Soraya Raquel Lamilla Cuevas (March 11, 1969 – May 10, 2006) was a Colombian-American singer/songwriter, guitarist, arranger and record producer.
A successful Colombian music star, she had two number-one songs on Billboard’s Latin Pop Airplay charts. She won a 2004 Latin Grammy Award for the self-titled album “Soraya” as “Best Album by Songwriter”, which she produced, and a 2005 Latin Grammy Awards nomination for “Female Pop Vocal Album” for her album El Otro Lado de Mi (literally “The Other Side of Me”). She was the opening act for the 2005 Billboard Latin Music Awards. Her career spanned ten years, and she recorded five albums. Soraya died on May 10, 2006 following a long struggle against breast cancer.
Soraya obtained a record contract with Polygram Records/Island Records in 1994. Her first album, released two years later simultaneously in both English and Spanish was titled “On Nights Like This / En Esta Noche”. Both versions received positive critical acclaim and enabled her to tour in the U.S., Latin America, and Europe, as a guest performer in concerts for famous musicians such as Natalie Merchant, Zucchero, Sting, Michael Bolton, and Alanis Morissette.
Her songs climbed to the top of the charts just about everywhere in Latin American, European, and U.S.’ Hispanic markets. Her first single “Suddenly/De Repente” reached #1 in Billboard Latin Pop listings, with the English version receiving some mainstream Adult Contemporary airplay. Her second album, Torre de Marfil / Wall of Smiles, titled after a song co-written with her idol Carole King was released in late 1997, and helped her attain worldwide recognition.
Unfortunately, in 2000, she was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer, shortly after the release of her third album Cuerpo y Alma / I’m Yours — just days before she was about to tour and promote it. She took time off to fight the illness.
Feeling healthy and in remission, Soraya returned to the music scene in 2003 with the release of her fourth and self-titled album Soraya. The songs reflected her struggles, beliefs, and love for life. She composed, produced, and arranged the album, which won the Latin Grammy for “Best Album by a Singer-Songwriter”.
She created one more successful album, El Otro Lado de Mí, before she finally succumbed to cancer in 2006.
Soraya died of breast cancer on May 10, 2006, aged 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. In addition to her own death, Soraya lost her mother, a grandmother, and a maternal aunt to breast cancer.