Gloria Estefan: La Cantante de Miami

Gloria Estefan stays true to her 305 roots by giving back any way she can.
Gloria Estefan stays true to her 305 roots by giving back any way she can.
Photo by Stian Roenning

In this week's Miami New Times, we profile 30 of the most interesting characters in town, with portraits of each from photographer Stian Roenning. See the entire Miami New Times People Issue here.

As a Grammy-winning singer, Latin Songwriters Hall of Famer, successful businesswoman, and local activist, Miami's favorite cubanita has done it all.

But the most important lesson Gloria Estefan has learned throughout her nearly 40-year career is also the title of her 1989 breakthrough hit: "Get On Your Feet."

"In our lives, both [my husband] Emilio and I had to constantly get back on our feet," la cantante explains. "We had to fight people who kept telling us that our music wouldn't work, and then I literally had to get back on my feet physically after the accident."

See also: Gloria Estefan Talks Autobiographical Musical, On Your Feet!: "You'll Laugh, Cry, and Dance"

In 1990, Estefan was severely injured in a tour bus crash that almost left her paralyzed, a pivotal moment in her life that made her realize her purpose.

"I've never been a person who likes being the center of attention," she admits. "I love music, but I'm an incredibly private person. When this accident happened, we were at the peak of our fame. I thought to myself, Maybe this is the whole point of me becoming famous."

The tragic incident and the strength she gained from it -- along with her and Emilio's rise to fame -- are highlighted in Gloria's newest effort: the autobiographical Broadway production On Your Feet!

"Ultimately, it's a love story between Emilio and myself, this country, and music," she explains. "It's a dream come true."

Directed by Tony Award winner Jerry Mitchell, the play is set to be released next fall.

"It's been a labor of love," Estefan expresses.

Sure, she has accomplished a lot, but no matter how successful she may be, Estefan stays true to her 305 roots by giving back any way she can.

Through the Gloria Estefan Foundation, the singer has contributed well over a million dollars to the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, the organization that helped her get back on her feet.

"I want to be part of that cure," she says. "I feel it's a privilege and a very important part of my life."

Estefan is also the face of efforts to save the Miami Marine Stadium. In fact, she gave $500,000 to the Friends of the Miami Marine Stadium initiative this summer. Although revitalization plans recently fell through at city hall, Estefan says the fight to preserve the stadium is worth the political battles.

"There's nothing like this in the world," she says. "It was made by a Cuban-American, and because of the loss of Cuba, it has that nostalgia."

The city commission recently rejected a proposal to revitalize the stadium with private funding. But Estefan says activists must continue working for preservation.

"This is our home," she proclaims. "You can't stop progress and growth, but in Miami, especially since it's such a young city, it's even more important to preserve it."

Crossfade's Top Blogs

-Miami's 50 Best Bands of All Time

-Gloria Estefan Talks Miami Marine Stadium, Preserving Miami's History: "This Is Our Home"

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