Havana nights: Gloria Estefan


Staff member
Conga, merengue, salsa, cumbia. And also pop. Rock. Folk.

As a singer, Gloria Estefan has offered a whole palette of flavours and colours to her fans, both in English and in Spanish. But with her new English album, Miss Little Havana, the Cuban star reveals a side she had yet not explored with the tone of her voice — one of great sensuality. She attributes her newest producer Pharrell Williams — who has created hits for the likes of Madonna, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z and more — with helping bring out her sexier side on the Latin dance album.

"I am indeed, much more comfortable in my own skin," said Estefan, 54.

"I think women, as we get older, we can just let go of a lot of things," added the artist, who gained fame in the 1980s as the lead singer of the Miami Sound Machine. "I just have felt better and better through the years."

The first nine songs on Miss Little Havana, written or co-written by Williams and sprinkled with Spanish, tell the story of a young girl who arrives in Miami from Cuba in search of a new life, and finds her heart broken after she hooks up with the wrong guy. Not her story, says Estefan, whose first and only boyfriend has been her husband, Emilio, the ex-leader of the Sound Machine and producer. He produced four songs on the album. It is her first in English since 2003's Unwrapped.

What took you so long?

Well, I was doing Spanish in between. We did 90 Millas. But I never go into the studio just to do a record. I have to have some kind of creative idea that I feel that my fans will enjoy and that I wanna share, and Pharrell called me and said, "Listen, I would love to do a project with you and I have written a couple of songs for you that I'd like you to hear."

[And] when I listened I thought, "You know what? This is a great idea. I would love to be a part of this somehow and see how we click."

And we did.

The songs on Miss Little Havana tell a story. It may even work as a movie or a Broadway musical. Did you conceive it this way?

Oddly enough, when we were writing, we did not set any kind of parameters, we were just feeling out how each one works, and that's a very intimate process. But it wasn't until we finished writing the nine songs [that] I told Pharrell, "Pharrell, there's a story here."

I put the order of the album actually together to emphasise that story [and] then, he didn't know I did this, but I picked three little phone messages [I got from Williams] after one of the songs, and I thought, "I'm going to emphasise even more this thing."

Miss Little Havana tells the story of who she is, then she hooks up with an ex on the dance floor, he calls her — "Come let's party" — you get a couple of songs where they are back together and then at the end she realises he's still a dog [laughs]. It was fun to do.

Would you consider taking it to the big screen or theatre?

I would consider anything that's a creative and wonderful project. It wasn't planned to be that way but some of the best things in life happen naturally. I don't like to force things and when things happen naturally that means that all the energies are kind of getting together to push you in that direction.

So I definitely would love to do something like that if possible.

You have said you are not Miss Little Havana. Who is Miss Little Havana?

Miss Little Havana is a typical story of any young girl that has dreams, that wants to break out and be free. Those were some of my dreams as well.

Obviously I come from a different kind of background that kept me very close to the family for a long time, but I was actually 17 when I joined the band.

So, although it's not exactly my story, it's any girl that is looking for something, that has dreams and aspirations, and of course sometimes men get in the way, because you're looking for love and sometimes you hook up with the wrong one — I've been lucky that I didn't.

What is your secret? Any advice for couples that are just starting?

I always tell girls, "Keep shaving your legs" [laughs]. You know, because no matter how much time you're with someone, your husband is still your lover and is still the person that you want to be attractive for. It's not like you have to be made up every day, but the little things that show your partner that you're still engaged, that you still care how they think of you, and it goes both ways.

I think that if each one thinks about the other one, then you're both taken care of.