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Gloria Estefan Reveals She Was Molested As A Kid

Gloria Estefan had previously only told her family of the incidents in her past, but a guest made her want to speak more publicly.

By Megan Carpentier
Gloria Estefan

A groundbreaking musical icon is using her platform to educate the public about childhood sexual abuse, as well as to reveal for the first time to audiences her own story.

Gloria Estefan, the multi-platinum award-winning singer, began hosting her Facebook show, "Red Table Talk: The Estefans" (a spin-off of Jada Pinkett Smith's popular online talk show) in October 2020 with her niece, Univision host Lili Estefan, and daughter, Emily Estefan. It was renewed for another 12 episodes in January, Deadline reported at the time.

On Thursday, the Estefans led off their second season (and ninth episode) with a monologue by the singer, explaining that their show would be a on an unusually difficult topic. 

“Ninety-three percent of abused children know and trust their abusers," Gloria Estefan said, citing statistics compiled by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) based on U.S. government data. "And I know this because I was one of them.”

Her red-eyed niece, Lili, said, "You've waited for this moment for a long time," and Gloria responded, "I have."

Gloria Estefan said that when she was 9 years old and her father was serving in Vietnam, her mother enrolled her in the music school in Miami that was run by a distant family member. 

"He immediately started telling her how talented I was and how I needed special attention," the singer explained. "And [my mother] felt lucky that he was focusing this kind of attention on me."

But Gloria's experience of her teacher was different: she explained that, like many abusers, he began grooming her.

"It starts little by little," she said. "And then it goes ... fast."

Gloria said that she knew the situation was "dangerous" and that there was something wrong with her teacher. At some point, she says, she "revolted."

"I told him, ‘This cannot happen, you cannot do this,’ and he goes, ‘Your father’s in Vietnam, your mother’s alone and I will kill her if you tell her,'" she explained.

She says she stayed quiet for a little bit, because she was frightened for her mother.

"I knew he was crazy because at no point did I ever think that it was because of me that this was happening," she said. "I knew the man was insane and that’s why I thought he might actually hurt my mother."

But her initial efforts to get out of going to the musical lessons, which included faking illness and telling her father — via audio recordings that the two sent back and forth, which she shared with the audience — that she would rather sing than learn classical music, failed to convince her parents to withdraw her from the school.

The situation made her so anxious that "a circle of hair" fell out of her, she said.

"Finally one morning, at three in the morning, I just ran to my mother’s room because I couldn’t take it anymore,"  Gloria Estefan said. "And I told her about it."

Estefan's mother, who Gloria says had no inkling what had been happening, immediately called the police.

"She told them ‘This is what’s happening,’ and they told my mother not to press charges because they said that I was going to go through worse trauma having to get on a stand," Gloria Estefan said.

That advice ultimately kept Gloria and her mother from pursuing any legal repercussions for the music teacher (and family member).

"That’s the one thing that I feel bad about," Gloria said, "knowing that there must have been other victims."

And there apparently were: Gloria explained later in the show that, though she and her mother did not press charges against her abuser, they did tell their extended family in Miami what her abuser had done.

"One of my older aunts [said[ this had happened, same guy, in Cuba when she was a child," Gloria explained. "And she had never shared until the moment that my mother told her."

Estefan said that her decision to go public with her history — of which her family had been aware but her show's producers had not — was the fact that her guest, former "Bachelorette" contestant Clare Crawley was there, in part, to discuss her own recent disclosure that she had been abused by a priest at age 6.

"I also did not want to sit here quietly while you share and are brave," Estefan told Crawley.

Estefan also shared that, when her band Miami Sound Machine had its breakthrough success in 1985 with the single "Conga," her abuser resurfaced.

"This predator, who was a respected member of the community, had the [balls], when we had our first big hit with 'Conga,' he wrote a letter to the paper criticizing my music," she said.

She said she was so angry at the time that she had nearly made a public disclosure, but she hadn't wanted her (or her band's) success to turn into a story about her abuse and her abuser. 

"It’s that manipulation and control" that they want, she acknowledged. "But that’s what they do, take your power."

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