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Shakira visits Obama, World Bank for childhood development initiative

Shakira makes her entrance at the World Bank on Monday. (Marlon Correa/The Washington Post)

Of all the celebrities who come to Washington for their pet projects, only a rarified few -- Oprah, Clooney, Brad, Serena -- get a private meeting with President Obama.

Now add belly-dancing pop sensation Shakira to the list. There were, alas, none of the sexy gyrations that made the 33-year-old Colombian singer an international star. She was at her most earnest (straight blond hair, raspberry knit dress, black tights) as she stumped Monday for her latest cause: child development programs in Latin America.

The White House meetings (with staffers from the National Security Council and the Domestic Policy Council) were hush-hush, but word quickly leaked out when Shakira scored a quick, unscheduled chat in the Oval Office with Obama, whom she first met while performing at the "We Are One" inaugural concert last year.

Then it was on to the World Bank for an orchestrated "town meeting" in front of a packed atrium of international employees and fans, where Shakira and World Bank President Robert Zoellick signed a "partnership agreement" (like a prenup, but for charity) to combine forces for a $300 million initiative for childhood care. She gave a short, lovely speech that would have been ignored except for the fact she was the one giving it.

Robert Zoellick, left, signs a partnership agreement with Shakira. (Courtesy of the World Bank)

So why did she get the high-level photo op (aside from, say, selling 50 million albums worldwide)? She founded a couple of foundations, has traveled the globe fighting poverty and opened a $6 million school in her home town of Barranquilla.

"I believe that fate can be changed," she told reporters, switching from Spanish to English. "I've been working with children who had lost all hope. ...I've also seen that providing them with an education and nutrition and a place that they can feel safe and study and learn and play has given them the opportunity to look up to a better future."

Last stop: the Hard Rock Cafe, where she mixed a little commerce with her philanthropy -- T-shirts and bracelets designed by her; a portion of the proceeds go to children in Colombia.

By The Reliable Source  |  February 23, 2010; 1:01 AM ET
Categories:  44: Obama's Washington  
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