Born on 2 February 1977 in Barranquilla, Colombia, she is the only child of William Mebarak Chadid and Nidia Ripoll Torrado. Her paternal grandparents emigrated from Lebanon to New York City, where her father was born. Her father then emigrated to Colombia at age 5. The name Shakira is Arabic for "grateful", the feminine form of the name Shakir. From her mother, she has Spanish (Catalan and Castilian) and Italian ancestry. She was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools. She has eight older half-siblings from her father's previous marriage. Shakira spent much of her youth in Barranquilla, a city located on the northern Caribbean coast of Colombia, and wrote her first poem, titled "La Rosa De Cristal/The Crystal Rose", when she was only four years old. As she was growing up, she was fascinated watching her father writing stories on a typewriter, and asked for one as a Christmas gift. She got that typewriter at the age of seven, and has continued writing poetry since then. These poems eventually evolved into songs. When Shakira was two years old, an older half-brother was killed in a motorcycle accident; six years later, at the age of eight, Shakira wrote her first song, titled "Tus gafas oscuras/Your dark glasses", which was inspired by her father, who for years wore dark glasses to hide his grief.
When Shakira was four, her father took her to a local Middle Eastern restaurant, where Shakira first heard the doumbek, a traditional drum used in Arabic music and which typically accompanied belly dancing. She started dancing on the table, and the experience made her realize that she wanted to be a performer. She enjoyed singing for schoolmates and teachers (and even the nuns) at her Catholic school, but in second grade, she was rejected for the school choir because her vibrato was too strong. The music teacher told her that she sounded "like a goat". At school, she was often sent out of the class because of her hyperactivity (ADHD). She says she had also been known as "the belly dancer girl", as she would demonstrate every Friday at school a number she had learned. "That's how I discovered my passion for live performance," she says.
To instill gratitude in Shakira for her upbringing, her father took her to a local park to see orphans who lived there. The images stayed with her, and she said to herself: "One day I'm going to help these kids when I become a famous artist."
Between the ages of 10 and 13, Shakira was invited to various events in Barranquilla and gained some recognition in the area. It was at this approximate time that she met local theater producer Monica Ariza, who was impressed with her and as a result tried to help her career. During a flight from Barranquilla to Bogotá, Ariza convinced Sony Colombia executive Ciro Vargas to hold an audition for Shakira in a hotel lobby. Vargas held Shakira in high regard and, returning to the Sony office, gave the cassette to a song and artist director. However, the director was not overly excited and thought Shakira was something of "a lost cause". Undaunted and still convinced that Shakira had talent, Vargas set up an audition in Bogotá. He arranged for Sony Colombia executives to arrive at the audition, with the idea of surprising them with Shakira's performance. She performed three songs for the executives and impressed them enough for her to be signed to record three albums.