In South America she is viewed as akin to Mother Teresa, thanks to her charity Pies Descalzos (Barefoot), which she founded aged 19 and which has opened six schools in rural areas, providing education and jobs for more than 30,000 people over the years. ’ nine-year relationship with Antonio de la Rúa, the son of the former president of Argentina, is the staple of Latin gossip mags.
Friends include – inevitably – Bono, with whom she sung at President Obama’s inauguration, the only non-Americans to do so.
Time for Shakira to tackle her next hurdle – the English-speaking market.
The fact that she didn’t speak a word of English was a minor concern.
She locked herself up with a personal tutor, studied the lyrics of Bob Dylan and the poetry of Walt Whitman and wrote the English lyrics to her album 'Laundry Service’, 'with a dictionary in one hand and a thesaurus in the other’.
Why bother when a jobbing songwriter could have done it? 'I just felt that was part of my destiny and I had to fulfil it.
In any case, shortly after this watershed she wrote her first song.
Two years later she joined a touring dance troupe performing for workers in Colombian mines.
'He sent me and my mother to stay with relatives in Los Angeles so he could liquidate things, and when we came back he had sold all our furniture, our colour television and both cars, and we had no air-conditioning.
The new reality was a shock to me, so my parents decided to take me to the park where orphans were sniffing glue to put my situation in perspective.