Today, Camila Cabello is a superstar singer touring the globe with Fifth Harmony. But her story started 19 years ago in Havana, Cuba, where she was born to a Cuban mother and Mexican father. On Thursday, September 15, she shared her childhood with fans in an eloquent personal essay for Pop Sugar.
“We lived back and forth between the heat of Havana and the concrete jungle of Mexico City,” she revealed. After she turned 7, her and her mom immigrated to the U.S. “‘We’re going to Disney World!’ That’s what my Mom told me when we were crossing the border. She packed a little backpack with my Winnie the Pooh journal and my doll, and we crossed the border from Mexico to the U.S., seeing my Dad become an ant in the distance as he stayed behind.”
Her dad joined them a year and half later in Miami, “risking his life” to cross the border between Mexico and the U.S. Meanwhile, Cabello’s mom was forced to give up her career as an architect — “none of the degrees she earned in Cuba counted” — to work as a sales associate and learn English.
“Immigrants have one thing in common: Hunger,” Cabello wrote. “I don’t mean it literally, although that’s true too, but metaphorically. The hunger to do the impossible because you have no choice, because you came too damn far, because you’ve known what struggling is, and you’re not going to take an opportunity for granted.”
That hunger, she said, is what motivated her life-changing X Factor audition that led to Fifth Harmony’s formation. At the time, she had never sung in front of people before, but she didn’t let that minor detail deter her dreams.
“I learned from my family that if you work hard enough and you want it badly enough, you can do the impossible,” she explained. “I am so proud to be Cuban-Mexican. This country was built on immigrants. People who were brave enough to start over. How strong we are to leave behind everything we know in hopes of something better. We are not fearless, we just have dreams bigger than our fears. We jump. We run. We swim, we move mountains, we do whatever it takes.”