Gloria Estefan revealed that she was sexually abused when she was only 9 years old by a family member. The 64-year old songstress talked for the first time publicly about it at the “Red Table Talk” on Thursday.
The Cuban-American superstar was a co-host with her daughter Emily, and niece Lili. The singer started by saying: “93 percent of abused children know and trust their abusers, and I know this because I was one of them”. The three women held hands, with Lili saying that Gloria waited a long time for this moment, to which the singer replied: “I have”.
Gloria did not name her abuser, nor would she say if he is still alive. However, she did describe his position at the time. “He was family, but not close family. He was in a position of power because my mother had put me in his music school and he immediately started telling her how talented I was and how I needed special attention, and she felt lucky that he was focusing this kind of attention on me”.
At the age of nine, Gloria knew that she was in danger and tried to fight off her abuser. Still, her attacker continued on threatening her that he will kill her mother if she says something. Gloria’s father was serving in Vietnam at the time and didn’t have any idea that his daughter’s wellbeing is at risk.
Young Gloria kept her sanity through the ordeal, knowing that it wasn’t her fault. “And I knew it was crazy, because at no point did I ever think that it was because of me that this was happening. I knew the man was insane and that’s why I thought he might actually hurt my mother”.
The singer tried to avoid going to music lessons and reaching out to her father. She quickly understood that he didn’t take the hints when they talked over the phone, and gave up. However, the nine-year-old Gloria was getting increasingly anxious, so one night she told her mom everything. Her mother called the police immediately but was advised not to press charges since that would lead Gloria to a grueling testifying in court.
Her mom, alone and unprotected, started asking around the family about that cousin. She found out that he was molesting Gloria’s aunt for years back in Cuba. So, the man was a serial rapist that got away.
Gloria went on to talk about her success in the 1980s when “Conga” hit the Billboard charts at No1. The singer was living her dream at the time, touring and performing year-round. However, her abuser didn’t leave her alone even then. He wrote to the newspapers ridiculing and criticizing her singing. “At that moment, I was so angry that I was about to blow the lid off of everything. My whole success is gonna turn into him!”. Instead, she swept it under the carpet and moved on.
Sitting at the table with Estefan was Claire Crawley who publicly talked about the abuse she suffered at the hands of a priest. It’s possible that this led Gloria to open her heart and talk about it after more than fifty years.”This is one of the reasons why I said yes to the [Red] Table [Talk] at all because we wanted to create this space where we talk about important things that hopefully will make a difference to everybody that’s watching out there”.
The producers of the Facebook show were totally unaware that the singer will talk about her experience. After the show ended, Gloria refused all interviews on the subject.