September 25, 2023 |Press Statements
GLORIA ESTEFAN, SEBASTIÁN YATRA, EMILIO ESTEFAN, MARIA FERNANDEZ, CONGRESSWOMEN MARÍA ELVIRA SALAZAR & VERONICA ESCOBAR APPLAUDED AT RIAA HONORS
Live Performances from Yatra & On Your Feet! Broadway Cast
Lin-Manuel Miranda, John Legend, Andy García & More Praise Honorees with Virtual Congratulations
WASHINGTON, DC (September 20, 2023) – At their state-of-the-art headquarters in Washington, DC last night, the Recording Industry Association of America® (RIAA) celebrated an incredible group of artists, label executives and policymakers whose impact is heard and felt throughout American music, culture and society. The star-studded annual RIAA Honors highlighted Latin music elites – Gloria Estefan, Sebastián Yatra, Emilio Estefan, Sony Music Latin’s Maria Fernandez alongside Congresswomen María Elvira Salazar and Veronica Escobar.
Aptly kicking off the night with a dynamic performance, members of the On Your Feet! Broadway cast had the audience doing just that. The Tony-nominated musical is based on the lives of honorees Gloria and Emilio Estefan.
RIAA Chairman and CEO Mitch Glazier welcomed the crowd alongside SVP State Policy & Latin Music Rafael Fernandez Jr., who shared his own story of growing up in Miami with Latin music as the soundtrack of his childhood and the beginning of his lifelong love of the genre.
Emilio Estefan was the first honoree of the evening and added to his decades of accolades as the Industry Trailblazer. Before accepting his award, dear friend and acclaimed actor Andy García surprised the room with a special video message, saying “Emilio, when I open up the dictionary and I look up the word ‘trailblazer,’ there’s a picture of you on it.” Expressing his gratitude Emilio said, “most people would say they want to keep their sound to themselves, but Gloria said, ‘let’s help everyone that we can.’ What I want to leave to my children and my community is pride, and the legacy that we need to be who we are, and to live in the best country in the world that is called the United States of America and we are so thankful to be here. Thank you to my wife for giving me this opportunity. It is an incredible day, not only for me but for the whole second generation that has done so many great things. Thank you for coming and sharing this moment with my family.”
Next up, RIAA Chief Policy Officer Morna Willens presented Policymaker of the Year awards to Congresswomen María Elvira Salazar and Veronica Escobar, noting their personal experiences with the powerful connection between communities and their culture. Congresswoman Salazar celebrated her fellow honorees, the Estefans reminiscing, “I remember when I was younger that I would go to weddings, and I would dance to the music and what they [Gloria and Emilio Estefan] did in the last 40 years. That’s the spirit of Hispanic people in this country, because we found the best country in the world, the promised land, where we could develop, and we could grow and they’re the perfect and best example.”
Congresswoman Escobar echoed her colleague in recognition of the role Latin music has played in her life sharing, “this is such an incredible honor and privilege. I am so humbled with this recognition and want to thank the RIAA and my incredible team that is trying to do the impossible. I represent a beautiful border community that has been on the front lines for decades, and we all we seek to improve our nation, together. Thank you all very much!”
Rafael returned to praise “do it all” Executive Vice President & COO, Latin Iberia at Sony Music Entertainment, Maria Fernandez. Known for paving the way for other females in music as a mentor to the next generation and as an advocate for her peers, it is no surprise her next title would be Executive of the Year. She thanked Sony Latin Music and celebrated their contributions to Latin music, saying, “I am very honored. I believe in dreams, I’ve been dreaming big, but I could have never dreamt I’d be here being honored with legends of Latin music like Gloria and Emilio Estefan along with the amazing other honorees. This is really a dream come true for me, so thank you for everything that you do for Latin music, for the Latin community, this is very important for us. I also want to thank Sony Music. They have always been there to support us to get Latin music in every corner of the world.”
RIAA COO Michele Ballantyne then took the stage, presenting a plaque to Artist of the Year Sebastián Yatra and introducing video tributes from multi-hyphenate talents John Legend and Lin-Manuel Miranda who congratulated the singer on his many accomplishments. Yatra treated the audience to a performance of his RIAA-certified singles – 4x Platino “UN AÑO”, the newly Platinum “Dos Oruguitas” from Encanto, and Platino “TACONES ROJOS.” Just before tonight’s festivities, along with the news that his single “Dos Oruguitas,” the first song in Spanish ever at the Oscars, earned Platinum, Yatra was also surprised with news that his album Dharma is officially 5x Platino. Of the accolades, he said, “music, our love for it, and our love for changing people’s lives that don’t have the same opportunities as us, it brings us together and makes us understand that we have a true opportunity nowadays to really make a big change in the world. I’m just happy that music has given me a voice, that it has given me a purpose.”
Marking the final award of the evening, Glazier presented Gloria Estefan with the Icon title. In a second virtual congratulations, Andy García expressed, “I cannot think of a more deserving person to get honored in this way. You have been such an extraordinary influence and inspiration to all of us, not only in your music but in the way you represent us in the world.” Gloria expressed, “Music changes things; the vibrations of music are healing. So, to be able to live my life in music, I’m just so proud. And Emilio saw something in me I just had to share with the world, that’s the most beautiful thing that I do and being in the joy of it all. I’m proud of every Latin artist, especially the women, look at all the women here today who are doing incredible things!”
Latin music is experiencing a meteoric rise reaching new audiences in the U.S., with revenues breaking $1 billion for the first time ever. Upcoming mid-year revenues will show this same explosive growth for 2023. Glazier closed the evening noting, “we are encouraged by the leadership and talent that uses the power of music to impact our society.” As the curtain closed on the 2023 celebration, the room was once again encouraged to get … On Your Feet! for a final medley performance, with Emilio joining for a signature spot on percussion.