Gloria Estefan transformed the trajectory of Latin music. Her albums have sold over 50 million copies, and Mi Tierra, her Spanish-language magnum opus about Cuba, set the stage for the success of musicians like Shakira, J Balvin, Karol G, and Bad Bunny.
Now, the Estefans—Gloria, niece and Univision star Lili, and daughter and rising musician Emily—are changing the world of online video by broaching today’s most compelling social issues. Their Facebook Watch series, “Red Table Talk: The Estefans,” returns for season two during the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month on Thursday, September 30th.
Topics during the upcoming twelve-week run include colorism, child sexual molestation, the recent crisis within Cuba, and online bullying.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
What was the most difficult topic in the shows so far?
Gloria Estefan: Emily’s coming out episode. For me, it was incredibly impactful. I think it did a lot of good for other people experiencing difficulties speaking to their family members.
Lili Estefan: For me, my divorce. Not only because I was going through it, but it was the first show we sat at the table to do. I had nothing to compare it with, right? I call it the—what is it, tia, bautismo de fuego?
Gloria: Baptism of fire! [Laughs]
Emily Estefan: The hardest conversations are high risk, high reward. That’s what’s so awesome about what Jada [Pinkett Smith, creator of the original Red Table Talk], [her daughter] Willow and [mother] Adrienne started. Bravery is infectious.
It’s not always comfortable to go through that healing process with cameras on you. But it’s a really safe environment. We hide the cameras. We talk for hours and that gets condensed to the 25 minutes the world sees. We don’t even get up to pee sometimes. I needed five different chairs, because I’ve soiled them. [Laughs] No, I’m just kidding.
It’s empowering to do this healing within the family, share it with the world—and on our own terms.
Lili: After my divorce episode, the biggest surprise for me was men coming up and telling me, ‘I also went through the same thing.’
Emily: What else were those men telling you, prima? [Laughs]
Lili: Like they wanted to go on a date? I swear no, mama, you would see them having this difficult process. It was rewarding to be able to connect with so many, especially the women out there.
Emily, how’s the dynamic between you and your mom nowadays? Does being so vulnerable in public change your mom-daughter relationship coming home?
Emily: Strong relationships between mothers and daughters are oftentimes intense and have their fiery moments because of the closeness we have, especially in the Latino world.
After the coming out episode, it was a challenge because it’s one thing to shoot this in private, then another thing to have the entire world comment on it. Not everybody’s thoughts were nice.
At the table, she and I, at moments, were pitted against each other. And that’s a beautiful part of the conversation—that it’s a growing conversation. Because as mothers and daughters, we always continue to learn about each other.
My mom says you can’t fake real. What you see is what you get at that table. And that’s the same at home. There are still moments in episodes coming up where we had some fire at the table. You can’t just stand up and walk away. We have to find bridges—
Gloria: You tried—
Emily: Tried, but that’s because you wouldn’t stop talking about your sex life with dad!
Gloria: Hold on. I did not talk about my—although Lili tried, by all means possible, to ask questions that really have no business being on the table. But that’s beside the point.
My only comment is I wish Emily was still living at home. Coming home was not an issue because she has her own home.
But look, we’ve always had a strong relationship. There were some surprises for me. What we all learn the most is, like Lili says, we need to check in and maybe ask different questions. Because I spend my life asking questions of my kids. I always tried to be very inclusive and open and have a household that felt like a safe space—or so I thought.
Is there topic that’s off limits on your Facebook Watch show?
Gloria: Nothing’s off limits. But obviously, we would rather go into spaces that are healing and build bridges rather than divides.
There are certain topics, one of them being politics, where logic doesn’t matter right now. It is such a volatile and emotional issue for everyone. I really couldn’t see what healing could come, although we do talk about respect for other people’s opinions, which is, I feel, something that we’re losing. Nobody could talk politics at home, even when I was a kid, because [mixing] politics and Cubans is like starting a fire in a gasoline factory.
Emily: Mom said, ‘This is off the table, now let me tell you about it.’ [Laughs]
Gloria: We didn’t talk about this topic at the table. But it’s important and we must stand up for democracy every chance we can.
Emily: We have a show on Cuba. We have amazing guests on that episode. We spoke to someone who was literally there. If this episode can be used as a token to be passed around—because that’s what’s beautiful about Facebook Watch. You press a button, and it reaches the whole world. You can educate yourself about different opinions, what’s going on in the real experience.
We highlight other places in the world—Haiti, Mexico—there’s so much going on everywhere. But like my mom said, we have to learn to respect each other’s opinions because we’re never going to agree completely.
Gloria, you said one of the hardest topics for you was Emily’s coming out episode. What advice would you give families with loved ones who are revealing their sexual orientation or gender identity?
Gloria: I say just listen in love. That’s it. Our children are our children. We’re there to love them unconditionally. As they become adults, the dynamic has to change, so listen and ask questions.
Lili: But we know with Latino families, our tradition is not to engage in topics that are hard. My advice is don’t be afraid to start the conversation. Be prepared for a little back and forth on some things that you’re not going to like at the beginning. I promise you, at the end, the angle is going to be a good one. We saw with Emily. Emily changed. Emily needed to do this.
Emily: It’s difficult. I think we should change the whole concept of coming out, feeling this pressure as somebody who has any sexual identity that isn’t heterosexual, like you have to announce your sexuality, your private life. That’s a very intimate thing. You don’t have to come out as straight.
I would love to see a world where teenagers and whatever are encouraged to just explore what they want to do without feeling the need to strap any labels on it.
The world is changing, but there’s still a lot of friction around the subject. Something we spoke about on the episode that’s important—if you feel like you need to, absolutely share, but make sure you’re sharing with someone that, like The Red Table, is providing a safe space for you.
Listen to The Revolución Podcast episode featuring Gloria, Lili, and Emily Estefan with co-hosts Diego Lastra, Linda Lane Gonzalez, Kathryn Garcia Castro, and Court Stroud on Apple Podcasts, iHeartMedia, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Deezer or by clicking here.