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Shakira’s She-Wolf Feminism

We all have a deeply personal relationship with the reflection in the mirror. Shakira’s may be one of the most nuanced I’ve ever seen. I was to meet the singer-songwriter, who is often referred to as a crossover artist but truly defies categorization, at the Sony Music recording studio and rehearsal space in Miami’s historic MiMo District, a two-story cube surrounded by a 10-foot concrete wall and wrapped in one-way privacy windows. “Shak was held up at home but should be arriving any minute now,” says her manager, popping her head into the holding pen where I’ve been asked to wait.

The security gate slides open, and a Lamborghini Urus rolls into view. Out steps a petite, doll-like figure. Sunkissed curls whip around in the breeze. She approaches the window and stands, legs apart, facing me—only she has no idea I am on the other side of the mirrored glass, studying her as she studies herself. She removes the oversize black wrap sunglasses meant to shield her from the midday glare and, perhaps, too, the intense scrutiny of the paparazzi who have taken renewed interest ever since her 2022 split from Spanish soccer star Gerard Piqué, her partner of 11 years and father of her two sons.

Christian Cowan dress. Agmes cuff. Selina King bracelet and cuff.
Christian Cowan dress. Agmes cuff. Selina King bracelet and cuff.

I size her up: wide, almond-shaped eyes, lined with smoky kohl, fearlessly unblinking; plush lips impeccably traced in a rich dark brown and finished off with a glossy nude center; skin smooth but not entirely devoid of lines. A cropped bustier reveals toned biceps and tight triceps, low-slung cargo pants hang off those famous hips. Mayyyyybe 5’4” in platform sneakers. “Tiny but mighty,” I whisper to myself. Her eyes grow wider. Oh shit, can she hear me? I grab my bag and stand by for the manager’s beckoning.

The three-time Grammy winner will tell you that appearance is not her superpower—“I didn’t think beauty was my forte,” she says. “I thought it was just one more thing that I could exploit” —yet there’s no denying that hips, well, they don’t lie. (And neither do her hair, face, and various other body parts.) But here’s the thing about the smash hit of the early aughts (“Hips Don’t Lie,” of course) that has garnered over a billion views and launched a million memes: Shakira did not only bring her famous curves to the party—she also wrote the lyrics, composed the music, choreographed the dance, and coproduced the video.

“I didn’t think beauty was my forte. I thought it was just one more thing that I could exploit.”

The artist recognized early on that while beauty could help get her out of Colombia to share her ideas with the world, Botticelli curls and belly dancing alone weren’t going to make her one of the best-selling music artists of all time or the first singer to perform at three of the biggest sporting events in the world (Super Bowl, FIFA World Cup, NBA All-Star Game). Today, over 30 years since she signed with Sony, Shakira, now 47, is still a viral sensation—and still revealing new superpowers.

Jade swim bathing suit. Hanro tights. Gianvito Rossi heels. Versace sunglasses.
Jade swim bathing suit. Hanro tights. Gianvito Rossi heels. Versace sunglasses.

Speaking of which, a superhero would be right at home cruising in her set of wheels. Anywhere else, a Lamborghini Urus, this wildly exotic SUV, would be a spectacle, but in Miami, where I'm a soccer mom, the Urus is a car I see at many sporting events. This one is tricked out in neon purple. (I'd later learn that the entirely nondescript gray minivan trailing is actually the car she uses to shuttle her kids—Milan, 11, and Sasha, 9—to practice.) Shakira is not your typical Miami soccer mom, sure, but she’s not your typical anything.

Seven years since the release of her last album, El Dorado, Shakira is back with Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran (Women No Longer Cry), 16 tracks (a few ballads, some rock, all dance floor bangers) with a simple yet ambitious mission: “I want this music to build bridges, to empower people, to help women discover their own strengths.” As the title suggests, the project comes after a period of personal pain. “I was in the mud,” she says, referring to her very public and messy breakup with Piqué, “I had to reconstruct myself, to reunite all the pieces that had fallen apart.”

“I was in the mud. I had to reconstruct myself. I had to reunite all the pieces that had fallen apart.”

“Making this music has shown me that my pain can be transformed into creativity.” (She is crying diamonds on the cover.) “The songs are full of anecdotes and some very intense emotions I have experienced in these two years. But creating this album has been a transformation in which I have been reborn as a woman. I have rebuilt myself in the ways I believe are appropriate. No one tells me how to cry or when to cry, no one tells me how to raise my children, no one tells me how I become a better version of myself. I decide that.”

Something in her tone tells me she’s not done. We sit quietly for a minute. She sips her espresso and begins simultaneously tugging and twirling at one of her long, golden curls. “In the past, when women went through a difficult situation, they were expected to mind their manners, to hide the pain, to cry in silence. That's over. Now, no one will control us. No one will tell us how to heal, how to clean our wounds.”

Luar top. Area shorts. Wolford tights. Lizzie Fortunato cuffs. To create this makeup look: Juvia’s Place The Coffee Shop Eyeshadow Palette, MAKE Beauty Multi-Chromatic Metllaic Eyeshadow in Blaze, and Buxom Full-On Plumping Lip Cream in Hot Toddy.
Luar top. Area shorts. Wolford tights. Lizzie Fortunato cuffs. To create this makeup look: Juvia’s Place The Coffee Shop Eyeshadow Palette, MAKE Beauty Multi-Chromatic Metllaic Eyeshadow in Blaze, and Buxom Full-On Plumping Lip Cream in Hot Toddy.

Shakira is certainly not crying in silence. She is an artist experiencing a career renaissance that has her sitting pretty atop a mountain of professional accolades. In January 2023, she dropped “Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53," a collaboration with Argentinean producer and DJ, Bizarrap, a diss track that, for the first time, alluded to the scandal rocking her personal life. In the chorus, Shakira sings, "A she-wolf like me ain't for dudes like you / I've outgrown you and that's why you're with a girl just like you." It logged more than 82 million views in a 24-hour period, breaking YouTube records, and made it the most-viewed new Latin song in the history of the video-sharing platform. (Shakira unleashes the famous she-wolf howl on this new album, too.) In May, Billboard honored her as its first-ever Latin Woman of the Year; she received the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the MTV Video Music Awards. And in December, her hometown of Barranquilla, Colombia, unveiled a 21-foot-tall statue of the star that both immortalizes her famous belly dance and honors the contributions of her Pies Descalzos Foundation, which she began in 1997 to give children in the most vulnerable communities of Colombia access to quality public education. The plaque at the bottom of the statue reads: “A heart that composes, hips that don’t lie, an unmatched talent, a voice that moves the masses and bare feet that march for the good of children and humanity.”

“No one tells me how I become a better version of myself. I decide that.”

Shakira made her recording debut with Sony Music Colombia at the age of 13 and has spent most of her adult life in the spotlight. She is all too aware that every phase in her career as a performer is open to scrutiny. I consider 2005’s Oral Fixation, Vol. 2., her second English language album. On the cover, Shakira plays Eve, clothed only in strategic leaves, apple in hand. I ask if she identifies with the biblical character. She laughs. “Eve was a story created by misogynists to put women in the little box where we have to remain silent, not speak our minds, and not be a catalyst for change. To keep things as they are.” I’ll take that as a resounding no. She continues, “I think there's something refreshing about women when they get to be themselves and be unapologetic. Because we’ve had to apologize so many damn times in the past.”

Last summer, Shakira found a kindred spirit, a partner in crime in the unlikeliest of places. “The only time in my life I’ve been to a fashion show,” she says, “And there, in the front row, I meet Cardi B.” At this point, she had drafted the lyrics for “Puntería,” but had yet to land on a collaborator. “The song represents the newborn woman,” she explains. “After you pass through the storm, you start to connect with the woman inside of you, with those womanly needs, your desires, and your passions.”

About seven months later, Shakira and Cardi B are recording a music video together where they play the daughters of Artemis hunting down centaurs—“centaurs with six-packs,” she specifies—on a planet where women rule. The two artists have just wrapped the shoot for “Puntería x Cardi B,” the first song on the album. It was filmed here in Miami. She mentions that hottie, erm, actor Lucien Laviscount flew in from Paris to play the centaur she conquers. “The centaurs, they're in ecstasy,” she says, obviously very pleased with how the production went. “Because on this planet, the men are happy to be dominated by women.”

“In the past, when women went through a difficult situation, they were expected to mind their manners, to hide the pain, to cry in silence. That's over.”

Shakira hails from an entirely different planet. She was born to a Lebanese father and a native Colombian mother and raised in a country where beauty pageants are a big deal. “My idol was Wonder Woman. I think I was drawn to her because she had black hair like mine, but also because she was a symbol of empowerment and strength in a decade where women were not playing the most important roles. I remember my mom stopped working at some point. She stopped wearing miniskirts, and the length of her skirts got longer because my dad said so.”

Michael Edward Stanfield, a professor of history and Latin American Studies at the University of San Francisco, has written, “In a deeply conservative and Catholic country like Colombia, the traditional dictum state that ‘men should be powerful, women should be beautiful,’ making beauty the responsibility of women, and leaving the rights of power to men.” I proudly share my nugget of research with her.

To create this makeup look: Milani Silky Matte Bronzer in Sun Light, NARS Afterglow Liquid Blush in Dolce Vita, and Tarte Maracuja Juicy Lip Plump in White Peach.
To create this makeup look: Milani Silky Matte Bronzer in Sun Light, NARS Afterglow Liquid Blush in Dolce Vita, and Tarte Maracuja Juicy Lip Plump in White Peach.

She responds with her own: “I heard that by 2030, 60% of the world's wealth will be managed by women.” If true, a seismic shift is underway—and Shakira is here for it.

Now, I can’t help but ask a question that’s been on my mind since we began this conversation, “Did you watch the movie Barbie?”

“I watched it, yeah.” Long pause.

“And?”

“My sons absolutely hated it. They felt that it was emasculating. And I agree, to a certain extent. I'm raising two boys. I want 'em to feel powerful too [while] respecting women. I like pop culture when it attempts to empower women without robbing men of their possibility to be men, to also protect and provide. I believe in giving women all the tools and the trust that we can do it all without losing our essence, without losing our femininity. I think that men have a purpose in society and women have another purpose as well. We complement each other, and that complement should not be lost.”

“Just because a woman can do it all doesn’t mean she should?”

“Why not share the load with people who deserve to carry it, who have a duty to carry it as well?”

This is part of the Shakira Paradox. Women deserve all the power, all the agency, and all the sexiness they wish to embody or express. And yet it doesn’t betray her brand of feminism to expect men to man up.

On a more practical level, if Shakira didn’t buy into the power dynamic of her culture, she certainly wouldn’t be beholden to its beauty ideals. “Of course, I’d put on my mascara and straighten my hair occasionally. It felt sexy, and I used that raw sensuality many times on stage as a way of expressing myself. But I think I rely on other aptitudes rather than just beauty.”

“Eve was a story created by misogynists to put women in the little box…to keep things as they are.”

Fair, but this is Allure. I need her to break down her beauty routine. “I don't do a lot of shit,” she says. And then, perhaps, reading the disappointment/panic on my face, she continues, “I hydrate with marula oil and hyaluronic acid. And when I have an appearance, I do the craziest thing. I massage my face and neck very vigorously because I believe that circulation, the irrigation of blood to the skin and muscles, can rejuvenate, so I look more plumped.”

“And your hair?” I ask.

“I've tried every single hair product on the market. There are not many out there that can deal with damage, moisture, frizziness, shine, and all of that so...”

Finally! The secret to Shakira’s amazing curls—at least when those curls are not a wig. Women have been waiting decades for this information.

“I went to a lab and developed my own products for myself, my own line. Maybe one day I'll share my secret.“

A week later and well past my bedtime, I am standing in a warehouse studio where Shakira is recording the video for “⁠(Entre Paréntesis) x Grupo Frontera,” the album’s second focus track. Bathed in strobe lights, Shakira takes the stage. The traditional música norteña sounds of the Texas band come pouring through the sound system. Shakira locks in on the camera with a fierce, smoldering intensity and begins rhythmically swaying hips clad in studded black leather. A moment later, she shades her eyes and motions for an assistant to bring a mirror and her makeup pouch. The music stops. As it turns out, in addition to all the writing, producing, and performing, she also blots away her own shine and touches up her own lipstick. As I prepare to leave the set of the video shoot, I watch her on the wall of monitors—radiant, electric, in control—and am reminded of something Shakira said during our first meeting.

“I don't know if every woman goes through life like this, wondering, Am I pretty enough? Am I considered beautiful or not? Sometimes you just look in the mirror and say, "It's a yes. And I can conquer the world.”

Originally Appeared on Allure