Confession: my second cassette tape ever at the tender age of two was Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine’s Primitive Love. I wore the tape out and have loved everything about Gloria ever since. You may think of Gloria Estefan as the performer of those iconic party-pleasing hits at every wedding you’ve ever been to or the voice that brought you to tears with her emotional ballads. Gloria Estefan is a three-time Grammy-winning musician, an accomplished actress, spinal cord injury survivor, entrepreneur, mother, wife, and icon. Still, at the pinnacle of fame, she was raising her young children while on world tour, survived a nearly fatal bus accident, and during her recovery, managed to write and record a full studio album. In 2020, she suffered the sudden devastating loss of her longtime friend and President of her company, Frank Amadeo, and her mother four years ago. Beyond her legendary status, she knows her priorities and is always doing the inner work to stay grounded, grateful, and connected to those around her. As not only a survivor but a true thriver, I was eager to ask Gloria about how she manages to do, be and balance it all.
Knowing When to Say “Yes” and “No”
Gloria Estefan is incredibly mindful about what she commits her time to and whether or not the opportunities allow her to grow and prioritize her family. She has learned to set boundaries but also accepts when less desirable obligations are necessary:
“I enjoy the fact that I can choose and I can say ‘no’ to a lot of things, and I have no qualms saying ‘no’ to the things that I know I need to. At the same time, I’ve learned to recognize when I have to say yes, even though it may not be something that I particularly love to do…like photoshoots.”
A high-profile example of her commitment to her boundaries was when Gloria declined an offer to perform with Jennifer Lopez and Shakira for the 2020 Super Bowl, which would have been her record-breaking fourth time. So, was this a self-care decision or a “been there done that” decision? She says it was both:
“When you’ve got the opportunity to do something… You know that every time you do it again it’s a bigger risk… I did it at two great points in my life and these two women that are on there are sex symbols and it’s a different vibe…it was their moment to shine. I’ve done this already and …they kicked ass. I was much happier watching them do their thing and enjoying every minute and rooting for them every step of the way… I was in there with a couple of songs– Shakira sang one of my songs and J.Lo sang my songs… so I was still in there represented big time by these amazing women!”
Not everyone is asked to play the Superbowl in their lifetime, but we all have a “Superbowl”-like the choice to make in our lives.
Time Management, Leadership, and Delegation
Even if you don’t have as many demands on your time as public figure like Gloria Estefan, the wisdom she gives is simple and effective:
“I have learned [what] really helped me is not to procrastinate because earlier on in my life, procrastination was easier …especially when you’re a mother, but I don’t know if there’s a better way to manage your time. And it’s always better to be prepared because it lessens…the nerves and there’s nothing that makes me feel more nervous than not being prepared, so I no longer leave things to the last moment and do my homework…I think it’s super important [and] that’s something I’ve tried to pass on to both my kids…It’s made me feel better to really manage my time and to look at what is feasible…[and] to learn to delegate to other people, but you have to trust them, obviously, it’s not that easy, but I do have people around me that I can… trust that they get [things] done.”
Gloria’s advice on staying on top of things is incredibly simple and direct. She says:
“Sit down with a calendar, and actually schedule…the hours of the day…depending on what’s most important, [what] you have to do…you need to sit down and prioritize for yourself and manage your time. Don’t just leave everything to whatever happens [to]day…there’s always the surprises that come at us every single day and you gotta deal with that, too.
According to Gloria, another necessary skill is learning to communicate in difficult situations. Gloria has a generosity of spirit, deliberate in her kindness, and she has learned through decades of being a boss to set boundaries and speak up when she needs to:
“I am not a person that loves confrontation or difficult situations and especially becoming a boss and being in charge of people. I had to learn that there are moments where you have to set limits and you have to say, ‘Okay, I understand where you’re coming from, let’s find a happy medium.’”
Asking For Help
Gloria says it takes a village of trustworthy people to be successful. As a working mom, who has prioritized her family throughout her entire career, she has mastered the delicacy of balancing motherhood with all of her other obligations. Her advice for new parents is to ask for help from loved ones and your partner:
“Partnership is important especially for new mothers…If you need help from your husband or partner… sit down and have a conversation and say, ‘You know I really need your help. What can we do together? This would really be helpful for me if you could handle [this] and I don’t want to have to be on top of you to do it….let’s make up a plan.’”
Prioritize Self-Care and What Brings You Joy
Asking for help can be a critical form of self-care. For Gloria, it is one-on-one quality time with loved ones.
“Self-care to me is quality family time…I prefer a smaller, more intimate group where we can actually play Rummikub or have conversations where you can talk because the minute you have a big blowout [party]… everybody has a blast, but I don’t get to spend quality time with anyone…that to me is the most self-care that I can do: spending loving time with the people I love.”
Be Present Especially With the Children In Your Life
As a culture, and as Arianna often points out, we have an addiction to multitasking on our phones, even when we are spending time with others. Estefan describes this behavior as being potentially traumatic, especially for children, and she makes an effort to give her grandson her undivided attention, literally locking away her phone to be present with him.
She warns, “If you don’t make those bonds early on, you don’t have the same relationship when they’re older. [Children are a] seed that you have to water and nourish. You have to nourish relationships…I think more important than the amount of time you spend with a child or baby is the quality of the time you spend. You can be with someone for 7 hours physically and not be present. You can be at home with your child and doing a gazillion things and they’re doing a gazillion things and you happen to be there, but that doesn’t mean that you’re connecting. So, that child will remember the 30 minutes to an hour that you spend focusing only on them without picking up your phone.”
Gloria says the importance of being present extends to professional situations as well:
“I’ll be in a meeting with someone…they’re sitting listening to the meeting and they’re in their lap on the phone and they’re in neither place. I think that’s an advent of new technology and we have to be cognizant of the fact that when we’re together with somebody in a room or at a dinner table, be there…Don’t be there and try to be everywhere else because you don’t do a good job…”
Gloria embodies a woman totally comfortable in her own skin and seems to embrace aging with gusto and ease. She describes, “The best part [of aging]…is that I really know who I am. I don’t take BS from anybody even though I’m incredibly kind to everyone, …but the shorter your time gets, the more important it is to spend that time [on] things that really are of value and for me that’s my family, creating something that’s going to make someone feel better, or to just entertain them for a while…I [can] also focus more on the philanthropic side…I’ve always done it, but to be able to dedicate more time to help, that’s the reason I said yes to Red Table Talk (with her daughter, Emily, and niece, Lili). So, it’s a good moment for me to turn around after having been fortunate and blessed enough to have had success in so many ways and a loving family…to connect more with people and show them that we’re all in the same boat, that we’re all going through the same things and that comes with this age, too, I think.” In 1997, with her philanthropic side in mind, Estefan founded the Gloria Estefan Foundation, which promotes education, health, and cultural development.
She also shows a deep appreciation for her temple, aka the body. “My body does everything I want it to, and it does it fine. I exercise, I still ski which is one of the things I love, I’m very active, I ride a bike, so I can’t ask for anything. You’ve got the experience behind you and hopefully, it comes with wisdom and I like it, I feel good in my skin.”
As someone who has lived a life as fulfilling as she has, Gloria Estefan’s advice is to enjoy the here and now and experience life to the fullest, because everything is temporary:
“Absorb everything in every moment that you’re living because it’s going to go so fast and you’re not going to remember half of it, so just try to make those imprints in your mind and really soak in the love and the new opportunities to connect, but nothing is as big a deal as you think it is.”
Leading with Kindess
Above all, aside from family, Gloria Estefan values kindness. She stresses, “Kindness is the most important thing to me, and…what we can offer each other because we’re all in this together. We’re all sharing these experiences with whatever tools we came with and whatever circumstances.”
Her comments call to mind the often quoted adage, “Be kinder than necessary because everyone is fighting some sort of battle.” Gloria adds, “I came, to be of service, and that’s my happy place, to be of service in any way possible.”
More than just being a global superstar and waymaker, which is more than enough, Gloria shows us how to use personal power justly; that we can be soft without being malleable and we can be strong without being hard.
Gloria Estefan, an entrepreneur, musical legend, actress, mother, and wife proves that loving yourself is the first step in loving others. She shows us we have the power to make healthy choices, that we can prioritize self-care, and create safe spaces, all while pursuing our dreams. Being busy does not equate to a full or joyful life. Gloria Estefan’s example is proof that the magic of life is living in the present and connecting deeply. And while it may be challenging even heartbreaking, the journey itself is beautiful and worth savoring consciously, with kindness and grace toward ourselves and others.