In a rare interview, Shakira spoke for the first time live about her creative process, making history as one of the most successful Billboard chart-toppers, and what comes next. The intimate discussion with the Colombian superstar took place at the Faena Forum on Wednesday (Oct. 4) as part of Billboard Latin Music Week 2023, moderated by Billboard Latin/Español’s chief content officer Leila Cobo.’

Here are the 10 best quotes:

On “El Jefe” with Fuerza Regida: “I loved working with Keityn and Edgar [Barrera]. I had a great time. They are great friends. We wanted to do a song that portrays the reality of many. Also, I wanted to do something of the regional Mexican genre, but to give it a touch of ska. If you notice, the song has a little bit of that sensibility. It could be Balkan or British music, but no, it’s all in a regional Mexican framework.”

On inspiration: “I’m very inspired, I’m in the mood. There have been times when they have to take me with a crane to the studio, they have to drag me. Sometimes you fight with your work, everyone does. But now I’m in a honeymoon phase with making music and with my career. I’m in love with what I do.”

On composition: “[Writing music] is a catharsis. In composition, writing has always played a therapeutic role. I write the most when I’m at my worst. Life gives me a blow, and from this I have learned a lot and I feel stronger. I didn’t think I had so much vital energy to overcome certain stages of life. And it turns out that I was less fragile than I thought. My music has been my main survival tool.”

On the support of his fans: “[The public has been] by my side, holding my hand. That’s how I have felt them, embracing me, comforting me, motivating me, inspiring me. I didn’t feel alone because I have an audience that has been with me for as long as I can remember — well, in the world of music, since I was 14 years old. Little by little my relationship with the public grew, and my experience of being an artist of the people and for the people.”

On the creative process: “The way of composing changes. It is not a formula. Many times I write alone, I write ideas, even melodies. I write on airplanes, I write in the shower. There are times when I love to get together with friends, with people I feel comfortable with, because it’s a very intimate process, the process of composing.”

On trusting his sons artistically: “[Shakira’s son Milán] was the one who showed me Bizarrap’s music — when you do a song with Bizarrap you go worldwide. He had already sent me a DM on [social media] that I hadn’t seen. But then he sent me a message on WhatsApp, and I tell Milán, “Look who’s texting me,” he says, “Yes. The Argentine God.” He has an impression, a good instinct. I listen to them [my kids] a lot. Every time I’m going to put something out, I tell them, “What do you think of this song?,” to see what they imagine. With “Te Felicito,” for example, the idea of the robot in the video was Sasha’s, and the idea of the fire was Milan’s.”

On her move from Barcelona to Miami: “Being in Barcelona was practically being alone. There is no active music industry there. Every time I had an idea, I had to wait until the producer was in Europe and felt like coming to Barcelona. Everything was very slow and many ideas were left in the void. I was left without being able to execute many of my plans. I think that’s why I was also unmotivated. Now being here, close to so many colleagues, producers, musicians and friends, is a great motivation.”

On her growing self-confidence: “Before, I suffered if a hair stood up, I suffered if my eyeliner ran down. Nowadays it’s not that I care less about things, but I have a better perspective. I can prioritize what really matters to me, and what doesn’t matter so much. I put more focus and attention on substance. But I’ve also always had a lot of focus on detail and still do. Maybe more so now. But it helps a lot to have a team that understands you, that you can rely on. It’s not something you count on from the beginning, it’s something you build up over time as well. Your criteria; it’s built up over time.”

On her American breakthrough in the late ’90s: “I barely spoke English when Tommy [Mottola] gave me that vote of confidence to release music in English with ‘Whenever, Wherever.’ I felt that ‘Objection’ was the song I had to come out with, because it was the first song I did in English. So he said no, let’s go with ‘Whatever, Whatever.’ That’s when he convinced me what his vision went.”

The people rule and Spanish is what they want: “Today, no one can tell audiences what artists they relate to or what language they listen to music in. Nobody. The people are in charge. Age doesn’t matter, the genre doesn’t matter, the condition doesn’t matter, the language doesn’t matter. What matters is that if an artist connects with their audience, through music. When I started with Laundry Service, there was a lot of interference, and for years I had to dodge and convince and it was hard work. But all that has changed. Today, singing in Spanish is the coolest thing.”