I was mindlessly looking into my mirror when a new commercial came up on my television during a Saturday Night Live special on VH1. The product was Crest 3D White strips, (you know—those strips with the weird gel on them that you stick on your teeth to whiten them and make you insanely irresistible to the object of your desire) and featured international/philanthropist pop-star Shakira.
At first I thought ‘awesome! Shakira! Latinaaa!’. The commercial was quick and was the same generic toothpaste formula with tons of smiling and looking into the camera. As the commercial progressed, however, I noticed that Shakira didn’t say a damn word! I waited and waited and waited for the voice-over to give the basic facts or whatever hoopla, but then the voice went on and on. I was confused because usually the person in the commercial, be it an unknown person or a star, says something even if it’s just the name of the product or a cheesy sentence. My next emotion was outrage; this voice-over method can be an easy solution to disguise an accent, which Shakira does have, but nowhere on the level of the newest Latin-commodity that is Sofia Vergara. So why the heck was Shakira silenced?
If you are not familiar with Shakira, which is a disservice on your behalf, she is a Colombian singer-songwriter that rose to fame in the 90s (the epicenter of my childhood) and is one of the more successful cross-over stars. She has worked with such people as Beyoncé, Wyclef Jean, Alejandro Sanz and her songs include “La Tortura”, “Whenever, Wherever”, “Hips Don’t Lie”, “She-Wolf”, and that annoying catchy “Waka Waka” song which was the theme song for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. America has had a long affair with Shakira because not only is she talented musically, but she is a wonderful human being involved in various international philanthropy ventures. Shakira founded the Pies Desclazos Foundation (translation: bare feet foundation) in 1997 which is a Colombian charity with special schools for poor children in Colombia. She has been a UNICEF goodwill ambassador whilst being involved in many other charitable efforts.
The double-edged sword in America’s affair with Shakira is that she has become another exotic figure because of her beauty and her swaying hips. What the hell is it with Americans and hips? Do white women not have hips? They sure do, I can tell you that. Latinas and hips always take me back to Carmen Miranda and the Chiquita banana icon. What makes Shakira’s hips different? Like Miranda, Shakira’s hip gyrations seem to cause a trance for Americans, and had been synonymous with her name. Talk about a connection—Shakira and shaking hips. However, Shakira is an artist and her body is an extension of her art. Plus, I know how natural it is (for some people) to feel the music run through your body and suddenly you’re dropping it like it’s hot and gyrating. I live for those moments. As I write this, I’m listening to Shakira’s ‘La Tortura’ and my hips are shaking—I can’t help it and I don’t apologize.
With all this discussion of dancing, I think of Beyoncé, and I always thought of Shakira as the Latina version of Beyoncé. Both have been groundbreaking figures for curvaceous women and both are great figures for girls to admire because they are highly successful females and are proud of their bodies. My world exploded when they collaborated for “Beautiful Liar”. Amazing! And of course, there was plenty of hip-shaking involved.
Most recently, Shakira was a coach on Season 4 of NBC’s The Voice and so renewed interest in her is inevitable. However, when you have an icon such as Shakira, and people, such as I, who are aware of Shakira’s importance as an international cross-over figure and are aware of the marginalized Latino community, make sure you don’t make a blunder such as this one. Shakira has consistently released English and Spanish versions of her songs so my question is this: How dare you, Crest, silence Shakira in the English version of the commercial whilst having her speak in the Spanish version?
For your convenience, I have included the two commercials below. View them for yourselves. Then afterward you should look up Shakira’s hits for your own pleasure and enjoy them because, in case you haven’t been able to tell, I am a huge fan and she is worth the time.
(Spanish Speaking Commercial)
(English Speaking Commercial)