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Soraya Raquel Lamilla Cuevas




Soraya: A Life of Music, A Legacy of Hope
(from www.soraya.com)

Highlights and Timeline

Long before singer-songwriter Soraya was diagnosed with breast cancer, she started to build a legacy as a woman determined to break the silence
that surrounded breast cancer and pervaded the Latin community worldwide. She also used her musical fame as a platform to inform women about
the importance of early detection. She encouraged women to "Fight for your life, you deserve it." Later, she would use her own words as her personal
mantra for survival.

• Soraya is born to Gregorio and Yamila Lamilla, who immigrated to New Jersey from Colombia in 1967.

• To feed Soraya’s passion for music, her father buys her first guitar, which she teaches herself to play. She later takes up the violin.

• Soraya earns a spot on the New York City Youth Symphony Orchestra at age 12.
• She performs at Carnegie Hall.
• Throughout Soraya’s childhood she remains close to her Colombian roots and her extended family there.

• Soraya is class valedictorian and earns a four-year scholarship to Douglas College at Rutgers University.
• Her mother 46, is diagnosed with breast cancer.

• Soraya graduates from Rutgers and moves with her family to Miami.
• She works as a flight attendant for United Airlines on Latin American routes.
• She focuses on writing music and earning enough money to record her demo.

• Her mother loses her battle with breast cancer.

• Soraya signs a major recording contract with Island/PolyGram records and is scheduled for twin releases in English and in Spanish.

• Soraya’s first album, "On Nights Like This/En Esta Noche" sells over a million copies worldwide.
• "Suddenly/De Repente" is a number one hit in Mexico, Colombia, the United States, Peru, Argentina, Chile, and all of Central America.
• Her second single, "Avalanche/Avalancha" also hits the Top 10 in many countries.
• Joyce Fleming becomes Soraya’s tour manager.

• Soraya tours with Sting, Michael Bolton, Natalie Merchant and Alannis Morisette.
• BMI awards her the Songwriter’s Award for "Suddenly/De Repente." The same song reached #1 on Billboard’s Hot Latin Tracks, received MTV Latino’s Best
  Video by Female Artist award, and was awarded Best Pop Ballad by Premios Tu Musica.
• Soraya is named to the Top 10 Latin Songwriter list by Billboard magazine.
• In the U.S., both Variety and Time call Soraya one of the most influential women in Spanish music.
• Soraya releases her second CD, "Wall of Smiles/Torre de Marfil” featuring the up-tempo "Paris, Cali, Milan" and the emotional ballad "So Far Away."

• Soraya focuses her attention on writing songs for her third album.
• She meets Nancy Brinker at a Miami TV fundraiser for breast cancer and later, is named Latin Ambassador for Susan G. Komen for the Cure®.

• A few days before releasing her third CD, “I'm Yours/Cuerpo y Alma” and travels to Colombia to say an emotional goodbye to her favorite Aunt America who
  is dying from breast cancer.
• While in Colombia, Soraya discovers a lump while in the shower and hurries back home where doctors diagnose her with aggressive Stage III breast cancer.
• She decides to go public about her diagnosis and puts her career on hold for treatment. Immediately following Soraya’s announcement, she receives over
  6,000 E-mails from fans, other patients and many members of the Hispanic community looking for breast cancer information.
• Soraya receives two chemotherapy treatments. Because of her family's history of breast cancer, she chooses to have a double mastectomy.

• Soraya decides she is ready to return to her music career. She opens five shows for Sting.
• Soraya walks with Costa Rican First Lady Lorena Clare de Rodriguez Echeverria in that nation's first Race for the Cure in March 2001.
• She has reconstructive surgery just weeks before the Miami Race for the Cure. Determined to show people that your life continues even when you have the
  disease, she holds a press conference with international media, performs and hands out breast cancer literature.
• Soraya writes, "No One Else/Por Ser Quien Soy" that chronicles her emotional and physical journey through breast cancer. She vows all proceeds to forever
  benefit breast cancer.

• Procter & Gamble agrees to underwrite the production of a bilingual CD-ROM featuring the “No One Else/Por Ser Quien Soy” music video and inspirational
  educational video urging women to take charge of their breast health. Between 2002-2004, over 115,000 CD-ROMs are distributed to English and Spanish-
  speaking consumers nationwide.

• Soraya releases her comeback CD, her self-titled album, Soraya. Considered an anthem of survival, the song, "Almost/Casi" hits number one in the US and
• Soraya performs her first full-length headline show since 2000 in Puerto Rico.
• Soraya partners with sanofi-aventis to become spokesperson for their online patient support program called www.livingwithit.org. Between 2003 and the end
  of 2005, she makes over 40 appearances, providing education, support and hope, and speaking to Komen Race for the Cure participants, medical
  professionals, breast cancer patients, the media, and sanofi-aventis employees. Soraya’s words of support and hope are shared by sanofi-aventis with
  nearly 200,000 breast cancer patients in this three-year time frame.
• She becomes a spokesperson for General Mills' Yoplait “Save Lids to Save Lives” campaign encouraging women to participate in their breast health. Radio
  and television interviews and appearances garner tens of millions of media impressions.

• Soraya wins a Latin Grammy in the Best Singer Songwriter category for her CD, "Soraya."
• She receives Latin Billboard’s Spirit of Hope Award for her tireless work to raise awareness and educate the Hispanic community about breast cancer.

• Soraya’s fifth CD, "The Better Side of Me/El Otro Lado De Mi" is released and acclaimed by many to be her best.
• Soraya’s cancer returns, but she chooses not to share the news publicly as her music and breast cancer efforts continue to gain momentum. This time she
  intends to show people what you can accomplish while battling breast cancer.
• Soraya continues songwriting for other artists and writes Ricky Martin’s 2005 hit "It’s Alright."
• "The Better Side of Me/El Otro Lado De Mi" is nominated for a Latin Grammy in the Best Female Pop Vocal Album category.
• Soraya makes her last public appearance on Nov. 3 at the Latin Grammy’s in Los Angeles. She was nominated for Best Pop Album by a Female for "El Otro
   Lado de Mi." She looked like a beautiful Hollywood starlet that night, completely belying the war her body was fighting with itself beneath the surface of her
   skin. The following day, Soraya is scheduled to make an appearance for sanofi-aventis. However, after the awards ceremony, her health takes a turn for
   the worse and she returns home immediately.

• Soraya continues writing songs and finishes drafting a book to share her story and to inspire others dealing with serious illness or personal tragedy.
• On May 7, Soraya receives the first typeset pages of the manuscript by Joyce Fleming, her personal manager.
• On May 9 Soraya posts a goodbye letter on her Website. "I know there are many questions without answers, and that hope doesn’t leave with me, and
  above all, that my mission does not end with my physical story," she wrote.
• On May 10, Soraya says her final goodbye.






Bilingual singer/songwriter Soraya experienced a series of ups and downs over the course of her career, resulting in a catalog of music that chronicles that journey in all its glory and struggle

Born in Point Pleasant, NJ, in 1969 to Colombian parents who had immigrated from Lebanon, her career got off to a smashing start in 1996 with the release of a pair of hit-laden albums: En Esta Noche and On Nights Like This, the latter an English-language version of the former. In particular, "De Repente" was a huge international hit and would remain her signature tune for years.

She followed this success with a pair of albums — Torre de Marfil (1997) and Cuerpo y Alma (2000) — that saw her popularity erode steadily, though these albums were anything but poor, expanding her style to incorporate a broader palette, most notably a tinge of worldbeat flourishes. These albums had their share of hits, too, but none on a par with the international recognition of "De Repente." This brought her contract with Universal Music Latino to an end, and she left the label, signing instead to EMI.

During this transition, Soraya waged a life-threatening battle with breast cancer, one that would inform her debut album for EMI, Soraya (2003). This self-titled album ushered her back to international fame, spawning the number one hit "Casi" and earning her a Latin Grammy. With her popularity returned to peak level, she recorded the follow-up in her native Colombia.

That album, El Otro Lado de Mi (2005), was a more complex and rocking one than her previous effort, yet it too was met with substantial commercial success, scoring a big hit with "Llevame." Around this time Universal was busy releasing numerous compilations of her tenure there, further adding to an already impressive catalog.

Sadly, Soraya lost her battle with cancer on May 10, 2006, at age 37, concluding her life and musical accomplishments prematurely (Herencia, a best-of collection, was released posthumously that same year). In the wake of her departure, she was remembered not only as a major Latin artist but also as an advocate for breast cancer awareness. Her activism was well noted and deemed admirable.




  Soraya Raquel Lamilla Cuevas (March 11, 1969 – May 10, 2006) was a Colombian-American songwriter, guitarist, arranger, record producer, and singer. She was a successful Latin music star who had two number-one songs on Billboard's Latin Pop Airplay charts. She won a 2004 Latin Grammy Awards for "Best Songwriting" and a 2005 Latin Grammy Awards nomination for "Female Pop Vocal Album" for her album El Otro Lado de Mi. She was the opening act for the 2005 Billboard Latin Music Awards. Her career spanned ten years, and she recorded five albums.

Early life

Soraya Lamilla was a U.S. citizen born in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, one year after her father, mother, and brother moved to the United States from Colombia. Her family was forced to move back to Colombia, but when Soraya was eight years old, they returned to New Jersey. "Soraya" is a very common name in the Middle East. Soraya's maternal side of the family were Lebanese Christians who emigrated from Lebanon to Colombia.

Soraya's mother, Yamila Cuevas Gharib, was a housewife in Colombia, but when the family moved to the United States, her parents had to work extremely hard. Her father worked three or four jobs, and it was hard for the family to make ends meet. In Colombia he worked for an exporting company.

Soraya was never allowed to speak English in her house while growing up. It was the one thing that her mother insisted upon. Her father brought the family to the United States because he wanted to increase the opportunities for himself and his children. Her father studied English long before he arrived in the United States, but her mother preferred to speak Spanish although she did learn English, as well. While her mother wanted Soraya and her brother to become fluent in English in school, she also wanted them to retain their ability to communicate well in Spanish.

When Soraya's mother was first diagnosed with breast cancer, Soraya was only twelve years old. Then Soraya's mother had a recurrence when Soraya was eighteen years old, and then her mother died in 1992 when Soraya was twenty-two years old. Soraya said that her sense of responsibility increased because she needed to take care of her mother and do all of the chores around the house. It forced her to grow up faster than other children her age. Soraya would go to the doctor's office with her mother, and did research with her about breast cancer, and participated in the Race for the Cure with her.

Soraya first became interested in music at the age of five when she heard her uncle playing music in Colombia. Her uncle played Colombian traditional folk music on an instrument called the tiple, which is a kind of guitar with triple strings. Her parents purchased a guitar for her at her request, and she taught herself to play it. She became proficient in classical violin and her first 'public' performance was as a violinist at Carnegie Hall in New York City. As a high school student, Soraya began writing her own music in English and Spanish.

Soraya attended Rutgers University in New Jersey, where she studied English literature, French philosophy and women's studies. Initially, Soraya worried she might be too shy to play before big crowds, but she eventually triumphed over her fear and realized her tremendous talent as a live performer when she played to rapt audiences at coffee houses and rallies around the sprawling Rutgers campus.

Musical career

Soraya obtained a record contract with Polygram Latino/Island Records in 1996. Her first album, called En Esta Noche (English-language version On Nights Like This), received positive critical acclaim and enabled her to tour and open for famous musicians such as Natalie Merchant, Zucchero, Sting, Michael Bolton, and Alanis Morissette.

Four of her songs climbed to the top of the charts just about everywhere in the Latin American and U.S. Hispanic markets, and her single "Suddenly/De Repente" dominated the Billboard Latin Pop listings. Her second album, Torre de Marfil (English-language version Wall of Smiles), co-written with her idol Carole King and released in late 1997, helped her attain worldwide recognition.

Unfortunately, her breast cancer was diagnosed shortly after the release of her third album — just before she was about to tour to promote it. Yet, Soraya created two more successful albums before she finally succumbed to the disease in 2006.

Breast cancer advocate

Soraya died of breast cancer on May 10, 2006, age 37. She was first diagnosed in 2000, at the age of 31, after finding a lump while conducting a routine self-examination. She was diagnosed at Stage III and had a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction as well as radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Before being diagnosed, she had always eaten right, exercised regularly (trying to run at least 3 miles a day), meditated, and received regular health check-ups.

Soraya had previously lost her mother, grandmother, and maternal aunt to breast cancer. She was a breast cancer advocate for support and education, especially of Hispanic women. Soraya became the first Latin spokesperson for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, touring all the Americas to raise awareness. During September and October, she took a break from her music career to focus on breast cancer awareness.

In order to encourage other women, Soraya wrote and recorded "No One Else/Por Ser Quien Soy", a song that reflects her experience in fighting breast cancer. Both tracks can be downloaded on her official website. All proceeds benefit the Susan Koman foundation.

"I know there are many questions without answers, and that hope doesn't leave with me, and above all, that my mission does not end with my physical story," were Soraya's last words to her fans and the media before her passing.

From Wikipedia