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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  December 29, 2011 2:00pm-2:30pm PST

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tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight a conversation with one of music's most popular and enduring performers. gloria estefan. she is out with her first english language album in eight years. her new album is called "miss little havana." we're glad you have joined us. a conversation with gloria estefan coming up right now. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at
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a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. kcet public television] tavis: please welcome gloria estefan to this program. she has been a popular force in the music business now for 30 years. sounds strange, huh? was i not supposed to say that? >> new york city it is great. i love it -- no, i love it. tavis: the much-anticipated disk, i love the cover, it is called "miss little havana." it clouds special anniversary
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remix of one of her biggest hits. here now some of the video for the single. >> ♪ everybody has got a rhythm that will make you want to move it tavis: where have you been, gloria estefan? >> i haven't gone anywhere. tavis: 2003. we have been waiting on you. >> i've been enjoying life. i had a couple of albums in tour then, my last big tour. everybody got confused and thought i was retiring. i said i'm not retiring. i wanted to enjoy my daughter.
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that's what i have been doing, enjoying every second of her life. she is on the basketball team sand in the jazz band and i wanted to be seeing her and what she is doing and i'm enjoying it very much. tavis: as a mother, how have you personally over these years balanced the artistry, the touring, being a mother, wanting to be there for your kids. how do you balance that? >> i'm lucky i can take my kids to work. my son wasn't a lover of school. it was easy with him. i had a tutor on the road. when we would come home he would go back to school. emily on the other hand came in later in my life. i really wanted to relax and enjoy the experience and not go out and work while i was having her. i didn't tour until she was 16 months old. took her along as well but then once she started doing her school career, and she does love it. she is on teams and things, i backed away from mine so i could enjoy her life because i
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know how quickly it goes. tavis: what is better, earlier in life or later in life? >> both. i thank the lord that i had my son when i did. i'm fortunate to have -- well, he's a man already. he is married. he lives here in l.a. i was able to devote all the time to him and he was almost 15 years old when emily was born. i was able to give him the one-on-one time. he was out of the house when he was 18. i was able to give them the full-on attention that kids deserve to have and sometimes parents when they have a lot of small children, it is hard. tavis: i was reading an article about this not long ago. i know this is not the case with you. i was reading and article not long ago about the tough decisions that parents have to make sometimes, parent who is have a pretty serious career going on and sometimes certain parents end up resentencing that they have to pull back to give
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their kids the time they need. they now have to pull back to be there for the kids. >> well, i would hope first before they have the baby they would think about what it is going to entail. i think ultimately, even if you have a really busy schedule, it is the time that you do spend with your child, if it is quality time where you're really giving attention to the child, playing with them, talking with them, just coloring, giving them one-on-one time, i think it is important to have a happy parent. a parent that is upset or resentful is not going to be a good parent. you have to make it work. figure out what you can do and make sure that the child knows that they are important to you and that you to work for a living. everybody is not as fortunate as i have been and is able to have their hubby on the road and it
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doesn't have to be hours. there are some people that are 24 hours with a baby and it doesn't make a difference. tavis: you said your hubby on the road. the minute you walked on stage after we met i asked is emilio here? i'm such a huge fan of his. >> i am too. 33 years. tavis: we're not fans in the same way. i'm such a huge fan of his. to your point now about hubby on the road, the obvious question, what is the secret? you're in hollywood. this doesn't always work for 33 years for both people in the business and yet you and emilio make it work. >> it doesn't work for people in the business and sometimes doesn't work for people out of the business. i would not recommend working with your partner for everyone. because it is tough. there has to be a keen balance. you have to know when to stop being the manager and become the husband. i can't go home and complain to my husband about my manager. [laughter]
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there is no secret by the way. i think the main thing is a lot of respect, even though we're very different, personality-wise, which is a good balance, we really do have the same priorities and values and the same things are important to us. family is number one for him above everything else. he's a guy that has done it all. he worked his way up really from nothing in this country and he has no qualms about doing anything helping me out whatever way is needed and i likewise am very supportive of what he is doing. he has won 19 grammy. i have seven. he has 19. tavis: to your point, about coming to this country, how much of your -- and i know in miami, where you live and in florida, one never gets away from these immigration debates. it is impossible to get away from that. they are so truncated and phony.
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how much of your drive or your success or anything else you want to tell me has to do with the fact that you came here from someplace else? any at all? >> of course. i think it has a lot to do with it. first and foremost, i think that immigrants, at least i can speak for myself. i can tell you that i really appreciate the freedoms that this country affords us and the democracy we live and the republic we enjoy a lot more than some of the natives that have been here for generations because i don't take it for granted. in cuba, where i was born, we still see incredible abuse towards the people in the country and the lockdown and the oppressive atmosphere that is there. that i'm very appreciative of. also having traveled the world the united states is one of the few places where there really are no limitations as long as you have got drive and hard work
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and a good idea and you can get out there and do your thing. there is no social classes. a lot of countries there is a big history where you're not in a society no matter how much money you make. everyone here has a shot. the thing is you really have to work hard and do it but i appreciate this country very much. when my parents left cuba, my mom had a ph d in education. my father was a college graduate. they were very hard-working people. they wanted to make a success of their lives wherever they were. i know that's what everybody strives for here. we truly appreciate it, i think. tavis: i know this is going to be on the internet and somebody is going to start picking apart what you said. i think i know what you meant. you're not suggesting that
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classism isn't real. yes, you can accomplish it if you work hard. i just want to make sure you're on the same page. >> those are human things. wherever there is a human being there is going to be somebody that tries to hold you back. no, but i'm saying, like, for example, in europe, there is the upper crust and these are long, historically families and social systems that have certain, you know, established rules that is harder to break into. you can be a success, i'm sure but the celebrities are kind of like the royalty in this country. but still there is no limitations in that. nobody in this country gets stopped from doing anything. of course there is going to be racism and oppression and all of those things, as long as there are human beings on this earth, we're all learning. >> you and emilio want a little bit of this because it is what sells records and concert
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tickets. >> they still sell records? tavis: download . do you think there is too much celebrity worship in this country? are we a society that has run amok with its infatuation with celebrities? >> again, i think this is a human condition. obviously to the masses, the people that smue back famous or -- somehow become famous or infamous, they are looking to you to say i want to look like that or i would love to have this kind of thing. i just think it is a human thing as well. i look at things very much on that level. it is not so much for me, you know, where you come from, who you are, what race you are. we're just human beings. there is a lot that we have got to overcome. so that we can all be equal. so as long as there is someone to look up to, of course the
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media, there is a frenzy the minute that you're on a bunch of cover or a successful tv show or a movie, people are going to look up to you and that is just the way it is and they are going to expect things from you and sometimes opinions and sometimes not. sometimes they want you to shut up. but they will definitely look at you. tavis: when i last saw you on tave monitor, my friend -- tv monitor, my friend larry king said my boys have a baseball came tonight and can you go sit in for me? >> i remember well. tavis: gloria estefan was the guest that night live from miami. i got to sit in for larry king that night. you decided you and emilio were hosting a fundraiser at your lovely home in miami. which ch raises the question for me how active you going to be at all this time around in the 2012 race? >> we as a policy i don't like to become a spokesperson for a
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candidate. however, if i admire someone most definitely, i'm going to be honest. it was an honor for know host president obama in our home. especially because i wanted to have him near to show him a lot of pictures of the abuses that were going on in cuba and hand him letters from dissidents that are really paying the high price there for speaking out against government. it was wonderful to have him there. nonaffiliated. we don't give any money to any campaign. this has been historical for us. i think my fans are on both sides. however many sides there are, usually only two. i think everybody has got to make up their own mind and not just decide because they like your music or what you do so they are going to vote for the candidate that you support. to me that is a very personal
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issue. i voted. i always vote. my kids, i take them with me so they realize it is a responsibility. if they ask me, i'm always going to be honest. i don't campaign. i never have for anyone. tavis: what has been your process for deciding when, how, you want to use your music to make statements about a lot of issues. you're thoughtful. you have opinions about issues. you care about issues in the world. you are a humanist. every artist has to figure out his way in the world musically. we have a great time being entertained by gloria estefan and you make us dance and we have a great time and all that but how do you figure out lyrically to make a statement? >> i'm glad you brought that up. it is important to me the words that i bring out into the universe are powerful for those that hear them or maybe are cathartic. when it comes to politics, music
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was my escape from that. my dad was a police officer in cuba. he was jailed immediately upon the revolution happening. he went back at bay of pigs and was a political prisoner there. came back with agent orange poison. to me politics was such a negative thing in my life. it was always a touchy subject because we paid a very dear price. my dad gave up his life for two countries. the country of his birth and our adopted country that opened its arms to us here. my song which talks about freedom of speech, it is very subtle in there. there are a lot of songs coming out of the dark, hey, stick it out. get stronger. learn how to be stronger. be a better more complete person. you know, and those kinds of issues, again, i say it is psychology. even though i didn't become a
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clinical psychologist, i somehow still through my music tried to reach these people and whoever is listening out there, and hope -- so lucky that my music has been to them what other people's music was to me growing up that helped me through a lot tough times. that's kind of where i talk to them. whatever i'm feeling at the time. sometimes it is straight-up fun. this record, miss little havana is a return to fun. it explores different kinds of club music and dance music. that is all fun. i feel very comfortable in my own skin. i really have enjoyed myself and everything reflected upon what is going on in your life at the moment. tavis: how did the club thing, the dance thing, the sound end up being your -- was that by design? did something happen and it clicked? >> nothing happened by design.
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i sang balled as. -- ballads. when i joined his band, i was 17 years old, i joined the miami latin boys at the time. i loved they played this old cuban music dance stuff. he didn't have a singer in the band. they all did it together. he played the accordion. i listened to my mom's cuban records that they smuggled out. when we came together those influences came together. i brought the ballads to the band and learned how to do dance music and learned to play percussion. it came very natural to me. it happened very slowly. we had this vocabulary from both worlds that we could really bring into our own. it was never like oh, let's do
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this because it is happening. it was like this sounds really good. this rhythm sounds really good melded with this and this sounds really hot and we liked it. it was always about expressing ourselves and everybody came along. tavis: back to "miss little havana," you said, i made a comment and you jobed, they still sell -- you joked, they still sell records? the record business moves like to speed of light, like the speed of sound. when you stay out of the game for any space of time, >> like five seconds? tavis: exactly. speed of light, speed of sound. how do you know -- they say get in where you fit in. how do you know where you get in, to fit? ? how dow you know your sound is -- do you know your sound is still relevant? i don't think you really know. if you're trying to do what is
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popular now you're way behind. by the time you try copy it has moved on. music has taken a huge hit. there is no doubt about it. an artist is always going to produce their art, their music, they are going to paint, they are going to write. we enjoyed a vast amount of time where the music industry was a great business and the opportunity was there. if you got lucky like we did that you were popular in many different countries. it was great. we enjoyed it. does it mean that now that that is gone, we're not going to make music? if i have something to say, he wanted to do this project and get into more latin sounds and he had some sounds that he had written for me which i loved. it piqued my interest. i would love to see what this baby turns out musically. i don't know any other artist
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but i have to feel there is something i want to express and share with my fans and that is the only thing i have used as a criteria for putting something out there. but the business, yeah, it is gone, it is over. tavis: i get the excitement as you phrased it. another e word, expectation. after you had the kind of wild success that you had, you and emilio in this country and around the world, will you decide to put out a project lying this -- what is the expectation? >> for me, that people enjoy it. that you like it. that you hear it played. that people eventually make it a part of the sound track to their lives as dick clark so well put it. now it is easy to see that because of things like twitter. i had two majors in college, psychology communications with a french minor. this is fascinating to me, this thing with social media. what it does as an artist for me
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is give me a way to communicate directly with my fans and likewise them to me. there is no middle man or no journalist. no waiting until the article comes out. i make a comment or someone makes a comment and it immediately gets to me. i know immediately how my fans, which at this point, hopefully you'll get some more new fans and i have a hard core following out there that i don't want to disapoints. i can't, you know, try to gear what i try do around what i think they expect to hear or do. that is a very big trap. i just hope that they are going to like this. they will let me know for sure. i will know immediately whether they like it so far. tavis: i'm about to ask, make sure you tweet what a great time you had on the show. >> i will. of course. tavis: that is very important to me. >> immediately. i was tweeting on the way in and tweeting on the way out. tavis: having said that, to your fans, this particular project,
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"miss little havana," is this something in terms of sound that the fans have been waiting for, hoping for or something that the fans, the hard core gloria estefan fans are not expecting? >> i think they are going to love it. first of all you always want to surprise them. if they can guess what you're going to do, then you're in trouble. when i was doing record, i kept saying i feel like i felt when i was doing "primitive love" and "let it loose." something that sounded fresh and new. what this record is kind of like a composite of everything in my past in little snippets but brought his incredible creative brain and of course my hubby and those producers. i think they are going to recognize the miami sound machine element, which is big on here prm we still have the big horns and everything. you still have ferrell and his
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taken to tracks. they are really going to love that mix. i'm hoping. i'm really excited about the record and i love it. i think they are going to hear what they love about the original miami sound machine but take it to today and through the mind overp ferrell and we really clicked. i got to tell you. you can't make that up. tavis: i'm glad you said that. i was going to ask what is the cool part or the challenge working a kid producing you from another generation? >> the challenge always is as a writer is this going to work? it is a very intimate process. i tend to be very introverted and when i write it is in my head. when you step out, it is like going on a date. the first time we stepped into the studio, we were like are we going to have another date? is this going to be cool? it just clicked very naturally. i hope for him as well. we had our family there, in and out. it didn't matter.
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it was just happening and it was happening quickly and sometimes my daughter would be sitting there because she was in love with the whole process. imagine, the opportunity to watch ferrell at work and she would come in and by the time we left, there was aing. there is a lot of really raw and fresh motions on this record. we were recording as we were and i think that is a special thing to capture 3. tavis: a lot of us are jealous that emilio got to date and the wife and the baby and 33 years now you have been together. 35 together, 33 married. that is long time. it went like this. tavis: i hate you, emilio. i love gloria estefan as you can tell. i'm so delighted to have her on this program. her new project is called "miss little havana" out today. how delighted we are that she chose to come see us the day the vord out. good to see you.
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>> i enjoyed it very much. tavis: that is our show for tonight. thanks for watching and as always, keep the faith. >> ♪ ♪ >> for more information on joseph gordon-levitt. is smiley that's next time. we'll see you then. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with
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your community to make every day better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] >> be more.
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