Jr., Jorge Casas, and Clay Ostwald|
|1990||Exitos De Gloria Estefan||Epic Records||Emilio Estefan, Jr., Jorge Casas, Clay Ostwald, and Pepe Luis Soto||Her first Compilation Album|
|1991||Into the Light||Epic Records
|Emilio Estefan, Jr., Jorge Casas, and Clay Ostwald||Concept album|
|Emilio Estefan, Jr., Jorge Casas, and Clay Ostwald|
|1993||Mi Tierra||Epic Records
|Emilio Estefan, Jr., Jorge Casas, and Clay Ostwald|
|1993||Christmas Through Your Eyes||Epic Records||Phil Ramone||Collection of Christmas Songs|
|1994||Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me||Epic Records||Emilio Estefan, Jr.|
|1995||Abriendo Puertas||Epic Records||Emilio Estefan, Jr.|
|1996||Destiny||Epic Records||Emilio Estefan, Jr.|
|1998||gloria!||Epic Records||Emilio Estefan, Jr.|
|2000||Alma Caribeña||Epic Records||Emilio Estefan, Jr.|
|2003||Unwrapped||Epic Records||Emilio Estefan, Jr.|
|2007||90 Millas||Burgundy/SonyBMG||Emilio Estefan Jr., José Juan Maldonado, Gaitan Bros., and Drop Deat Beats|
|2011||Miss Little Havana||Crescent Moon,
|Pharrell Williams, Gloria Estefan, and Emilio Estefan, Jr.|