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Jonas Westover

(b Santurce, PR, March 7, 1950). Puerto Rican singer, dancer, and entertainer. As a girl she honed her skills with ballet and jazz dance lessons. As a young adult she attended the Universidad de Puerto Rico and soon afterwards began to perform as a singer and to make inroads as a model and a dancer. She quickly became a major star in the Latin music world with her first album, Tú no eres hombre (1971). Within a year she was hosting her own television program, “El show de Iris Chacón,” which ran from 1972 until the mid-1980s, when she abruptly quit. As a media personality, Chacón has repeatedly found ways to market herself and keep her image and voice in the spotlight. She has appeared on film (mostly musicals), television, stage, and radio. Her radio shows, including “Iris Chacón Live” and “Caramelo y chocolate,” have run both in the United States and Puerto Rico. Her most famous song is “Spanish Rocket Ship” (...

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Jonas Westover

[Keith, Mae Eartha ]

(b North, SC, Jan 17, 1927; Weston, CT, Dec 25, 2008). American singer, actress, and dancer. Kitt came from a poor family, but managed to make her way into show business. Her first break came in 1943 when she was hired by the Katherine Dunham Company as a dancer, and she remained with that organization until 1948. Given the opportunity to perform throughout Europe, Kitt learned French and incorporated it into her vocal performances at cabarets. Kitt began to record in the early 1950s, and her distinctive voice—somewhat deep, purposefully raspy, and openly seductive—made her an African American sex symbol. Her early hits include a cover of “Let’s Do It” by Cole Porter, “C’est si bon,” “Love for Sale,” “Je cherche un homme,” and “Mink, Schmink.” Kitt’s breakout Broadway appearance came when she appeared in the revue, New Faces of 1952, singing “Monotonous,” which she revived for a ...

Article

J. Ryan Bodiford

[J.Lo ]

(b Bronx, NY, July 24, 1969). American Puerto Rican actress, singer, dancer, producer, and entrepreneur. She is the highest paid Latina actress to date and has attracted similar commercial appeal as a pop, hip hop, and Latin-influenced recording artist, selling over 55 million albums in the first decade of her musical career.

The daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants, Lopez participated in minor film and theater productions from an early age. Following high school, she attended numerous auditions before landing her first major gig in 1991 as a “fly girl” dancer on the sketch-comedy program In Living Color. In 1997 she gained attention with her Golden Globe-nominated performance in the film Selena. She has since starred in box office hits such as The Wedding Planner (2001), Maid in Manhattan (2002), and Monster in Law (2005).

Already an established actress, Lopez launched her singing career in ...

Article

Shakira  

J. Ryan Bodiford

[Mebarak Ripoll, Shakira Isabel ]

(b Barranquilla, Colombia, Feb 2, 1977). American Singer, songwriter, dancer, and philanthropist. The daughter of a Colombian mother and an American-born father of Lebanese descent, Shakira demonstrated her talents in the performing arts at an early age. After winning local talent competitions and establishing a dance troupe at the modeling school which she attended, Shakira began her professional career at age 13 when she was awarded a three-album record deal with Sony Music. She has since become a globally renowned singer, songwriter, dancer, and philanthropist, whose musical style incorporates rock, pop, Latin rhythms, and Arabic infusions.

Following two commercial flops, Shakira established her popularity throughout Latin America with her 1996 release, Pies descalzos. This album produced a series of pan–Latin American hits and sold more than four million copies. Her fan base was extended further into the non-Spanish speaking world with the Middle Eastern tinged worldwide hit, “Ojos así,” produced by Emilio Estefan and included on the album ...

Article

Rob Bowman

(b Cayce, MS, March 27, 1917; d Memphis, TN, Dec 15, 2001). American singer, songwriter, dancer, comedian, and radio announcer. One of Thomas’s earliest gigs was as part of the dance team Rufus and Johnny with the legendary Rabbit Foot Minstrels. He later forged a distinguished career as a comic (in the duo “Rufus and Bones”) and master of ceremonies at all of the important black theaters in Memphis. In the early 1950s Thomas hosted the daily “Sepia Swing Club” and “Hoot ‘n’ Holler” shows on local black appeal radio station WDIA. Beginning in 1949, Thomas recorded for Star Talent, Meteor, Chess, and, most notably, Memphis’ Sun Records before signing with Satellite (soon-to-be Stax) Records in 1960. His most successful recording pre-Stax was an answer song conceived as a response to Big Mama Thornton’s R&B hit “Hound Dog.” Titled “Bear Cat” and released in 1953, the record was Sun’s first bona-fide hit, peaking at number three on ...