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Global Ambassador: Pitbull Has Serious Plans For The World

He’s known as Mr. Worldwide, and he’s circled the globe wowing audiences multiple times. But when Pitbull plays Las Vegas, the world comes to him.

“The energy in Vegas is amazing—it’s one of a kind,” says Pitbull, who sold out gigs in 2015 and 2016, and returns for eight shows July 21 to August 5 at the Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. “There are always fans from around the world coming to have the time of their lives. Connecting with them through music is incredible.”

Pitbull performs March 12, 2016 at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. Photos By Denise Truscello.

Pitbull performs March 12, 2016 at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. Photos By Denise Truscello.

Pitbull’s aptly named “Time of Our Lives” shows are an unparalleled blast of energy, a beat-driven celebration of partying hard and working harder, of good times and success. Because this son of Cuban political refugees and hip-hop underdog turned self-made superstar and entrepreneur has made his philosophy of going for it—¡Dale!—as important as his music.

“There’s no don’t, only do,” he says. “No can’t, only can. No impossible, only possible.” After a dizzying series of triumphs measured by numbers: billions of YouTube and Vevo views, millions of songs and albums sold, over 86 million social media followers, number one hits in 15 countries, and successful business ventures from Voli Vodka to partnerships with companies such as Bud Light and Norwegian Cruise Lines, it’s little wonder that Pitbull is looking to projects with less material goals.

POSITIVE INSPIRATION

His latest adventure? Joining motivational speaker Tony Robbins, whom Pitbull credits with moving him forward when he was first struggling to  make  it in Miami. “Growing up, my mom would play Tony Robbins’ tapes in the car,” Pitbull says. “Listening to him inspired me to look at life in a positive manner.”

“Music gave me the ability to connect with the world. It sees no limits, and that’s how I want people to see their lives, limitless.” – Pitbull

He’s joined Robbins on several speaking engagements, with plans to do more around the country this fall. “Today he’s  my mentor and friend,” Pitbull says of the best-selling author, self-help guru and motivational speaker, who also comes from a poor family that  struggled with drugs and divorce. “Life has really come full circle. Tony even had the good will of speaking at my Hollywood Walk of Fame star ceremony,” Pitbull says. “Tony has graciously included me at various events. I’m so thankful for these opportunities.”

He continues, “Music gave me the ability to connect with the world. It sees no limits, and that’s how I want people to see their lives, limitless.”

Pitbull is bringing that same conquer-it-all message to young people, via his Sports Leadership and Management charter schools, or SLAM. He opened the first academy in Miami’s Little Havana in 2013. And last September, Pitbull was the main attraction at the grand  opening of the SLAM Academy of Nevada in Henderson, just south of Las Vegas. The focus of SLAM is to train  students  for careers in sports entrepreneurship and leadership, parlaying  advanced technology and business partnerships that emphasize real world experience and innovation. Speaking to a crowd of cheering kids at their new campus in Henderson, Nevada — Pitbull had a more exciting message.

“What we’re doing here at SLAM is teaching you that there are no boundaries,” he announced. “They say the sky is the limit, right? Nah. There are footprints on the moon. We got to go past the sky.”

Pitbull, who bounced from school to school growing  up and didn’t go to college, now thinks good education is crucial. “Education is power,” he says.

“We want to change the way we relate to education. Whether you want to be in business, tech or the arts, SLAM gives students the possibility to explore their passions.”

Pitbull breaks ground on a Sports Leadership and Management charter school in Henderson, Nevada. Photo by Greg Waterman.

Pitbull breaks ground on a Sports Leadership and Management charter school in Henderson, Nevada. Photo by Greg Waterman.

Just like he did in Little Havana, one of the immigrant, working- class Miami neighborhoods where he grew up, Pitbull sees his own history in the Las Vegas area, and a chance to do some- thing for people beyond entertaining them.

“We chose Vegas for the  second SLAM location because of the people. We researched and saw the chance to make a difference in the lives of others. It also gave me the ability of leaving my legacy in Vegas outside  of  the [music] residency.”

PATH TO STARDOM

A legacy of striving for success is in Pitbull’s blood. His parents fled an oppressive Communist government in Cuba for Miami. Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Christian Pérez, grew up in poor black and Latino neighborhoods, where struggle, drugs, poverty and violence were part of daily life, and the heroes were Pacino’s Scarface and raunchy rap godfather Luther “Luke” Campbell.

But Pitbull’s dad, who drank and dealt drugs, would set his toddler son up on Little Havana bars to recite poems by José Martí, the hero of Cuban independence. His mother kicked her misbehaving son out of the house at 17, telling him “If you’re gonna go to jail, go for something big. Don’t go for something stupid.” One of his earliest tattoos was “D.I.M.,” for “Do It for Mom.” [He didn’t move his family into a good neighborhood until he had enough money to buy a house]. When he first began making noise as a rapper, one of his nicknames was “The Blue-Eyed Dog” — the lone white-skinned Latino in an overwhelmingly African-American hip-hop scene. Pitbull sold his CD’s on the street, and hustled relentlessly. And “Mr. 305 Till I Die” made his success a celebration of Miami, of Cubans, Latinos and immigrants — everyone who’s trying to make it.

Pitbull with Tony Robbins at Pitbull's Hollywood Star ceremony. Photo by Greg Waterman.

Pitbull with Tony Robbins at Pitbull’s Hollywood Star ceremony. Photo by Greg Waterman.

“When hip-hop started it was just explaining the black struggle,” he told  the Miami Herald  in 2001. “Now everybody struggles, and it’s no longer about where you’re from, but where you can get.”

He’s kept in touch with his Cuban roots. He recorded with Gente de Zona, the Havana reggaeton duo who joined Enrique Iglesias on his global megahit with “Bailando.” More recently, Pitbull teamed up with Camila Cabello, the rising  star  from Fifth Harmony who’s also a Miami-raised Cuban immigrant, on the sexy “Hey Ma,” for The Fate of the Furious soundtrack. And he keeps his  music  fresh  by partnering with artists  of every kind. On his latest album, Climate Change, Pitbull  is  joined by Jason Derulo, Stephen Marley, Robin Thicke, Enrique Iglesias (he and the Latin superstar and fellow  Miamian are touring together again), and Jennifer Lopez, to name a few.

Even now that he’s on top of the world, Pitbull keeps pushing—to have a good time, to reinvent himself,  to  try  something new.

He says his Zappos Theater shows will be a new experience, both for him and the audience.

“I’m very thankful to Caesars and Planet Hollywood for giving us the opportunity to have another residency,” he says. “I’m excited to bring back Miami, the city of vice, to the city of sin. The show is always evolving. As a matter of fact, the shows in July will have a completely new production. Everyone from the dancers, The Most Bad Ones, to the band, The Agents, to production loves the Vegas show.”

One of the few summits Pitbull hasn’t reached is a permanent Las Vegas residency. Would he like to make the city a second home? “I’m always open to new opportunities. I love performing in Vegas and can’t wait to see what the future brings,” he says. “It’s always important to engage with my fans because without them there is no Pitbull, there is no movement. ¡Dale!

About The Author

Jordan Levin has been writing about Latin music, pop culture, and arts and entertainment from Miami since the early '90s. She is a former longtime staff writer at the Miami Herald, and has freelanced for the LA Times, Billboard, Ocean Drive, the New York Times, and many more. A former dancer, she's a mom to a music theater loving teenage daughter. "I discovered Pitbull when I was writing a story on Latin hip hop for the Miami Herald in 2001. I was driving when I heard him on a Miami radio contest which called him "the blue-eyed dog" and I was blown away. He came out of the speakers like a bullet. When I finally tracked him down, he came to my house, and immediately zeroed in on a huge portrait of Jose Marti on my mantle (I was obsessed with Cuban music at the time.) That's when he told me his dad used to put him on top of bars to recite Marti's poetry. We had a great conversation. I think that was the first time he got written up in a mainstream publication."

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