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Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, born in Barranquilla, Colombia on February 2, 1977, known simply as Shakira (meaning "Woman of Grace" in Arabic), is an internationally famous singer and songwriter.

Shakira was born to a Lebanese father and a Colombian-Italian mother, and moved to Bogotá at the age of thirteen. She released her first album, Magia (Magic), one year later, on the Sony label. The album was only moderately successful, and Peligro (Danger), her second album, was no better received.

Shakira turned to acting and played a role in a Colombian telenovela ("El Oasis"), but failed as an actress. She then returned to the music business in 1995 with the album Pies Descalzos (Barefeet), which established her commercial success. The hit "Estoy Aquí" became known internationally. The Remixes was created and featured remixes from the songs on Pies Descalzos, with some songs redone in Portuguese.

Following this, Shakira met Emilio Estefan, Jr., who would become the executive producer of her next album. ¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones? (Where are the thieves?) was a huge production which cost over US$3 million. It was a huge hit which gained wide critical acclaim and which many consider to be her best album ever. Most notable singles from the album are "Inevitable" and the worldwide mega-hit, "Ojos Así". The album's successful blend of rock and Latin soundscapes made it an immense success. Shakira also produced Shakira MTV Unplugged, a live album based on ¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones?.

Shakira next turned her sights towards the English-speaking market, improving her English enough to begin writing Laundry Service. With a more rock-edged feel, Laundry Service was aimed at the international English-speaking market, even though it contained some Spanish songs. Some people said that Shakira's English skills were too weak for her to write in English, but Laundry Service was nevertheless a big hit, best known for the infectious single "Whenever, Wherever" (English version of "Suerte"), and for being one of the top albums of 2002. Shakira is well known for intense, athletic live performances involving belly dancing, Arabic rhythms and other sensual movements.

In 2002, Shakira also released the greatest hits volume Grandes éxitos. Shakira: Live & Off the Record, a DVD and a 10-song CD from her 2002-03 world tour (the "Tour of the Mongoose"), was released March 30 2004. "The Tour of the Mongoose" was called so because of the fact that mongoose can defeat a cobra without being killed by its poison. The concerts were interspersed with visuals of a mongoose fighting a cobra.

Shakira is currently finalizing the details of her next project. This body of work will be released in two parts. The first album, Fijación Oral 1 (released in June 2005), followed by Oral Fixation 2, (which will be released in November 2005). She co-writes and co-produces her songs with Luis Fernando Ochoa and Lester Méndez. Vocal co-compilation, as well as direction of background vocal sessions by Rita Quintero.

Shakira is considered by many to be a great talent. As Gabriel García Márquez once wrote of her, "Shakira's music has a personal stamp that doesn't look like anyone else's and no one can sing or dance like her, at whatever age, with such an innocent sensuality, one that seems to be of her own invention."

Since 2000, she has been engaged to Antonio de la Rúa, the son of the former President of Argentina. In light of the humanitarian and social crisis in Argentina, many members of the press lampooned the relationship as frivolous and arrogant. In response, Shakira gave a nonprofit concert in Buenos Aires and further promoted her humanitarian children's foundation "Pies Descalzos" (Bare feet), named after her third album. This was decried by many as a simple celebrity public relations move.


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