Twelve years ago when international pop star Shakira was embarking on her first U.S. tour in support of her first English-language album "Laundry Service" a close friend of mine had a unique opportunity to attend a press conference and ask her a couple of questions on behalf of a now-defunct Latino LGBT news magazine.
Ricky Martin had yet to come out and few Latin American superstars dared talk about LGBT issues so I was hoping it would be an opportunity for someone like Shakira to stand up for a segment of the community that helped to make her a star. Instead she proved defensive and guarded in her response.
From Hoy on September 26th of 2002 (no online link available):
Some difficult questions were asked including whether part of the tour earnings could be used to help people with HIV in Colombia to which she said she always was willing to offer a helping hand as when she launched the "Bare Feet" foundation. Regarding heterosexual and homosexual freedoms, she evaded making any commitments and said "I have always believed in liberty for all social and racial groups."Diana De La Pava, who asked both questions, said Shakira seemed caught off guard when she was asked serious questions at what was supposed to be a promotional media event.
Of course, that is part of her prerogative. It might be part of a larger general strategy not to get involved on so-called "controversial" issues and risk losing international commercial contracts or reflect her conservative upbringing in Barranquilla, Colombia. But to those of us who advocate for the Latino LGBT community it has always been a source of disappointment that some of our biggest pop stars shy away from the subject.
This is particularly true when it comes to Shakira's home country of Colombia which is embroiled in a red hot battle for marriage equality. Shakira raising her voice on behalf of those same-sex couples seeking to get married would make huge waves not only in Colombia but throughout Latin America.
I wouldn't be writing about this if not for the launch of a video for Shakira's first single from her upcoming album "Can't Remember to Forget You" featuring Rihanna.
In it, the two superstars cavort in a number of erotically charged scenarios that show them as lesbian lovers. Not that this is groundbreaking or hasn't been done before but it seems more than a bit exploitative when you are not even willing to speak up on LGBT rights.
Come to think of it, Rihanna hasn't necessarily been a beacon of light for the Caribbean's LGBT community either or advocated for changes to homophobic policies in the regions despite her huge influence there.
If that's the game they are playing, it's high time for both singers to unequivocally and visibly stand up for LGBT rights.
- Shakira and Rihanna need to stop with the faux-lesbian posturing (Jezebel)
- Rihanna and Shakira pose as lesbians for a music video - but where are they on LGBT rights? (The Independent)
- Shakira slammed by politician for 'promoting lesbianism,' 'moral decay' in music video with Rihanna (The New York Daily News)