Shakira: Pop Star, Amateur Detective, and Ex-Wife
For most of this millennium, Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll has been famous for three things: her long hair, her truthful hips and, of course, her voice (which changes registers so quickly that have compared it to yodelling). And now, with a career spanning more than 30 years, the “queen of Latin music” can add a few more things to the list: strawberry jam, receiving the “Woman of the Year” award at the inaugural Women in Latin Music gala this weekend, and an alleged tax evasion!
Shakira has had a very active year. Last September, a judge in Spain ruled that she should stand trial on charges of tax fraud. The decision was made after she was named in the Paradise Papers in 2017, and then Spanish authorities investigated her finances. The Spanish government eventually accused Shakira of defrauding the country of €14.5 million in taxes between 2012 and 2014.
Shakira’s defense team filed an appeal to try to stop the lawsuit, but they lost. Instead, Shakira and her defense decided to try to prove her innocence, so the prosecutor asked the judge for an eight-year prison sentence for six alleged crimes of tax fraud. Headlines and tweeters from all over the world asked the same question: wait, is Shakira going to jail?
Shakira’s Relationship Troubles
If a prison sentence hanging over her head wasn’t enough to bear (no trial date yet), Shakira was also involved last year in a complicated separation from his partner of 11 years and the father of his children, former FC Barcelona star Gerard Piqué. Throughout the summer and fall, as the tabloids alternated between stories about Shakira’s relationship breakup and her legal troubles, it seemed that she might officially have hit a rough patch.
Her record sales were nowhere near those of the early 2000s, when songs like “Luck” and “Underneath Your Clothes” topped the international charts, and she was now single and awaiting trial. It seemed that Shakira was moving closer, prematurely, to the last stage of fame in which so many other stars end up being swallowed up, when the gold rush ends, the economic boom turns into a financial disaster and romance fades into acrimony.
Shakira: Amateur Detective
Then, a particularly sticky story about a jar of strawberry jam changed Shakira’s Internet reputation from “would-be criminal” to “detective extraordinaire” virtually overnight. The jam story appeared to have originated in December 2022 with an outlet called Show News Today, which wrote that a Spanish TV show had claimed that Shakira returned from a trip to discover that someone had eaten her strawberry jam.
And so, by a process of elimination, Shakira came to the conclusion that Piqué was getting frisky with a gourmand lady behind her back, a woman whom she had now caught, ahem, red-handed. And who was going to say it, not long after the separation of Shakira and Piqué was announced to the public, the retired soccer player also made public his new relationship with Clara Chía Martí, in the most modern way: with a photo on Instagram.
Shakira: Jilted Woman?
The jam story may have been too much good to be true, but it transcended: people quickly declared that Shakira’s hips do not lie, but the father of her children does. Worse yet, it looked like she had traded the queen of Latin music for a younger model. And so Shakira took on a new role: the jilted woman.
As a long-standing trope with distinctly misogynistic undertones, the “judgeoned woman” is the complete opposite of a “sex symbol.” It doesn’t mean that the jilted woman isn’t sexy; in fact, they often quite sexualize her. However, the crucial feature is that she is menacing. The sex symbol is attractive; the scorned woman is angry. The sex symbol satisfies the male gaze; the jilted woman terrifies her.
Shakira: Turning the Tables
Rather than obsess or go on a killing spree, Shakira seems to have gone for humor and the old trick of showing your ex sh*t how foolish he was of letting you go. There was even a spite song. In collaboration with Argentinian DJ Bizarrap, Shakira released ‘Shakira: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol 53’, a song that gets under the skin of the jilted woman trope to turn it around.
“You left my mother-in-law as a neighbor,” Shakira sings. “With the press at the door and the debt in the Treasury/ You believed that you hurt me and you made me tougher/ Women no longer cry, women bill.” Referring to her 2009 hit ‘Loba’, which she recorded the year Before meeting Piqué, Shakira continues: “Sorry, baby, a while ago/ That I should have thrown away that cat/ A wolf like me is not for a rookie/ A wolf like me is not for guys like you.”
Then, in perhaps the best set of lyrics this year, certainly the wildest, if anything, Shakira proclaims: “I’m worth two out of 22/ You traded a Ferrari for a Twingo/ You traded a Rolex for a Casio.” She even mocks the mental capabilities of her gym-obsessed ex, before uttering the immortal words: “Zero grudges, baby, I wish you / Do well with my supposed replacement.”
When Piqué was asked on Barcelona radio station RAC1 if she had heard the song, she simply replied: “Yes, obviously. I do not want to talk about that”. Music to the ears of the scorned woman!
The Iconic Shakira
Like all superstars, celebrities and goddesses, Shakira has always been more of a symbol than a human being. She is an icon, after all, and the icon’s role is to serve as a medium: they help mere mortals channel complex belief systems and fantasies. And now, through Shakira, people can live out the ultimate revenge fantasy.
And not the version popularized by Hollywood blockbusters, in which the victim hunts down the perpetrators, wreaking violent havoc in her wake. Rather, this is the revenge fantasy where the betrayed and humiliated… turn the tables and come out on top. Shakira has proven that even a “jilted woman” can rise above the stereotype and emerge stronger and more successful than ever before.