To Gloria Estefan, the most motivating word ever is "no." Instead of listening to naysayers who called their music "too American for Latins and too Latin for Americans," her and her husband, Emilio, chose to break the mold, leading her to become one of the most successful crossover artists of all time.

The seven-time Grammy® award winner and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient sat down with Chief Member Sofia Hernandez to pull back the curtain on her storied career, including her many firsts as a woman and a Cuban American. In this candid conversation, Estefan shared the inspirations behind her unending authenticity and how she's using her platform to put Latinas in the spotlight. Read on to hear more about what powers her success across entertainment, philanthropy, and business.

On Being Unapologetically Authentic

"Challenging experiences are going to be everywhere in life, but I remember specifically when we first got signed to Discos CBS/Sony and they flew us to New York. We're sitting there with one of the execs, and he's saying to us, 'I think you need to get rid of the horns and get rid of the percussion so you can blend in more. Maybe you can dress this way, or you can look this way, or maybe you should change your name.' Let me just say that Emilio's parting words to that person were two words and they weren't 'Happy birthday.'

"They try to change you in this business to try to fit a mold, and all the success we've ever had is because we broke the mold. You don't want to be the last person to the party, joining something that's already been happening. We were trying to create something new and fresh and different. And thank the lord that we didn't listen to any of that advice, because Emilio and I have been unapologetically Latin and unapologetically who we are our entire life. Let me tell you something, people know real. You can't fake real."

On How to Feel Comfortable in Any Room

"Preparing. I want to have the best tools available. I couldn't afford vocal lessons when I was a kid. I sang from the heart and I sang emotionally, which is what I think people connect to, but I knew that if I was going to do this as a career that I was going to need to know what the hell I was doing. So the minute I could, I started taking voice lessons. I started taking acting lessons long before I ever was offered any acting roles.

"You have to be able to feel comfortable, whether you're talking to heads of state or the queen of England, or the Pope. And the only way that I really felt that I could be [comfortable] was to be ready and be prepared. I like to know what I'm doing and not be improvised. I want to be able to hold a conversation with any person, and that takes education, that takes learning and continuing to learn. I learn every day in my life and it excites me to learn new things."

On Choosing Your Version of Balance

"We can do everything. The keyword to me is 'balance.' We need to be able to choose that balance for ourselves. To some women, it'll be all work because that's what they want to do and that's fantastic. To some women it'll be, 'You know what? I think I want to take this time in my life and be there for my kids.' And for some women, it will be juggling that the entire time. But we can do it. We've been doing it for eons, for centuries, and now we just have more opportunities.

"I haven't toured since 2004 — a world tour — because I always thought, 'I'm going to take the luxury of really spending my time doing what I want to do.' And a lot of that is philanthropy. That's the bottom line. Cut out the time from your life to keep alive who you are, because it just makes you stronger. You're not going to please everyone at every moment, so you need to do what makes you happy and what makes you whole. The better we are as women and the more solid we are, the better job we're going to do as mothers, as CEOs, as whatever it is we do in life. You need to be good with yourself. Be patient. Don't expect too much of yourself either because we're humans. Try to do as much as you can, but realize that everything is a balance. There are moments when some things have to take precedence over others, and don't be afraid to make those decisions, to make those calls."

On Accepting Change

"I wrote about it in 'Always Tomorrow': The only one sure thing is change. We can't be afraid of it. We can't be entrenched. We have to adapt and conform. When things happen, you need to look around and say, 'OK, this has happened now, what are my alternatives? Where can I move to? Perhaps this is the right moment to do this that I wanted to do a while back and felt I couldn't.'

"Every time I've gone through something really difficult — which, I have gone through a lot of pretty difficult things — I think to myself, 'OK, what can I learn from this? How can I move forward stronger and better put together by having gone through this?' I never give the option to be destroyed, because I'm going to fight to the last day I'm on this earth to make each day the best that it can be. But sometimes it's really hard, and we have to accept people's support around us. You can't be afraid to reach out for that help. We are stronger when we acknowledge that we are weak in certain things."