Gloria Estefan is bravely telling her story for the first time.
The music icon opened up about a traumatic experience from her childhood in the most recent episode of Red Table Talk: The Estefans. Gloria, alongside niece Lili Estefan and daughter Emily Estefan, welcomed guest Clare Crawley to tell her own story of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest. Inspired by Clare’s admission, the singer decided to reveal her own truth.
Addressing the episode’s topic, the 64-year-old began:
“Ninety-three percent of abused children know and trust their abusers. And I know this because I was one of them.”
After her niece observed that she’d “waited for this moment a long time,” Gloria agreed:
“I have. It was someone that my mother trusted. 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… she felt lucky that he was focusing his kind of attention on me.”
Recalling how he groomed her when she was nine years old, she said:
“He put it in a way of ‘Oh you’re so good at this and let me teach you’… it starts little by little, and then it goes fast.”
Even as a young girl, she was able to recognize that she “was in a very dangerous situation.” Estefan explained:
“When I revolted and I told him ‘This cannot happen, you cannot do this’ he goes, ‘Your father’s in Vietnam, your mother’s alone, and I will kill her if you tell her.’ And I knew he 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 that he might actually hurt my mother.”
The Grammy winner remembered inventing excuses not to go to her music lessons, but for a long time, her own mother was completely unaware of the abuse:
“ first of all, that was not talked about at all in her lifetime. And then my dad was in Vietnam. I remember sending him tapes saying, ‘Dad, I really don’t — I’d rather sing songs and I don’t want to do classical music.’”
After her hair began falling out from sheer anxiety of the situation, young Gloria finally ran to her mother in the middle of the night and confessed what was going on. Her mother then called the cops, the Mi Tierra artist shared:
“Then the police came and she said, ‘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 . … And that’s the one thing that I feel bad about, knowing that there must’ve been other victims.”
Instead, the “predator” remained “a respected member of the community” as the Glee alum went on to her own celebrated career. But even her early success was somewhat tainted by her abuser:
“When we had our first big hit with Conga, wrote a letter to the paper criticizing my music. At that moment, I was so angry that I was about to blow the lid off of everything and then I thought, ‘My whole success is going to turn into him.’ … It’s that manipulation and control, but that’s what they do. They take your power.”
Until now, Gloria had only shared this story with family — and even her Red Table Talk producers were apparently unaware that she would reveal it on the show. She credited Clare’s courage as the reason she decided to come forward, telling the former Bachelorette lead:
“I wanted to deal with this subject matter because it is so important to try to prevent. I also did not want to sit here quietly while you share and are brave. I knew one day I would share this story. I was waiting for the right opportunity and space to do so. And this is one of the reasons I said yes to the table at all. Because we wanted to create this space where we talk about important things and hopefully it will make a difference to everybody that’s watching out there.”
Wow. How incredibly brave of both of them to share this vulnerable moment with the world. We appreciate their courage and truthfulness, and hope their stories inspire and comfort those who have experienced similar abuse.
Watch the entire Red Table Talk episode (below):
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