Shakira was born on February 2, 1977 in Barranquilla, Colombia. She is the only child of Nidia Ripoll and William Mebarak Chadid. Her paternal grandparents emigrated from Lebanon to New York City, where her father was born. From her mother, Nidia Ripoll, she has Spanish (Catalan and Castilian) and Italian descent. She has eight older half-siblings from her father’s previous marriage. Shakira spent much of her youth in Barranquilla, a city located on the northern Caribbean coast of Colombia. Shakira wrote her first poem, titled “La Rosa De Cristal” (“The Crystal Rose”) when she was only four years old. As she was growing up, she was fascinated watching her father writing stories on a typewriter, and asked for one as a Christmas gift. She got a typewriter at the age of seven and continued writing poetry since then. These poems eventually evolved into songs. When Shakira was two years old, an older half-brother was killed in a motorcycle accident and at the age of eight, Shakira wrote her first song, titled “Tus gafas oscuras” (“Your dark glasses”), which was inspired by her father, who for years wore dark glasses to hide his grief.
When Shakira was four, her father took her to a local Middle Eastern restaurant, where Shakira first heard the doumbek, a traditional drum used in Arabic music and which typically accompanied belly dancing. She started dancing on the table, and the experience made her realize that she wanted to be a performer. She enjoyed singing for schoolmates and teachers (and even the nuns) at her Catholic school, but in the second grade was rejected for the school choir because her vibrato was too strong. The music teacher told her that she sounded “like a goat”. At school, she says she had been known as “the belly dancer girl”, as she would demonstrate every Friday at school a number she had learned. “That’s how I discovered my passion for live performance,” she says. To instill gratitude for her upbringing in Shakira, her father took her to a local park to see orphans who lived there. The images stayed with her and she said to herself “one day I’m going to help these kids when I become a famous artist.”
Between the ages of ten and thirteen, Shakira was invited to various events in Barranquilla and gained some recognition in the area. It was at about this time that she met local theater producer Monica Ariza, who was impressed with her and as a result tried to help her career. During a flight from Barranquilla to Bogotá, Ariza convinced Sony Colombia executive Ciro Vargas to hold an audition for Shakira in a hotel lobby. Vargas held Shakira in high regard and, returning to the Sony office, gave the cassette to a song and artist director. However, the director was not overly excited and thought Shakira was something of “a lost cause”. Vargas, not daunted, was still convinced that Shakira had talent, and set up an audition in Bogotá. He arranged for Sony Colombia executives to arrive at the audition, with the idea of surprising them with Shakira’s performance. She performed three songs for the executives and impressed them enough for her to be signed to record three albums.