Soraya was discovered by PolyGram Records while flying for United Airlines, barely five years after graduating from Douglass College at Rutgers University in 1991. Born in New Jersey to Colombian parents, she used her fluent command of Spanish and English to write and perform in both languages. She was a brilliant musician … a composer, lyricist, producer and arranger. Soraya’s first album, titled En Esta Noche/On Nights Like This, debuted in 1996. It was released in both Spanish and English – a first in the recording industry – and as a result, her music was promoted worldwide. This first offering quickly sold more than one million copies, and Soraya instantly became a major star throughout Latin America, Germany, Spain, Australia and Puerto Rico. She was well-known to Latin music fans in the United States as well.

In October of 1997, Soraya released her second album, Torre de Marfil/Wall of Smiles, which featured a title track that she co-wrote with Carole King. A number of songs from this album charted in various parts of the world, and Soraya was on the road constantly, literally performing in Argentina one night and Germany the next. She became a fixture on magazine covers and had the privilege of performing and collaborating with many great musical talents.



By May of 2000, Soraya’s third album, Cuerpo y Alma/I’m Yours, was ready for distribution. She was incredibly proud of this work and thought it was strong enough to rival her chart-topping first record. Soraya was prepared to hit the road for concerts, promotions and personal appearances to publicize the record, but life had other plans for her. On June 5th, just one week after the album’s release, a distressing lump she had found on her breast was diagnosed as Stage III breast cancer.

For a woman who was only 31, this was devastating news, made even more sinister by Soraya’s lethal family legacy. Her grandmother, aunt and mother had all passed away from the disease. Soraya was unfortunately all too aware of what her future might hold. Instead of sinking into overwhelming self-pity, however, she dug deep within herself and “found the woman I never thought I could be.”

Forced to immediately put her career on hold and focus on keeping herself alive, Soraya decided to go public with her illness. Her frankness about her condition marked one of the first times a prominent Hispanic-American woman admitted to having breast cancer. Prior to her diagnosis, Soraya had already been serving as the Latin Ambassador for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® foundation, spreading the word about the importance of awareness and early detection. But she never anticipated that her own very personal story would become the one that would help wake up the world. After her diagnosis earlier in the month, Soraya went into her backyard, looked directly into a video camera, spoke from her heart and told the world she was immediately pausing her career to fight the disease. Her team posted the message on her website and within hours, the press had picked up the story. The public revelation that Soraya had breast cancer created an astounding impact, and she soon received more than 6,000 e-mail messages.

While many people offered sentiments of sympathy and comfort, many others requested additional information and insight into breast cancer. Soraya knew that a tradition of silence surrounded the disease in the Latina culture, but the e-mails she received demonstrated how acute the problem really was. Hispanic women are diagnosed later, and as a result are more likely to die from the disease. Soraya would have much healing to do before she could help change those tragic facts, but it wasn’t long before the fighter took over and she decided that her life would now have a new plan – one where she could make a difference for other women. In loving memory of the three women her family had lost so painfully, breaking down the cultural barriers surrounding breast cancer became Soraya’s new mission.

Shortly after her June diagnosis, Soraya set a goal. By October, she would participate in Miami’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® event. Not only did she accomplish her goal of walking in the race, but she also held a press conference and performed?even though she had undergone a bilateral mastectomy only days earlier. Soraya had so much to say in this forum. She wholeheartedly believed that speaking out was critical to breaking cultural taboos, but it wasn’t always an easy task. Although her record company was very supportive, certain music professionals and image-makers insisted she was killing her own sex appeal and irreparably damaging her career by talking openly about breast cancer and losing her own breasts.

Still, Soraya continued to deliver her message. Spanning 2000 to 2002 was tough, as those years were filled with grueling treatments and deep introspection. Soraya asked herself how she could get her mind on the same track her body had no choice but to take. She didn’t want to merely accept her new reality?she strove to get on it and ride. One of Soraya’s early realizations was that one key to happiness is identifying those things that give you true fulfillment and then reorganizing your life to focus on those priorities. At the time, however, she didn’t know how much life she had left to live. What she knew for certain, however, was that devoting her time to her mission and her music would give her life a deep sense of purpose and joy.

One morning in the spring of 2002, Soraya rolled out of bed, planted her feet firmly on the floor, took a deep breath and noticed that for the first time since getting sick, she could breathe again … really breathe! She had just completed her treatments, and her breast cancer was declared to be in remission. She immediately penned her survival anthem, a song called “Por Ser Quien Soy/No One Else,” and she vowed to donate all of its profits to the cause. Soraya was quickly working her way toward a life where she could fully devote her professional energies to her mission and to her music.

In 2003, Soraya signed a new contract with EMI Latin and released her fourth album, the self-titled Soraya. The first single, “Casi,” (meaning “Almost”), was a testament to her resilience and her survival. The song soared to #1 in many countries, including the United States. On the mission front, Soraya’s resurgent musical fame allowed her to turn the spotlight away from herself and onto the issue. Soraya amassed volumes of press coverage in this country and abroad, exposing women all over the world to critical information about breast cancer.

As she found her voice, Soraya learned to powerfully relay her own experiences and the epiphanies about life that the illness had brought her. Her gentle empathy had a profound effect. People would wipe tears from their eyes as they listened to her describe what it means to be a woman after a disease has taken your breasts, and how to “live a life full of life,” regardless of whether you have five years or 50 left to go.

The years following her cancer diagnosis were filled with incredible moments of revelation and joy. By 2004, Soraya was back on top musically. She won a Latin GRAMMY®, performed on internationally televised awards shows, sold out her own concerts and was all over magazine covers. Most important to herself, though, she had clear evidence that her speaking out was making a difference. She could see the results ... she was inspiring both people and change.

By 2005, Soraya’s career was moving at full velocity. Another album had emerged, titled El Otro Lado de Mi (Soraya’s loose translation was The Better Side of Me). As she traveled to places like Puerto Rico, Chile, Argentina and Colombia to promote it, crowds would greet her by singing her latest hit at the top of their lungs. Always smiling, she was headlining before packed houses and audiences. She was a bigger musical sensation than she had ever been.

Unbeknownst to her fans and the press, however, her cancer had returned with a vengeance. Soraya’s life was quietly taking a tragic turn. In a demonstration of magnificent heart and courage, she did not return home. She spent the last full year of her life relentlessly crisscrossing the U.S. and Latin America, promoting her mission and her music with a palpable sense of urgency. As she performed and lent her voice to many great people working to eradicate breast cancer as a life-threatening disease, Soraya was very, very ill.

In November of 2005, after a final appearance at the Latin GRAMMY® Awards show in Los Angeles, Soraya’s health took a serious turn. She finally decided it was time to go back to Miami to enjoy her family and friends and to pursue the most aggressive treatments available. She was confident that she would knock the cancer back into remission. Soraya started writing about her incredible journey, picking up a book she had begun writing some time before. She wrote through the spring of 2006, keeping her illness from all but a few close friends and the pages of her manuscript. It was only later when she shared her thoughts that those around her realized the book had partly become a journal; a place where she could reveal intimate thoughts about her own mortality, and where she could share the incredible ways she was finding to extract the most out of her journey.

Soraya left us on May 10th, 2006. SORAYA: A Life of Music, a Legacy of Hope was her last great effort. To honor Soraya's wish, the royalties owed to her estate from this book will be donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. In her autobiography, Soraya shares her thoughts on how to live with hope and possibility, no matter the circumstance. It is a breathtaking affirmation of life, inspiring in its courage and Soraya’s refusal to abandon her faith. Above all, this book is a triumphant story of achievement that will leave you asking yourself what more you can do with the one life you have. Soraya’s last work is a gift to any woman who must summon the courage to cope with life’s ever-present, unplanned challenges?just as Soraya did herself.