The university’s Women Leaders of the Americas series featured renowned singer/songwriter and UM alum, Gloria Estefan. Trustees, professors, fans and students alike applauded as Estefan took the stage.
From President Frenk’s opening remarks, it was clear that the night would be about the power of women and how the university is fostering a culture that celebrates the feminine genius. Frenk affirmed that the University of Miami is committed to ensuring women on our campus are valued.
And so, the evening continued with Dr. Felicia Knaul, director of the Institute for Advanced Studies of the Americas and moderator of the evening’s discussion, introducing the UM alumna’s countless achievements while she graciously smiled.
As Knaul finished her introduction, the Cuban-American singer-songwriter reached for a microphone and joked, “I’m tired.” Estefan gave background on her experience arriving to Miami from Cuba. She spoke with visible emotion and nostalgia when describing what her family went through to get to and settle in Miami.
But throughout her description, she kept applauding the women in her life. Estefan highlighted her femininity by stating, “my first experience of womanhood was women doing it all,” referring to her mother’s hard work when they moved to Miami. The Iron Arrow said, “All I ever saw were strong women. I learned by example.”
Which is a true testament to the power women can have on each other and on future generations. The three-time Grammy Award winning artist went on to express her gratitude over the education she was able to receive at the U and conveyed just how valuable she thinks education is, especially for women.
All throughout the night, Estefan did not stop advocating for and emphasizing the importance of education and learning. She said that it is important to constantly be learning new things.
Estefan, who has recorded over twenty studio albums, also made the point that everyone needs to be educated on the topic of respect and seeing each other as equals, especially when it comes to partners. She gushed about her husband’s constant support and the family they have built together on top of their success in fields of entrepreneurship and music.
When asked what she thought the next step for the Me Too movement was in the Americas, she did not hesitate while stating, “we need to express exactly how we want to be respected and not be taken for granted.”
Estefan grew visibly passionate and spoke with fierceness as she described the injustice that occurs behind the scenes in the entertainment industry for women and advocated for women to continue their resilience. She said in her experience, “No was the most empowering word,” because she could take that word and use it as a chance to prove everyone wrong.
She directed a message to all women, but she resonated especially with Latina women, her numerous musical crossovers, such as “gloria! and Alma Caribeña”, paved the way for Latinos in the mainstream American entertainment industry.
The Kennedy Center Honoree encouraged women to break the rules and make new ones and said that, “the only competition is time.” Upon the conclusion of the panel, the audience exploded into applause and cheers of hope and empowerment.
Following the panel, Estefan was notably excited to meet and interact with the audience at the reception that followed. The crowd lined and gathered to take pictures with, meet, and talk with the actress and businesswoman.
Full of hope and excitement, the crowd left the Gusman Concert Hall ready to create their own rules, no matter their gender.