Cuban-American Gloria Estefan broke onto the music scene with The Miami Sound Machine with three Top 10-hits, including "Conga," in 1985. Since then she has been a musical force with one chart topper after another, winning three Grammy Awards along the way. The story of her life, "On Your Feet," plays from 14 June to 31 Aug. She took time to discuss her favorite spots in London, a city she knows well.
Tell us about the musical.
"On Your Feet" is a love story, a personal love story about how I met Emilio and how we joined the band—although I didn’t date him until a year after we first met. He was just my boss for a year. It is also a love story to music—which has been very cathartic in our life and got us through the toughest times. It’s also a homage to the country of our birth, Cuba, and the country that opened its arms to us, the USA. It features some very strong women; my grandmother, mother and sister all have wonderful roles. The audience will be expecting to be dancing and having a good time, but we will also take them on an emotional rollercoaster ride.
What’s your favourite building in London?
I have always been impressed when I visit here through the years to see the architecture, and London’s unique buildings. The Shard is beautiful. I love the historical elements of London like the British Museum—it’s a whole building within a building. Also the Royal Academy of Arts—we saw the "Renaissance Nude" exhibition there (to 2 June).
Where holds a special memory?
The Tower of London—my son loves it—and the London Dungeon have a lot of family memories from when he was small. I would take him to these kid-friendly attractions, as he likes the darker side of things! Those hold special memories from when we first came to London.
Where do you like to shop?
I obviously miss a gene or hormone, I don’t like shopping! But I love Carnaby Street and I recently went to a fabulous antique bookstore there. You certainly can’t find that in Miami—they don’t exist, books from the 18th century! I prefer smaller shops that have been around a long time.
Any favourite type of entertainment?
Every opportunity that I have in London I would go to the theatre. I saw “Evita” here, the first time I ever saw it. This trip I saw Patti LuPone in Stephen Sondheim’s musical "Company," which was phenomenal, especially their new twist by flipping the gender. I enjoyed "Come From Away," and was also able to hand them an Olivier Award the following night. My son’s favourite show was "Sweeny Todd"—way back in the day!
Which green spaces do you like?
I love Hyde Park and St James’ Park. I would go running in them a lot, especially when I was on tour when I’d run five miles a day, all around London and with my trainer.
How do you prefer to travel?
I love the taxis here, as I find them very luxurious with lots of space. I also like to travel on double-decker buses, to sit and take a nice tour sitting on the top deck.
Where do you like to eat?
We have a lot of favourites: Novikov, Sexy Fish and Nobu, that has always been a staple. For British food, I adore the food at Dean Street Townhouse. We’ve also been to many lovely Indian restaurants in the city.
What dishes have you got to know here?
I just discovered bread sauce, which I am going to make for my family at Thanskgiving. Why didn’t anyone tell me about this sauce? It’s phenomenal! I love steak and kidney pie, although I can’t have pastry now as I’ve been on a diet.
Do you have any favourite Londoners?
Sam Smith right now—he did a beautiful homage to my song "Conga" in a red skirt on his Instagram. I’m a huge fan, he’s just a spectacular human being. When my daughter graduated from Berkeley College of Music she played an acoustic version of “Stay with Me,” so he’s a real family favourite.
What’s your favourite place to stay?
We have always stayed at the May Fair Hotel for the last 35 years. To me, it’s like coming home. The concierges still remember my son from when he was a little boy—he threw a coin out of the window and chipped a Rolls Royce that we had to pay for. It’s like going back to family.
What makes London so special?
So many things: the amazing history in London; the architecture; the whole culture behind it and with it. I love the sense of humour that London audiences have—they have been spectacular every time we’ve played at Wembley Stadium. I have beautiful memories of London in my heart. I also love the Royal Family and I’ve been lucky enough to meet the Queen twice, plus Prince Charles and Princess Diana and their sons when they were small. I performed at the Prince’s Trust at the London Palladium, which was a very special night.