Shakira was born in Barranquilla, Colombia to a mother of Catalán and Italian descent and an American-born father of Lebanese background. Shakira began writing and composing music at the age of eight. One of the first songs she wrote was called "Tus Gafas Oscuras", whose lyrical message revolved around her father and his grief over a son who had died due to a car accident. At the age of ten, Shakira applied for her school choir, but she was rejected because her voice had been noted as "too strong." Friends teased her by saying she sounded like a goat. Shakira started looking for other singing opportunities, and competed in a weekly television singing competition for children, Vivan Los Niños.
Between the ages of ten to thirteen, Shakira was invited to various events in Barranquilla, and became a local celebrity. At that time she met local theatre producer Monica Ariza, who was impressed with Shakira and helped to make her known outside Barranquilla. During a flight from Barranquilla to Bogotá, Ariza happened to be sitting next to Sony Colombia executive Ciro Vargas. Vargas agreed to hold an audition for Shakira, which took place a few weeks later in a hotel lobby. Vargas was impressed and returned to the Sony office and gave Shakira's cassette to the song and artist director, but he was not excited at all, and thought Shakira was "a lost cause." Vargas was convinced that Shakira had talent, and set up a surprise audition in Bogotá. He tricked the Sony Colombia executives to this bar, and around midnight he announced he had a surprise: Shakira. She sang three songs, and her performance was a hit. Shakira was subsequently signed to write and record three albums.