Gloria Estefan Opens Up About Red Table Talk—and Why Latinos Are Not a Monolithic Community

In an exclusive interview with E! News, Gloria Estefan discusses her latest project, Red Table Talk: The Estefans, and what it means to be Latina in 2020.

By Jonathan Borge Oct 09, 2020 6:20 PMTags
Watch: Gloria Estefan Reveals Quincy Jones Is Her Daughter's Godfather

That's Dr. Estefan to you. 

Before establishing herself as the queen of Latin pop, Gloria Estefan wanted to become a psychologist. And what a hell of a shrink she could have been. As the mom of two children and, in a sense, a matriarchal figure for Latinx fans across the globe, Estefan instinctively has the warmth of someone you'd share your deepest secrets with. "Everybody calls me first," she says, joking that in the Estefan family, it's Gloria who will give you covetable advice in a pinch. 

During an exclusive interview with E! News, Estefan speaks to me like a friend she's known forever. When I mention that her music was dear to me as a Latino kid growing up in Miami, the place she's called home for decades, she pokes fun at me, asking, "Where's your Miami accent? What the hell happened?" (She's not wrong: Miamians often speak with an exaggerated, always-excited inflection—just like she does.) After some laughs, it becomes apparent why her family keeps her on speed dial: She'll make you feel comforted. Had I been born as Estefan royalty, there's no doubt I'd turn to her for a warm hug served up with some cafecito.

Female Latin Pop Stars You Need to Be Listening To

Estefan, 63, is best known as the Cuban-American voice behind hits like "Get on Your Feet," "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You" and "Conga," a universal jam likely played at every wedding and PG-13 celebration you've been to. Earlier this year, the Grammy winner released her 14th—yes, 14th—solo album, Brazil305. And she was the topic of conversation before and after Jennifer Lopez and Shakira's Super Bowl halftime show. After all, Estefan devotees remembered her as the first-ever Latinx artist to headline that mega event back in 1992. To say she's an icon is an understatement.

So where does an artist of her caliber go from here? Straight to the heart. 

Leaning into her pseudo psychologist hobby, she is now serving as the lead host of Red Table Talk on Facebook Watch, a talk show opportunity she says—after having been presented with several—finally felt right. It officially premiered Wednesday, Oct. 7. 

"I immediately thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is what I've been waiting for! The main thing that drew me to this format was the opportunity to really have a conversation," Estefan says during our 20-minute phone call. "You know how talk shows go: People are in and out, have something to promote and you've got two to three minutes with each person, you're lucky if you get five. But there's no room to really go in depth into any really serious topic."

Sami Drasin/Red Table Talk

If you're a fan of the Emmy-nominated show of the same name hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith, her mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris and her daughter Willow Smith, don't fret. The Estefan version is not a replacement of the original, but rather an extension of a relatively new franchise that's already delivered major headline-making interviews (remember that Jordy conversation?). 

Instead, Red Table Talk: The Estefans finds Gloria united with two very familiar co-stars: Her and husband Emilio Estefan's 25-year-old daughter Emily, an LGBTQ+ musician and activist, and 53-year-old Lili Estefan, her niece and the longtime host of Univision's El Gordo y la Flaca. In fact, Estefan says the Smiths approached her with the idea for a spinoff. 

In the first episode, the trio of Latina women—bold, glamorous and bilingual—tackle a subject they've never discussed together publicly: Lili's gut-wrenching divorce from her ex-husband, Lorenzo Lauces, a jaw-dropping split that involved blackmail and a shocking cheating scandal. Just like the Smiths' Red Table Talk, the Estefans are quick to up the ante and get to the bottom of their complex issues—ones that especially speak to Latinx families—across all eight episodes. 

Other topics of discussion include sexuality and grief, and each one is explored with tidbits from experts that can give viewers tangible coping advice. Celebrity guests such as Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, Michelle Rodriguez and Rosie O'Donnell also appear, along with Gloria Guillen, the mother of Vanessa Guillen.

Despite moonlighting as a therapist, Estefan jokes that she wanted to make sure fans left with practical, actionable tips after tuning in. She adds, "the most important thing for us was for people to realize from the get-go that we were going to be as honest and personal as we could."

And she is no exception. Estefan says that the loss of her mother in 2017 "really put me into a big hole." A hole, she says, she climbed out of by seeking therapy, a concept she never thought she'd explore: "I know a lot of people can't afford therapy, and that's a very beautiful luxury to have. We can kind of be their therapy in an entertaining way if they open their hearts while we share what we've been through." A free session with Dr. Estefan? Sign us up.

Scroll down for more from Estefan as she discusses her family, Latinidad and what else to expect from Red Table Talk: The Estefans.

Famous Families

E! News: What's the Estefan twist to Red Table Talk? 

Gloria Estefan: One thing that we have that the Smiths don't have is we've got a red piano! Yeah, they had one that Alicia Keys played, but we got our own. Emily and I do three performances across eight episodes. They're songs we did together and no one's heard us do before. That's an added feature that's going to be fun and was really exciting for Em and I to work on. And we co-wrote the theme song for the show! Emily produced all the music and I co-wrote the lyrics with her, so we also filmed a fun video together and we had a blast doing that.

E!: What was it like to meet Jada Pinkett Smith, Adrienne Banfield-Norris and Willow Smith?

GE: We were supposed to shoot this show last March, so it was fantastic because before COVID happened, we got to go to L.A. to visit them at the set of their home. Oh my God, what a magnificent home they have. And when we saw that table, it was like one of those movie moments when you hear, like, a choir of angels or something. The damn table is already as much of a star as Jada! So it was really very interesting and very informative to sit back there and watch. They were shooting the colorism episode that day, so they had a lot of guests. And it was incredible to see the behind-the-scenes and the amazing work that the producers were doing and how that giant conversation was gonna get edited down. They do it masterfully. 

E!: Did they offer any hosting tips?

GE: They just told us just, you know, you're gonna be yourself. And they came to us because they already had done their homework and knew who Lili was and knew who I was. So they weren't going in blind. And they had followed Emily and seen how she had been. That's why they approached us and thought that we would be good for the show, because they felt that what we can bring to the table was what they were looking for in expanding the series. We really loved doing it. It was a great experience. And I got to hang out with my niece and my daughter even more. So it was fantastic.

E!: You, Lili, and Emily all went to therapy before shooting. Why? Walk us through that decision.

GE: Yeah, but it wasn't because we were filming. We went to therapy to heal. Three years ago, I lost my mother and Emily came out [as gay] at the same time. And for the first time, I really found myself struggling emotionally. The grief was huge. At the same time, Emily was pulling away because of what she was going through. And I got Lili and Lina [her daughter] into therapy because of the divorce. They were in really bad shape. That's how we all ended up in therapy. That has helped us be able to come to the table. 

Sami Drasin/Red Table Talk

E!: Were you nervous jumping into these tough, emotional conversations?

GE: You know what? I've never been nervous, I was excited about the conversation. Because that's what we want to do. There's no subject matter at this point in my life that can make me nervous. Honestly, I feel very secure in my skin. And I have very clear opinions and thoughts that have been shaped by a lifetime of experiences. Now, are some things incredibly personal that a lot of people will be hearing for the first time? They're gonna learn a lot of things . There's never been an avenue before to have these kinds of conversations. So it's a whole other ball of wax. It's exciting for me.

E!: This show stars three Latinas—and you've represented the Latinx community for decades. Why is that visibility important to you in 2020?

GE: First of all, the Facebook community is worldwide, so I can simultaneously speak to fans that I have all over the world. No other platform can give me that. And because of the Smiths and their Red Table Talk, there's already a community of RTT fans that have their own table that they started. So we hope to add to that and bring the Latinos along with us. Our dream is to be able to do some offshoot shows completely in Spanish. And I just think it's a great way to connect. After COVID, we've all connected to such a degree despite being locked up in our separate cubicles in the world. 

E!: In another Facebook Watch show, Latin Music Queens, Thalía talks about being stereotyped as a Latina in the music industry. Have you felt stereotyped before?

GE: People are always gonna try to pigeonhole and put you in a box or label you with something, because that's how people feel comfortable. I remember way back in the day I was gonna do the opening for the American Music Awards. And one of the ideas of somebody there was to put some fruit on my head. I go, ‘Hold on there, missy! I'm not Carmen Miranda! There will be no fruit on my head for this performance!' But, you know, I don't take it in that terrible kind of way.

Latinos, we are not a monolithic community by any means. Every one of our Latino countries is different, has its own nuances, its own music, its own food, its own stars. That's what I like about breaking barriers. They would tell us, ‘You're too Latin for the Americans, you're too American for the Latins, get rid of the horns, get rid of the percussion.' I go, ‘That's who we are!' To be successful, I want to be who I am. I don't want to put myself in a box that matches all these other artists. Because then what? Who am I? So I love breaking stereotypes. And I love doing unexpected things.  

E!: Spanglish is very much a part of bilingual Latinx families. Will we hear some of it?

GE: Well, stuff gets thrown in there, but Facebook really wants it in English because it's worldwide. Although, Lili, sometimes even her English could qualify as Spanish! And Emilio is going to need subtitles regardless, whether he's speaking English, or whatever he's saying. He's such a daddy bear to all of us. We're his three favorite girls and Lili and him are incredibly close. It just felt really like family. 

Originally we were going to do Spanglish, but then we thought the subtitle people are going to get incredibly confused. And I'll tell you how important that is to me: I had them send me the transcripts that they will be airing in Spanish, the subtitles, so that I could make sure and scrutinize it. And sure enough, I had to change a bunch of stuff because, you know, there's nuances to things that are said and I want to make sure that the Spanish speaking public sees exactly what we were saying and what was intended.

Red Table Talk: The Estefans airs every Wednesday at 12 p.m. ET on Facebook Watch.