Gloria María Fajardo’s father, José, was a bodyguard for the president of Cuba. When she was one, Fidel Castro took over the country, forcing the family to flee to the United States.
Having joined the US army, her father was sent to Vietnam in 1966. When he returned, he was no longer able to work and the young Estefan helped care for him as well as her little sister.
Music became an important means of escape, and she enjoyed singing and playing the guitar. At high school in 1975, she met Emilio Estefan, who invited her to sing some songs with his band. The band was so impressed that they invited her to sing regularly with them, changing their name to the Miami Sound Machine.
After graduating from college, she married Emilio and in 1980, their band won a recording contract with CBS Records. The Miami Sound Machine played music that mixed Cuban styles with American pop and rock. Their first four albums were recorded in Spanish and were very popular within the Latino community in the US.
The couple's first child, Nayib, was born that same year, while daughter Emily Marie arrived in 1994.
They made their first English-language album entitled 'Eyes of Innocence' in 1984. Their next album, 'Primitive Love', combined English words and tunes with Cuban rhythms, and was a big hit. Estefan made her first solo album 'Cuts Both Ways' in 1989, but tragedy struck soon after. In 1990, the Estefans were riding in their tour bus when it collided with a truck. Her back was broken, although her husband and son were less seriously injured.
Estefan recovered and continued to write new songs. Despite doctors' warnings that she might never walk again, her next public appearance was only six months later and soon she was back on tour.
In 1991, she released 'Into the Light' and received a standing ovation when she performed 'Coming Out of the Dark', a song from the album, during the American Music Awards. The album went platinum in the UK and double platinum in the US, and was followed by a tour which spanned five countries.
A year later, she released 'Gloria Estefan Greatest Hits', which included the track 'Go Away' that proved to be an international hit. This was followed by 'Greatest Hits Vol. II' in 2001. Before its release, she had made a 20th-anniversary album in 1999 and an album called 'Alma Caribena'/'Caribbean Soul' in 2000.
Estefan continues to oppose communism, and has spoken often of her desire for a free and democratic Cuba. In 1995, she sang to Pope John Paul II as part of the celebration of his 50th anniversary in the priesthood. She was the first pop star invited to perform for the Pope and she asked him to pray for a free Cuba.
In 2003, Estefan released 'Unwrapped', her first English-language album in five years. She embarked on a tour of Europe, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the US to promote it.
In addition to her music career, Estefan and her husband have a number of business interests. They own five Cuban-themed restaurants in Miami; Miami Beach; Disney World's Pleasure Island in Orlando; Mexico City; and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. They also own two hotels.
It was recently announced via her website that Estefan has been working on tracks for her "dance oriented album" with American rapper, singer and producer Pharrell Williams. The resulting album, 'Little Miss havana' was released in 2013.
During her illustrious career, Estefan has won numerous awards including seven Grammys. She also received an American Music Award for Lifetime Achievement and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. To add to the haul of awards for her musical career, Estefan has also been recognised for her contribution to the immigrant community and in May 1993 received the Ellis Island Congressional Medal of Honour. She is also the recipient of the Hispanic Heritage Award.