Gloria Fajarda was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1957 but didn’t spend much time there. Her father moved the family to Miami following the Cuban Revolution in 1959. As a teenager Gloria had little time for a social life. While her mother worked to support the family, she took care of her younger sister as well as her father who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Her love of music served as an escape during those difficult times.
In 1975, she met Emilio Estefan when he was performing with his band, The Miami Latin Boys, at a wedding she was attending. They soon began making music together and were married in 1978.
When Gloria became an important member in the group, they rebranded themselves as the Miami Sound Machine. As the band evolved, Gloria began focusing more on the musical legacy of her Cuban roots. By 1980, Emilio realized the band had serious potential and quit his day job to act as the group’s full-time manager.
Although it would be common by the mid-nineties, in 1985 there was little sign of Latin music on the Billboard charts. Miami Sound Machine would change that with their album Primitive Love. This album contained three Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100: “Conga,” “Words Get in the Way” and “Bad Boy.” Their next album, Let It Loose (1987), sold six million copies in the U.S. and went multi-platinum with hits like “Anything for You,” “1-2-3,” “Becha Say That,” “Rhythm is Gonna Get You” and “Can’t Stay Away from You.” In 1988, the band officially changed its name to Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine, and in 1989 the band’s name was dropped in favor of Gloria Estefan’s billing as a solo artist.
The hits kept coming, and Gloria Estefan put Latin music on the pop music map. She brought her Cuban musical heritage to the masses as the first major crossover artist and, together with Emilio, made Miami a popular music capital. In 1993, Estefan released her first Spanish-language album Mi Tierra. She continued to have tremendous success with Grammy-Award winning Latin recordings and has become a staple on the adult contemporary charts.
Outside of singing, Estefan has appeared in two films, Music of the Heart (1999) and For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story (2008). She has also appeared in various television shows and wrote two children’s books: The Magically Mysterious Adventures of Noelle the Bulldog (2005) and Noelle’s Treasure Tale (2006). Together, Gloria and Emilio Estefan own a number of businesses including several Cuban-themed restaurants.
Her contributions to the Florida community include hurricane relief concerts, AIDS research benefits and advocacy work to strengthen boating safety regulations in the state. In addition to a demanding performance and recording schedule, she contributes time and resources to many cultural events. Estefan frequently champions the importance of arts education for young people through artistic and financial contributions.
Estefan is in Billboard Magazine’s Top 100 Best Selling Musical Artists and has won seven Grammy Awards. She has also received the honor of BMI Songwriter of the Year, an MTV Video Music Award, the American Music Award of Merit and many others. Additionally, she was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2013. On Your Feet!, a musical about the lives of Gloria and Emilio Estefan, premiered in 2015 to critical acclaim and a Tony Award Nomination. The charts today are filled with Latin artists, but with an estimated 100 million records sold around the world, none have ever been as successful as Gloria Estefan.