Talks New Music, Philanthropic Endeavors, Her Sexy Persona & Guilty Pleasures
On Nov. 9, 34-year-old Colombian star Shakira  will be honored as the Latin Recording Academy's Person of the Year, in recognition not only of her artistic and musical achievements but also of her multiple and broad-reaching philanthropic endeavors. From "Waka Waka," the World Cup anthem whose video is the fourth-most-viewed of all time on YouTube, to her recent appointment to President Barack Obama's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, no other female artist has been able to so seamlessly manage onstage sex appeal with offstage philanthropy and purpose. Shakira spoke with Billboard about her many faces.
You've been on the road for more than a year. What's next?
I already started to write new material. I've begun to explore in the recording studio whenever I have time in Barcelona and here in Miami. I'm working with different producers and DJs, and I try to feed off from that and find new sources of inspiration and new musical motivation. I'm anxious to return to the studio. My body is asking for it.
You have 10 million Twitter followers, and more than 41 million Facebook likes. What are your thoughts on social media?
From politics to philanthropy and music to movements, we are able to make the world a better place because of social media, and even better, it can happen in real time. It's not just about me connecting to my fans, or them to me; it's also about them connecting to one another. Creating bonds, global bonds, communities. It's a vehicle that grants us all the ability to relate to one another regardless of where we are in the world, what our backgrounds are or what we do. It's democracy at its best. One of human nature's simplest, more primitive desires is to be connected with other people, and here we have it on such a huge, global scale-it's amazing.
Through Pies Descalzos (the Barefoot Foundation), you operate six schools in Colombia. What drives you?
From the onset, it was clear to me that my foundation would deal with education, with creating schools where there's no government presence, where there's no hope. It's frustrating to see that in Latin America and in other developing countries education is treated as a luxury instead of being recognized as a fundamental right. How is it possible that there are children who don't get enough to eat in Latin America, a continent whose agricultural production has the capacity to feed our entire population three times over? There are so many intelligent, vibrant children who can't develop their potential. I believe every child is born with a talent. We each come to the world with a gift, and society crushes people's possibilities to shine.
You're also a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and co-founder of ALAS-the Latin American Foundation in Solidarity Action.
I've always focused on education. I've tried not to dilute my efforts. With ALAS, I've discovered throughout the years as I've studied the subject that the younger the child, the greater the capacity to learn and to develop mentally and physically. It's the time when you need the most affection in your life. You need adequate nutrition, education and stimulation. Having governments invest in this vulnerable sector of the population determines a nation's development. We support government initiatives and we get together with presidents and ministers to see how far we can go and how we can increase social investment in early childhood education, for children between 0 and 6 years old.
How do you reconcile your sexy onstage persona with your academic, philanthropic and educational side?
I don't think I'm like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I still wear a pencil skirt to the White House, and you don't know how much a pencil skirt can do. But obviously the entertainment world is one thing and what I do with social concerns and children is another. But I've wanted to take advantage of my status as a public person to meet with the gatekeepers, with people who influence the world and in some way or another determine its course in the short and long term. I want to take advantage of this status and deal with things that are more important than myself, that are life-or-death issues.
You don't have much free time, but when you do, what do you do to relax?
I spend time with my family. My guilty pleasures are romantic comedies and bad movies. The worse they are, the better.
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