In an exclusive interview for People en Español, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Colombian singer Sebastián Yatra share their passion for music and technology and explain how all of us can come together to make our world a better place.

Por Carole Joseph
Octubre 22, 2020
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What do Apple CEO Tim Cook and Colombian singer Sebastián Yatra have in common? A deep passion for music, for one thing. While Yatra composes and sings from deep within his soul, Cook, a titan of technology, simply can't live without it. "We have music in our DNA. It's been a key part of our company since the early days," says Cook, who admits that he has to be listening to music in order to complete a workout. "I can't imagine going one day without music. It moves me. It inspires me. It heals me. Music is just such a part of our lives."

Just as important is using his voice to share a message of equality and hope. That's why this duo spoke exclusively for this week's digital cover — Cook from Cupertino, California, and Yatra from Miami — in a virtual conversation that covered Apple's work with DREAMers, the rights of the LGBTQ community, climate change, and bullying among children. "The best way to stop bullying is looking at yourself in the mirror and [loving] yourself, because a lot of times [self]-bullying is the one that hurts us the most," says the "Chica Ideal" singer, who has earned three Latin Grammy nominations since his career began four years ago. "Us accepting those negative comments, it's what hurts us the most. If we love ourselves, we value ourselves, we make small good decisions each day, and we're happy with who we are, we're always going to be happy."

Cook knows this only too well. After taking the reigns at Apple shortly before the death of co-founder Steve Jobs, Cook published a column coming out as a gay man, making him the first and until then only Fortune 500 leader to share his sexual orientation. "I believe deeply that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. And I've known that, for me, for me personally — this is a personal thing — I would not be sitting here today had people not fought for years," says Cook. "I feel a sense of responsibility to continue fighting. We should all be treated equally. I want to make sure that we do what we can do in our generation."

Keep reading to find out more about the fight ahead for this duo in this exclusive conversation.

Credit: Cook: Peter Yang; Yatra: Omar Cruz

Sebastián Yatra: Tim Cook, my friend! How are you? It is such a pleasure to have you here with People en Español. I am so excited to ask you all these questions and get to know you better. How is it going?

Tim Cook: I am hoping to ask you a few questions, too, Sebastián. It is so great to be with you again. We are so excited here for the launch last week. We are still on cloud nine. It is just amazing.

SY: It's crazy. Four new iPhones. You guys have the iPad as well as the Apple Watch, the HomePod. I want to know, Tim, if you can tell us a little bit more about the thought and the work that goes into all your products and what you hope people will get out of them. You know, what impact you guys want to have with this year's line?

TC: Yeah, you know, the big thing about our products is there is the sum of a lot of details. And it's that we focus on every little bit of every product that we do, of every service that we do. And it's the sum of all of those that bring the product to life.

In the latest iPhone, of course, there is 5G. That was being discussed a lot. But there's also an entirely new camera system and this camera system is just unbelievable. It is democratizing photography in such a great way — whether you're a casual user or whether you're a professional photographer, or maybe you want to use Dolby Vision for your latest movie.

These things are in an iPhone.

SY: It's insane.

TC: It is unbelievable when you think about it. It is totally amazing.

SY: I want to do my next music video with an iPhone, man, like 100 percent.

TC: I can't wait to see it.

Credit: Omar Cruz

SY: I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna do it and I'm going to send it to you.

TC: I would love to be there for you when you create it.

SY: Let's do it!

TC: I love watching the creative process for really creative people.

SY: Thank you. You know, what is going to be awesome with that video when we do it, it's not just what's happening in front of the camera but what's happening behind it. Because you are used to having these huge sets with these enormous cameras, and with an iPhone now you can get the same quality or even better now.

I mean, what I find crazy about Apple always is that you guys have been around for so long. People know Apple — everybody knows Apple — but you guys somehow are always hot and fresh.

It's like you guys are always the new kid on the block, the new girl on the block, the new guy on the block. You guys never get out of that zone and I just find it really like … I find it like something to … you know, [stay] behind, because it's not easy as an artist to always be fresh and you guys managed to do it. So it's a cool way you guys do it every single time.

TC: Thank you for that. You know, it's sort of mysterious the way things come together, but it's the sum of collaboration and focus for us.

We're not a "one person creates everything" kind of company at all. We have thousands of people here that work on creating the products. And collaboration becomes really key because it's the magic that comes out of having the software in the hardware integrated, and the services, that really make the products special.

Then our focus … we have to say no to so many great ideas so that we can really put ourselves into the very few things that we're able to do, because we know [that] at the quality level we want to create things at, we can only do very few things.

And so we argue and debate about which ones we're going to do and then put all of ourselves into that and sort of stay away from all the noise and all of those ideas that are merely, merely great so that we could do the things that are insanely great.

SY: Totally.

TC: You just released a new single last week.

SY: I did.

Credit: Cook: Peter Yang; Yatra: Omar Cruz

TC: Happy belated birthday, by the way.

SY: Thank you so much, Tim. Yeah, the song is called "Chica Ideal" and I love it. It's really amazing because most of my songs are thanks to you guys, really. I record, like, 120 million voice notes every single day for this song "Chica Ideal." I write it on my iPhone. I record everything. And it inspires me to keep making a lot of music. It also helps me get those brilliant ideas, like you said, and really focus on them. Because a lot of times when you're just playing the guitar, you like … say a bunch of stuff, but you never remember it. And with this, I remember it personally, which is awesome!

TC: Now, what was your inspiration for the song?

SY: The song, it's actually a song that has to do a lot with my culture. And since this is Latin Heritage Month, I wanted to do something that had a lot to do with Colombia. You know, I'm from there. I love my country. And this song "Chica Ideal," it's actually originally a 20-year-old song, "The Little Chorus," by these guys called Latin Dreams.

It just … you know, it means a lot for the people in my country and it's one of those songs that I wanted people from other countries to get to know it as well, because it has so much happiness and hope in it.

So I wrote like another whole new song with this chorus and I think it's got great vibes. We did the video going straight into 2021. Like I skip my birthday in 2020 and I went straight into 2021, and it's like a fun party and I think you're going to enjoy it. You guys gotta check out the video.

Credit: Brooks Kraft/Apple

TC: I can't wait. The song is incredible. It's incredible.

SY: Thank you so much, Tim.

TC: That and iPhone 12 in the same week. It was a big week for both of us.

SY: iPhone "doce." How do you say it?

TC: iPhone "doce," that's right! I remember that from my high-school Spanish class.

SY: We got to speak Spanish one of these days. Next interview will be in Spanish.

TC: I'll look forward to that.

SY: Awesome! Hey, so Tim, as I was talking about Latinx Heritage Month, I also wanted to ask you … you guys being Apple, and being all over the world, you guys have all these amazing tools and with Apple Music you bring us closer. What is Apple's main goal in this sense? How are you guys bringing us closer to different cultures and traditions around the world?

TC: We're trying to lift musicians up. And lift their art up. Trying to make it both easier for musicians to create with tools like Logic and GarageBand, and then try to make it easier for all of us to listen to our music — whether it's AirPods and an iPhone or just an iPhone or perhaps it's HomePod. And you know, we just announced the HomePod mini.

We have music in our DNA at Apple. It's been a key part of our company since the early days. Apple got its start by selling to creatives. That was our total market. Musicians were a big piece of that. In 2001, it got even bigger of course with the introduction of the iPod, then iTunes music store and now Apple Music. Things are getting bigger and bigger. But the roots for us are deep, very deep into our history. Steve loved music. I love music. I can't imagine going one day without music. It moves me. It inspires me. It heals me. Music is just such a part of our lives. I can't imagine doing a workout without music.

SY: I've done it, man! I forgot my AirPods the other day and I had to do it without music.

TC: I couldn't have done it. I would have had to quit, I think.

For Latinx in particular, we created SOMOS Radio. We're really excited about it. It's a place where artists can tell their stories. It's a place where storytelling takes off. It is also a place for, of course, people to listen to music. But it's also a place that teaches a bit of the history of music and the influence of different genres over a period of time. So we're very excited about it. It was just started.

SY: That's amazing. Thank you so much. And when you say that about the SOMOS playlist, I also get excited to ask you about your views on DACA. I want to thank you because you've been a strong advocate for it, and you guys have been part of taking it all the way up to the Supreme Court. I wanted to know why this is so important to Apple because I have a lot of immigrant friends — I've been so close to the situation my whole life growing up in the United States — and knowing people that have had really tough times with this, but have also been [helped] by DACA. And I want to know how important this is to you and why?

TC: It's very important to us as a company. It's very important to us as individuals. We have over 400 DREAMers that are working in Apple today. Yes. And we hired them because they are great people. Because they help us innovate. Because they help us be a better company. I want to stand up for them and give them a voice and use our platform to fight for them.

You know, [in] the U.S. throughout all of my life, but dating back much earlier than me, dating back to its roots, immigration has been key to our country.

Countries in general, I think, that welcome people from different cultures, that take the best and the brightest from around the world — and not only allow them to come to the country, but really accept them and embrace them — those are the countries that do the best over time.

My hope for the U.S. is that we get back to this. I want to do everything within my power, everything to make sure that the DACA recipients are protected. And I do believe. I'm optimistic about the outcome.

SY: Well, thank you so much, man. I mean, we're going to keep on dreaming. We're going to keep on dreaming. And people I think all over the world that have come to the U.S. to make their dreams come true, you know, they deserve the right to keep doing that, because that's — like you said — what has made the U.S. so brilliant over the years.

That's why so much innovation happens here. It's Americans. It is people from the Middle East. It's Asians. It's Latinos. It is people from everywhere bringing those great ideas to … you know, put an iPhone 12 into our hands.

TC: That's right. Because that product ships around the world. In order to design things for the world, you have to look like the world. So we're going to keep fighting for not only DACA, but for other immigrants as well. My view is: They are just as much as American as I am. For all consequences other than just a sheet of paper, they are. And I hope that sheet of paper exists very soon.

Now, you have a personal view over this. A personal angle on it. You must feel very passionate about this topic.

SY: Yes, of course. And I'm so thankful to the United States. Having the opportunity to grow up here gave me also the opportunity to find myself in music and be an artist that is inspiring both inside the United States and outside of it, and all over the world. Maybe if I hadn't had that opportunity, I couldn't have done these things. It would have been really sad for me to miss out on this because, you know, as an artist your life directly affects a bunch of people and you can make other people better through music. Through work that happens with my team. It's in the end hundreds of us working for one same goal. It looks like just one person but there's so many people behind everything.

You know, we're living in times of a lot of division, Tim. And it's when we have to stand together, not only with immigration, but also with … for example, you've been also a strong advocate for LGBTQ rights, for a bunch of other things. It's great that you do this and the whole team at Apple.

Do you sometimes get demotivated when you see that the division keeps going? Or does this give you strength to actually be out there more about, you know, we have to stay together as a community?

Credit: Omar Cruz

TC: It makes me more determined, to be honest. I believe deeply that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. And at the end of the day, most of these issues are the result of one group not treating another group with dignity and respect. It's pretty much that simple. And I've known that, for me, for me personally — this is a personal thing — I would not be sitting here today had people not fought for years.

You know, whether you're talking about the Stonewall riots or Harvey Milk or many, many along the way, I'm standing on their shoulders.

I feel not only that it's [the right thing] to do, but I feel a sense of responsibility to continue fighting. I believe that each generation ought to enlarge the rights for the next generation. And eventually, everybody should possess the same rights. We should all be treated equally. I want to make sure that we do what we can do in our generation.

SY: This has definitely been a great, great year in the sense, Tim — I mean, it's been a tough year — but it's been a great year for all of us to grow a conscience that it's not just us in the world … that there's a lot of different things going on everywhere.

And you know, sometimes we're not so [supportive] or compassionate because we're not going through these problems. And for the first time in, what? A hundred years? We're all going through the same problem and everyone's like, "Whoa, you know, maybe we have to stop and make a change," and I think that's going to be good for the years to come.

So in the end, I think there will definitely be positive things coming out of this.

I wanted to ask you also about kids. That's a huge thing going on with the pandemic. Kids have been at home and there's a lot of kids that love Apple and they want to work there someday, but right now, they don't really know what's going on with their lives. They might not have [motivation], they are being isolated by the pandemic. What advice could you give these kids that want to have a really bright future?

TC: You know, the thing that keeps me going, and it has kept me going for decades, is I just keep getting back to the same basic question: What am I doing for other people?

I think whether you're 10 years old, 30 years old, 50 years old, 70, or 100, that is the most important question of all. If you stay focused on that, then you wind up staying positive, because you're putting your efforts into helping somebody else. I think it keeps you grounded in a way. It keeps you grateful for what you've got, and it also helps spread that to other people. I think that's the basic question.

I am so encouraged with young people these days because I see a group that is unwilling to accept the status quo. They speak up. They are speaking up about climate change. They are speaking up about bullying. They are doing incredible things. They are protesting in the streets for what they view as injustice and for racial justice.

I look at that and I am so optimistic. I would tell them not to listen to the people that say, "Wait your turn." Not to listen to the people that say, "Give it time." But to demand change and demand it now. Because that's the way we all get better.

I am incredibly optimistic when I talk to young people.

I, too, am very worried about bullying. The bullying that happens on social media. Several kids have reached out to me over the years that are being bullied and this is a huge problem. This is a huge problem.

The way that we have looked at this is that when you create something with technology, technology inherently doesn't want to be good or bad. It doesn't want to be anything. It's in the hands of the creator whether it becomes good or bad, and in the hands of the user whether it's used for good or bad.

SY: How do you guys try for [technology] to always play a positive role in kids' lives and in young people's lives? Because, yeah, you know, it could go both ways because of the creator.

TC: We think about the ways it will be used and we try our best to put prevention in place to prevent it from becoming bad. For example, we review every app on the App Store. We try to make sure what's in there is what you would want in there. Not filled with pornography, not filled with hate speech, and those sorts of things.

We have Screen Time, which probably you and I both use to tell ourselves how much time we're spending ...

SY: Say no more!

TC: ... because some people spend too much time on their devices. So we try to predict the outcome and then try to frame it into something very small or perhaps even eliminate the need for.

But everybody doesn't do that. And I think we have to keep demanding that companies take responsibility for this and take responsibility for what's on their platforms.

SY: Exactly. And also companies such as yourselves and what you guys do which I love — and other companies, I think it's great advice for them — that, you know, let people understand that this is a part of our life, but it's not our whole life, you know. There's a life also through these eyes, not just on a screen. So I think we start to realize that as youth and as adults through time, but Tim, before leaving …

TC: Before you do this, I want to compliment you for what you have done on anti-bullying because I think that you're a really a role model here. And arguably for young people, this is the most important thing that they face. These tools have amplified this bullying that used to take place, but it used to take place in the playground and it was sort of one person or two people or [it happened all of a] sudden. Now, it's amplified into terms of thousands of people and the work that you have done is just incredible.

Credit: Brooks Kraft/Apple

SY: Thank you so much, Tim. You know, just adding to that. Definitely bullying before … to be a bully you had to be out there about it. Now it's so easy to be one and hide in the shadow. So definitely the best way to stop bullying is [to look] at yourself in the mirror and love yourself, because a lot of times [self]-bullying is the one that hurts us the most. Us accepting those negative comments, it's what hurts us the most. If we love ourselves, we value ourselves, we make small good decisions each day, and we're happy with who we are, we're always going to be happy.

So I want to thank you for this opportunity and before leaving, Tim, I gotta ask you … what's up with 5G? I'm wondering, what is 5G?

TC: 5G is amazing. You know, it's very infrequently — like once a decade — that a new technology comes along that redefines wireless performance. 5G is one of those times. So it's a once-in-a-decade kind of thing.

It will do things, like for a user you'll be able to download things faster. You'll be able to upload things faster. You'll be able to have experiences that you weren't able to have. Like maybe you like watching football and all of a sudden instead of having one camera stream, you can have multiple camera streams at 4K.

I mean, it is just unbelievable. You can have [augmented reality] experiences. I'm really a big believer of AR. You can have AR experiences you couldn't have before. So 5G is sort of the infrastructure and the foundation that brings that to life.

SY: I'm going to get on that 5G real soon. Hey, Tim, it's not every day I get to talk to you and not every day I get to ask someone this because it's something that worries me a lot … and you probably know the answer. What are we going to do about climate change? Are we gonna get this solved?

TC: We must, because the situation is urgent. You know, I live in California, of course, and we've had wildfires all summer. And it was an inconvenience for me with air quality, but for many people, they had to evacuate. Many people lost their homes.

The hurricanes in the South, which are not very far from you that came up to the Gulf of Mexico, etc.

These weather events are becoming more frequent and more powerful and disrupting people's lives.

And so, we must get this right.

What we've been doing at Apple is, two, three years ago, we converted our entire internal operation to renewable energy. People said we couldn't do it. We did that. And now we're putting the really bold objective as to not only do it internally, but to do it with people we touch, like our supply chain and like our customers who use electricity with our products. We want to make the whole of that life-cycle chain totally carbon neutral. And we are going to do that by 2030. Yes.

SY: Well, that's great news. I hope other companies jump on that, too. I really do.

TC: I hope so, too. It is one area that we would like to be copied on.

SY: I would copy you on everything. Hey, Tim. I want to thank you so much for your time. I know you have such a busy schedule, but actually taking the time to speak with me is such an ... you know, my English is not as good as yours… enriching experience.

TC: Your English is much better than my Spanish.

SY: OK, good! Well, it's such an amazing experience for me. I'm going to talk about it with my grandparents, my parents, my kids, my nephews, everybody. And with everybody at People en Español and everybody that loves you so much. Love you. Thank you for your time. Be safe and … iPhone "doce."

TC: iPhone "doce." Thank you. It was great talking with you. I can't wait to see you in person again.

SY: It'll be sooner than later. Thank you. Take care.