By Greg Carannante
City & Shore Magazine
If I asked you to name the musical voice of Miami, and then I narrowed it down to female vocalists, could your answer be anyone other than Gloria Estefan?
No es posible.
Since launching her career with the Miami Sound Machine in 1977, the Grammy-winning singer’s persona has become virtually synonymous with the city that adopted her as a 2-year-old emigre from Havana. She is as much a cultural ambassador for Miami as she is for Latin music, having been its first major and most successful crossover artist with over 115 million records sold worldwide. And together with Emilio, her Cuban-born husband of 43 years, she’s made Miami the popular music capital of Latin America.
For such contributions to American music, the couple was honored with the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2015. That same year, the story of their boundary-breaking pursuit of the American dream landed on Broadway in the Tony-nominated musical, On Your Feet. Its 2017 touring production premiered — where else? — in Miami.
At 64, Estefan continues to conga her way through a multifaceted, multicultural career, most recently epitomized by last year’s Brazil305, her 29th album. The international chart-topper features her hits re-recorded with Brazilian rhythms and lyrics in three languages.
Now a grandmother, Estefan is keeping it all in the family as co-host of the Facebook Watch spinoff series, Red Table Talk: The Estefans. Joining her at the table are daughter Emily, a rising musician, and niece Lili, a Univision TV host. The talk show, which premiered last year, was renewed for 12 new episodes to premiere this fall. The Estefans also have a son, Nayib, and by him, a young grandson, Sasha.
No doubt scoring points with the 8-year-old, Estefan voices the character of Marta in the Lin Manuel Miranda-penned animated film Vivo, which recently premiered on Netflix. She will also play opposite Andy Garcia in the upcoming Father of the Bride reboot, centering this time on a Cuban-American family.
Among Estefan’s extensive ties to the Miami community since 1997 is her Gloria Estefan Foundation, which has contributed to the growth of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. Funded partly with proceeds from her songs and concerts, the open-door foundation is accessible to individual cases of hardship as it supports charitable programs for disadvantaged children, as well as animal causes.
The Estefans continue to make their home on Star Island off Miami Beach, and recently sold one of their properties there — a waterfront home purchased for $1.8 million in 1993 — for $35 million.
After wrapping a recent episode of Red Table Talk, the Cuban-American icon found time to respond to our standard set of Quote Unquote questions.
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Aside from the weather, what do you enjoy most about South Florida?
It’s as close to living on an island as possible while still being attached to the United States, and I’m definitely an island girl.
Aside from the weather, what do you dislike most about South Florida?
The traffic can be a bit hard to handle but, then again, I try to avoid rush hour if I can help it.
What do you do when you’re stuck in a traffic jam on I-95?
It depends who I’m with in the car.
Are you a beach person or a pool person?
I prefer the beach, but the pool can be delicious as well.
When in your life are you or have you been the happiest?
I have been happy at every phase of my life but after my accident in 1990, it became ever clearer that all we have is the ‘now,’ and I focus on that and am happy for simply existing. But there is one particular moment I remember where I experienced mad euphoria and it was March 1st of 1991. When I took off my fencing helmet at the beginning of the ‘Into The Light Tour’ [at Miami Arena] and felt the energy of that amazing audience running through me that first time that I had stepped on a concert stage after my accident, I felt like I had climbed Mount Everest.
What music are you listening to now?
I can fluctuate between Pink and Nat King Cole, Kendrick Lamar to Johnny Cash. You get the picture. I listen to music depending on what I’m feeling or want to.
Are you a fan, and if so, of what?
I’m a big fan of my family, especially my grandson, Sasha.
If you had to choose: Beatles or Stones?
Beatles all the way, baby.
What are your social media handles?
Apple or Android?
Who is your real-life hero or heroine?
My grandmother, Consuelo Garcia Perez.
What car are you driving now?
A Range Rover.
If you had to choose: Rocky or Raging Bull?
Two classics … can’t decide.
What do you like most about yourself?
That I enjoy my company.
What places in South Florida do you recommend to guests visiting from out-of-town?
I’d say: Spend time on our beautiful beaches and swim. Take a Bay boat scenic tour and listen to some interesting tales about the people that live on the different islands. Take an airboat ride in the Everglades — I’ve lived here since I was 2 years old and didn’t do that until chaperoning my daughter Emily’s fifth-grade field trip.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d be a bit taller.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Being able to balance the things in my life that I truly love.
PHOTO: Gloria Estefan (by Aysia Marotta, courtesy)