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Gloria Estefan on Helping Leslie Knope and Giving Santana Her Edge

Photo: FOX

In Tuesday’s season finale of Glee, Latin superstar Gloria Estefan will make her debut as Santana’s supportive mother just in time to watch her get a diploma. (Don’t worry, gleeks, the queen of the insult monologue isn’t going anywhere.) Estefan chatted with Vulture about what Mama Lopez thinks of Santana’s taste in girls, how she gave Leslie Knope a leg up on Parks and Recreation, and why her CW music competition show, The Next, is worth your time this summer, even if you’re up to your ears in American Idol and The Voice.

Did you know “Get on Your Feet” helped win Leslie Knope a seat on Pawnee’s city council?
Oh my God, I cracked up! We rewound the scene the first time they used it, oh, I don’t know how many times, laughing. I loved it. And then the second time, when it came on as they shot off the confetti canons? It was hilarious. I’m a big fan of the show. Leslie Knope is incredible. And she almost didn’t win. Twenty-one votes. Too close.

They announced you’d be guest-starring on Glee months ago, and fortunately you snuck in just in time for the finale.
We were waiting and waiting for the call, but I kind of like being in the season finale because it leaves you hanging. I hope I’m going to get to come back next season and sing.
Tell me about Santana’s mom, Maribel.
She’s a strong woman who at one point wanted to be a singer, but she wanted Santana to succeed, so she had put her life on hold to be a mom. Her husband’s a doctor, so in my head, Maribel helped put him through school. Grandma, who’s a real tough cookie, probably told her not to follow her singing dream because she was a young mom.

What did Santana get from her mom?
Sarcasm, although she’s taken it to a whole other level, for sure. And her talent for music.

And what does Maribel think of her daughter’s girlfriend?
She, Santana, and Brittany have dinner at Breadstix in the finale, and they’re dishing and having fun. I don’t think it’s the first time she’s met Brittany. Santana’s mom thinks Brittany is hilarious, and also that she’s got this wisdom underneath certain things she says. She just doles out these little pieces of truth sometimes … and sometimes she’s completely off the charts. But Brittany is definitely loved. Santana’s mom just wants her daughter to be happy.

You’re going to serve as a mentor on The Next. How will it be different from all of the other singing competition shows out there?
There are so, so many, right? I got involved with this one because every time [series executive producer] Queen Latifah and I run into each other, we always say we need to work together, and now we finally are. In this show, we’ll go into different cities and people from that city will nominate their favorite artists. So they’re known by the hometown folks, from wedding bands to club singers. Each of the mentors will move in with one of the acts for 72 hours and see what makes them tick and figure out how to help them. Then each city has a contest and the audience picks which act they want to represent them nationally in the live shows. There’s a cash prize involved, I think, which is much better than a record deal these days, let me tell you.

Gloria Estefan on Leslie Knope and Santana