Fact Check: Did Shakira Give Bill Gates Computer Lessons When he Was a Child?

Bill Gates, the billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder, has been in the media spotlight for the majority of his adult life.

The tech pioneer and entrepreneur, who today is best known for his charitable work via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation while retaining the position as one of the richest people in the world, has also long been the victim of conspiracy theories.

While most of those theories focus on his wealth, power or work on vaccines, one of the stranger claims went viral on the internet this week: that he was given computer lessons more than two decades ago by the Colombian singer Shakira.

The Claim

On February 23, 2021, a Twitter account with the handle @HouseMebarak and the name "The Mongoose" wrote on the site: "Shakira in 1995 was giving Computer lessons to a kid, she said to him 'never give up to your dreams' that kid was Bill Gates."

As of February 25, the tweet had 53,300 retweets, 5,900 quote tweets and over 400,000 likes on Twitter. The @HouseMebarak account followed 453 users and had 1,828 followers, and it appeared to be largely focused on sharing Shakira-related fan content.

The post had multiple images, including one of Shakira meeting Bill Gates in 2012 and another of an unidentified child.

On February 24, the post was shared with the Reddit community r/fakehistoryporn and gained more than 307 "upvotes" from users on the popular message board site.

This week, Google analytics showed an increase in search traffic seeking information about the tweet, with users asking the engine for "Shakira and Bill Gates," "Did Shakira give computer lessons to Bill Gates," "Shakira 1995" and "How old is Bill Gates."

@HouseMebarak - Screenshot
A screenshot of a viral claim uploaded to Twitter on February 23, 2021. @HouseMebarak/Screenshot

The Facts

Shakira, whose real name is Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, was born in Barranquilla, Colombia, on February 2, 1977 and is now 44.

She joined the cast of the soap opera El Oasis in 1994. In 1995, she released an album called Pies Descalzos that became a hit in Latin America and Spain. The singer gained mainstream success in the U.S. after the release of Laundry Service in 2001.

Bill Gates, whose full name is William Henry Gates III, was born on October 28, 1955, in Seattle. He is now 65.

A biography on his website states Gates used his first computer in 1967, at age 12, and started programming with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen the following year.

The bio noted his family "encouraged his interest in computers at an early age." Gates dropped out of Harvard University in 1975 and started Microsoft that same year.

In 1995, Gates was 40. Shakira was 18.

The person running the profile that first shared the claim said it was a joke that attracted over 20 million interactions. They wrote: "I can't believe some people [are] really mad because of my tweet saying 'fake' or arguing with their age, they just can't have some fun." Another post said: "It's a simple joke. It's not that deep c'mon people."

The Ruling

False.

The claim was traced to a joke that gained viral attention after being shared to Twitter on February 23 and uploaded to a Reddit community on February 24, 2021.

Colombian singer Shakira smiles
Colombian singer Shakira smiles on November 2, 2018, in Barranquilla, Colombia, during the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction a school supported by her foundation "Pies Descalzos" and the Barca Foundation. A Twitter claim this week went viral claiming she gave Bill Gates computer lessons in 1995. LUIS CHARRIS/AFP/Getty