As the world gears up for Super Bowl LIV, some of us are more excited for the halftime show featuring Jennifer Lopez and Shakira than we are about the actual game. But what many don’t know is that both of these gay icons owe much of their early success to another gay icon: The one and only Gloria María Milagrosa Fajardo García de Estefan (a.k.a. Gloria Estefan).
It was Estefan who penned one of Lopez’s first hits, “Let’s Get Loud,” off her debut album On The 6… (The single’s title was later used for the name of Lopez’s first residency concert.) And it was Estefan who taught Shakira English and co-wrote her first English crossover hit “Whenever, Wherever.” (The single went on to sell over 8.5 million copies, making it one of the best selling singles of all time.)
Asked whether she might make a surprise appearance at Super Bowl LIV–which conveniently happens to be going on in her hometown of Miami–Estefan, who performed at both the 1992 and 1999 Super Bowls, said she’ll be enjoying the show from the stands, just like everybody else.
“I’ll be there in heart and soul and spirit, and cheering for them every step of the way,” she told Entertainment Tonight.
But giving us Jennifer Lopez and Shakira are hardly Gloria Estefan’s only contributions to the LGBTQ community. Scroll down for seven other times the Cuban-American songstress proved herself to be the ultimate gay ally…
1. That time she credited the gay community for making her a global superstar.
At the release party for her Rocky Horror-themed music video “Hotel Nacional” in 2012, Estefan stopped by Score, a popular gay club in Miami, where she told the crowd that if it weren’t for them she might not be the success she is today.
“I want to thank you so much, because the gay community has been behind me 100%,” she said. “‘Conga’ broke through in all the gay clubs before anybody else noticed it was a hot song. You guys have been close to heart and always will be.”
Around that same time, Estefan did an interview with Pride Source in which she said gay people were her “core audience.”
“These are the people that broke me in a lot of clubs,” she said. “My gay following has always been cutting edge in music and discovered my stuff before it ever became big on radio. … So they’ve always been a big part of my career.”
2. That time she cast drag queens to play her in a music video.
In 1994, Estefan recorded a cover of the disco hit “Everlasting Love” for her album Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me. Nine months pregnant at the time, she couldn’t appear in the music video, so she hired a team of drag queens and club kids to impersonate her. Cast members included female impersonator Julian Viva, the Hollywood Super Club Kids, the Fabulous Wonder Twins, and drag performers/future RuPaul’s Drag race contestants Venus D-Lite and Sutan Amrull. Each represented Estefan in a different stage in her career. The video went on to win a Billboard Music Video Award and was so well received that Julian Viva and Willie E. were invited to tag along with Gloria on her Evolution World Tour.
3. That time she was grand marshal of Miami Beach Pride.
In 2014, Estefan was the Grand Marshal of Miami Beach Gay Pride parade alongside Co-Grand Marshal, Kenny Ortega.
“I am thrilled and honored,” Estefan told the crowd. “It’s a privilege to be here today as your Grand Marshal. I am very happy to be here and hopefully very soon we will achieve equality for all.”
“I love Miami Beach. I love Florida. We live in paradise and hopefully paradise will get even better when everybody is equal.”
4. That time she recorded a whole album tailor made for gay clubs.
In the summer of 1998, you couldn’t step foot in a gay club without hearing one of the songs from Estefan’s dance/house album gloria! blasting from the speaker system. The album was a departure from her previous works as it was her first album to consist entirely of upbeat club music. Its lead single “Heaven’s What I Feel” received a Grammy nomination for Best Dance Recording and the accompanying music video won an Alma Award for Best Outstanding Video.
5. That other time she recorded a whole album tailor made for gay clubs.
In 2011, Estefan released her twenty-sixth album Miss Little Havana, which featured 11 salsa-infused club bangers. (16 on the Deluxe Edition). The album was largely produced by Pharrell, with Estefan’s husband and frequent collaborator, Emilio, contributing an additional four tracks. Miss Little Havana was sexy, vibrant, a little bit silly, a little bit naughty, and criminally under-appreciated by audiences… except for Gloria’s gay fanbase, who have helped it to achieve cult status in the years since its release.
6. That time she wrote a Broadway musical featuring all her biggest hits.
Estefan reached peak gayness when she took all her biggest hits and packaged them into a vibrant jukebox musical about her life. On Your Feet! opened on Broadway in 2015 and made almost $1 million in its first week. After playing to sold out theaters in New York for two years, the show embarked on an 80-week U.S. tour in 2017. On top of that, a second tour was launched in the United Kingdom in 2019. And on top of that, a production was opened in the Netherlands. Currently, Estefan is working on opening additional productions in Spain, Italy, Germany, Japan, Mexico, and France.
7. That time she appeared in a movie making fun of Trump-loving homophobes.
In 2017, Estefan made a cameo in the dramedy “A Change of Heart” playing Dr. Fajardo, the sexy therapist to Jim Belushi’s racist, homophobic, Fox News-obsessed character, Hank, who is concerned his recent heart transplant from a Puerto Rican drag queen is, as Estefan puts it, “pumping gayness into him.” The film was a hit with fans and went on to win the OUTshine Film Festival Audience Award for Best Feature.
BONUS: Her daughter is queer.
In 2017, Estefan’s 23-year-old daughter, Emily, announced for the first time publicly that she was in a relationship with another woman. Two years later, in 2019, Emily headlined Miami Beach Pride. And just last week, it was announced she, Gloria, and Daytime Emmy Award-winning TV host Lili Estefan would be starring in their own spinoff version of the Facebook Watch series Red Table Talk executive produced by Jada Pinkett Smith. Red Table Talk: The Estefans will premiere later this year.