Laura Pausini, Latin Recording Academy’s 2023 Person of the Year: ‘I Didn’t Think That Was Possible’

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In a few days, Laura Pausini will be honored as the Latin Recording Academy’s 2023 Person of the Year — becoming the first artist born outside of Latin America or Spain to receive the accolade, one of the biggest handed out each year as part of the Latin Grammy Awards celebrations. And although the news took her by surprise, she proudly says that she feels Latina.

“For 30 years I always say that I am the most Mexican, most Argentinian, most Spanish Italian… because I have grown up spending many days of my life with you,” says the Italian pop legend, who has recorded in Spanish since the beginning of her career. “Maybe not my blood, but my soul, my ideas, my ideals, I have made them grow with yours, and I feel Latin.”

On Wednesday, Nov. 15, on the eve of the 24th edition of the Latin Grammys — which for the first time leave the United States to take place in Seville, Spain — Pausini will be celebrated at a gala in which other stars will perform versions of her well-known repertoire. It’s something she has done for other Persons of the Year, from Juan Gabriel in 2009 to Marc Anthony in 2016 to Marco Antonio Solís last year. That means she knows the drill, and won’t know in advance who will sing for her that night, or which songs they will sing.

What she does know is that she will be accompanied by her entire family to cap off a year of great personal and professional achievements, including her March wedding to Paolo Carta after 18 years together; the recent release of Almas Paralelas, her first studio album in five years; her upcoming world tour, which starts in December; and of course, her award as Person of the Year.

“It is the true celebration of a life, of the lives of us Pausinis. I don’t see it only as my career,” says the star. “My family is obviously the one that knows the most about my love for Spanish, for Latin America, and my parents are very excited, my daughter, my husband, my sister will come.”

Born in Faenza, Italy, Pausini started her music career at age 19, rising to fame in 1993 after winning the 43rd Sanremo Music Festival. Her records have sold more than 70 million copies worldwide, she has done nine world tours, and landed three songs in the top 10 on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart: “Las Cosas Que Vives,” “Víveme” and “Como Si No Nos Hubiéramos Amado” — all of them Spanish versions of songs she originally recorded in Italian.

A Latin Grammy and Grammy winner, Pausini also shares a Golden Globe Award with Diane Warren for best original song, for “Io sì (Seen)” from the movie The Life Ahead, which was also nominated to an Oscar. Beyond music, she has been honored with the Starlite Humanitarian Award, the Global Gift Humanitarian Award, and was named Person of the Year by the Diversity Media Awards for her support of the LGBTQ+ community, among other honors.

“Laura Pausini is one of the most talented and beloved artists of her generation whose commitment to advocacy and equal rights is exemplary,” said Manuel Abud, CEO of The Latin Recording Academy, when the award was announced in May. “Throughout her more than three-decade career her extraordinary voice continually breaks down barriers across languages and genres, creating a special bond with audiences around the world.”

You have had a year full of emotions. How do you feel now, just a few days before being honored as Person of the Year?

I feel blessed, I must say, because after 30 years [career] what is happening in my life is not obvious. I realize all that and I feel very grateful. I hope I deserve all that, and that’s why I work so much, especially for the people who are still there, who continue to believe in me, perhaps more than myself, and give me the strength to continue.

What did you think when they told you that you were the Latin Recording Academy’s Person of the Year, being an Italian artist?

They told me that the president [Manuel Abud] wanted to talk to me. Since I had finished co-hosting Latin Grammys a few months earlier with Anitta, Thalia and Luis Fonsi, I thought that something was not good and that he wanted to tell me something about it. So we started this Zoom and he told me: “Laura, on behalf of the Academy, I want to tell you that you are the Person of the Year.”

I mean, very unexpected! Especially because of what you’ve said, I’m Italian, so I didn’t think that was possible for me. I asked him if I could video-call my father, since he was the one who instilled in me the love for music… Each of us was in another city, the three crying with joy. I really started sobbing like crazy, it was very emotional.

I didn’t expect it at all and I am very grateful that I am the first [honoree] who was not born in a Latin American country [or in Spain]. But, for 30 years I always say that I am the most Mexican Italian, the most Argentine, the most Spanish, the most everything, because I have grown up spending many days of my life with you. Maybe not my blood, but my soul, my ideas, my ideals, I have made them grow with yours, and I feel Latin.

Last year, you sang at the Marco Antonio Solís tribute as Person of the Year, and you have also done so at other galas in the past. How do you feel now that you will be the one honored and others will sing your songs for you?

(laughs) That makes me smile. Besides, I’m starting to imagine who will sing, whether it will be my friends I know or new singers. I have no idea because you can’t know, and I know how it works because, as you said, last year I sung for Marco Antonio, but I also sung for Marc Anthony and also for the great Juan Gabriel, so I already had the experience of being on stage as a guest while the Person of the Year did not know. So, this time it’s my turn and I receive it with great pride.

What do you expect from that night?

Well, my whole family will come, and it is the true celebration of a life, of the life of us Pausinis — I don’t see it only as my career. My family is obviously the one that knows the most about my love for Spanish, for Latin America, and my parents are very excited, my daughter, my husband, my sister will come. I don’t know if I can fully make people understand what it means for a person who has always been considered a “foreigner” to feel part of you. For us as a family it is to feel truly loved, as if we were born there. It’s something really very deep that touches a life within a person, more than a career.

You just released your first album in five years, Almas Paralelas. Why did it take so long?

Never before had so much time passed between the previous album and the new one, and I have to say that a lot of things have happened in my life in recent years, some incredible as you also already know, like the Golden Globe, an Oscar nomination, starring in a docu-film about my life… But there have also been moments of great insecurity, fear, doubt, especially thinking about the future as a woman, obviously as a mother, and logically as a singer.

I questioned how I could deserve, for example, the new awards that I won, because with every award that you win comes a new responsibility, and I was afraid of not being able to have new responsibilities. I wondered if I was really capable of accepting a daily challenge with what is happening today, every day, between the wars, imagine in Italy during COVID, but more importantly, with myself. So the truth is that I was blocked for a time. I needed help, and thanks to the people who are by my side, close to me, I regained some of my strength and then I began to challenge myself again, and worked, in a very long search, on new songs. I also worked hard to get to the point where I had the nerve to put my voice and face before everyone’s judgment.

Now I am very happy with what I am singing on my new album, Almas Paralelas. It is a truly conceptual album that covers 16 stories of real people that are different from each other. It is an album that celebrates diversity and the right to individuality, which in my opinion should be respected more as citizens of the same streets, but with different souls, different dreams, different desires. So on this album it’s like we live in a world with shared places, but not necessarily the same ideas. And in this world represented [on the album cover] by the street and its zebra crossing, I’d like there to always be respect and love between the individuals who inhabit it, and I would like for the listener to fall in love with the human beings who live like souls on a parallel path.

What have you learned about yourself in these 30 years of career?

I have learned that my stubbornness has saved me many times. My determination to be very honest with myself, and then with the audience, has allowed me to have no regrets — although it may have happened that some songs work better than others… Sometimes I’ve been suggested to change my style, or adapt more to what worked on the radio. At this point, I am happy to have been determined to listen to my skin in the selections of the songs, obviously trying to have new artists by my side, new producers who will help me maintain my melodic style, but with more contemporary, current sounds. I didn’t want to change.

In reality, I have not changed; I have grown in age and mentality, but I am not a different person. My ideals are the same, so I want my music to continue to be a reflection of my mind.

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