Gloria Estefan says she was molested at music school at age 9
The singer did not name her abuser but described how she tried to stop him.
Gloria Estefan has revealed that, at the age of 9, she was sexually abused by someone her mother trusted.
The Cuban-American superstar spoke for the first time publicly about the abuse and its effects on her during an episode of the Facebook Watch show “Red Table Talk: The Estefans” that aired Thursday.
“He was family, but not close family. He was in a position of power because my mother had put me in his music school and he immediately started telling her how talented I was and how I needed special attention, and she felt lucky that he was focusing this kind of attention on me,” the singer said.
Estefan, who was born in Cuba and moved to Miami with her family when she was a toddler, revealed the abuse at the top of the show, which featured Clare Crawley, the first Latina “Bachelorette.” In the episode, called “Betrayed by Trusted Adults,“ Crawley talked about child abuse she experienced at the hands of a priest.
Sitting at the round red table with her co-hosts — daughter Emily Estefan and niece Lili Estefan — Estefan opened by saying that “93% of abused children know and trust their abusers, and I know this because I was one of them.”
She did not name her abuser but described how she tried to stop him. She said the abuse started little by little before moving fast, and that she knew that she was in a dangerous situation after confronting him.
“I told him, ‘This cannot happen, you cannot do this.’ He goes: ‘Your father’s in Vietnam, your mothers alone and I will kill her if you tell her,’” Estefan said. “And I knew it was crazy, because at no point did I ever think that it was because of me that this was happening. I knew the man was insane and that’s why I thought he might actually hurt my mother.”
Estefan said she started making up excuses to avoid going to music lessons. Her daughter Emily asked if her grandmother had any inkling something was going on. People didn’t talk about those things back then, Estefan replied.
She tried to reach her dad, with whom she exchanged voice tapes while he was posted in Vietnam.
Gloria: “I’m taking guitar lessons. I like them but the exercises are a little hard.”
Her dad: “Mommy told me that the owner of the academy where you’re taking your guitar lessons is very proud of you.”
Gloria: “I like the notes, but it’s a little boring to study the notes”.
Her dad: “Mommy tells me that he said that you are a born artist.”
Estefan said the level of anxiety made her lose a “circle of hair.”
“I couldn’t take it anymore,” she said, so one night she ran to her mother’s bedroom at 3 a.m. and told her what was going on.
Her mother called the police, but the officers advised her not to press charges because the trauma of testifying would be too harmful.
She also said that, when her mother started inquiring about this man within the family, an aunt shared that he had abused her years back in Cuba.
The Associated Press asked the show’s publicist if Estefan could answer some questions, including if the man was still alive. The publicist told the AP that she would not make further comments.
On “Red Table Talk,” Estefan recalled almost going public in the mid-80s, when her hit “Conga” with the Miami Sound Machine was at the top of the Billboard charts and “this predator, who was a respected member of the community,” had the audacity to write a letter to a paper criticizing her music.