Photo: Ernna Cost
Brazilian Pop Star Pabllo Vittar Talks New Album '111' And Life As Music's Premier Drag Queen
On the cover of her new album 111, Brazilian pop star Pabllo Vittar is a goddess of multiplicity. The Pabllo in the center fiercely stares down the camera, suspended midair while posing in a leather-boot-legged leap. Much like Vittar's multifaceted drag persona, the surrounding Pabllos show her many sides: A playful Pabllo blows a pink bubblegum bubble, a sexy Pabllo strikes a sensual pose on her knees. In one shot, she's putting her country on the map and serving fierce runway-ready looks along the way.
Phabullo Rodrigues da Silva, who goes by her drag name Pabllo Vittar, reached music superstardom in a short period of time. After first dressing in drag for her 18th birthday in 2011, inspired by watching episodes of "RuPaul's Drag Race," she scored a viral hit in 2015 with her debut single "Open Bar," a Portuguese version of Major Lazer's and DJ Snake's "Lean On." Shortly after, she went from local celebrity to global phenomenon in 2017 when Diplo invited her to collaborate on Major Lazer's "Sua Cara," alongside fellow Brazilian pop star, Anitta.
One year later, in 2018, Vittar made history as the first drag queen to receive a Latin GRAMMY nomination when "Sua Cara" was nominated for Best Urban Fusion/Performance. "I thought to myself as a child watching TV and seeing my favorite artists being nominated for a GRAMMY and winning," she tells the Recording Academy. "Maybe it wasn't my time, but next time I hope to be a winner of the night."
Vittar's pop culture references are diverse, and they've been important in solidifying her as a force in the industry. She's leveraged her global crossover appeal as a go-to artist for collaborations. British pop futurist Charli XCX tapped Vittar for her 2017 mixtape, Pop 2. The following year, Vittar featured on tracks with Argentine pop princess Lali Espósito, electronic duo Sofi Tukker and Australian rapper Iggy Azalea.
"I love to meet other artists and share my work with them," Vittar says. "I love to do collaborations. I love to work with different types of music and mix everything up to end up with something new."
With all eyes on Vittar, she's now basking in the spotlight with her third album, 111, released last month (March 24). The trilingual album—she sings in Portuguese, Spanish and English—sees Vittar taking on electropop, inspired by the global Pride parades at which she performs, on "Flash Pose" with Charli XCX and tackling a fully Spanish club banger alongside Mexican icon Thalía on the sensual "Tímida." Centerstage on 111 are the sounds of her native Brazil, which are often overlooked in the grand scheme of Latin pop. On "Amor De Que," Vittar gives her motherland's storied forró genre a pop edge. Elsewhere, she embraces the emerging rasteirinha music scene, which filters Brazilian baile funk through an EDM lense, on "Rajadão" and "Parabéns," the latter featuring local group Psirico.
Fewer than 10 years after donning her first drag look, Vittar now outnumbers, in Instagram followers, one of her main inspirations and the most famous drag queen on the planet: RuPaul. "I would love to meet RuPaul because, for me, she's a big inspiration for my job and my drag," Vittar says. "I feel grateful to be living in the same moment as her." Following in the high-heeled footsteps of her idol, Vittar today lives a fabulous existence that's resistance to homophobia and those not taking the art of drag seriously.
Vittar spoke with the Recording Academy about her incredible career in the fast lane, her new birthday-inspired album and her now-rescheduled performance at Coachella 2020.
What are some of the inspirations behind your music?
Everything inspires me: my friends, my family and my fans. I love to work with rhythms from Brazil because I'm a Brazilian and I love my country.
Speaking of Brazil, how do you feel about representing your country in the Latin music scene?
I feel so hugely honored to speak about my community. I feel honored to be one of the Brazilian voices in the Latino community with my music. I'm singing in Portuguese. In the Latin scene, I hope to sing more in Spanish and be more involved in that type of music.
Another big pop star from Brazil is Anitta. How was it to work with her on Major Lazer's "Sua Cara"?
She's a star. She's a pop star. She's a queen. I love her and her contributions to Brazilian music and to pop music. I need to do another collaboration with her. We've talked about it. I think by next year we'll have another collaboration.
Thanks to your involvement in "Sua Cara," you made history in 2018 as the first drag queen to be nominated for a Latin GRAMMY. How did that make you feel when you found out the news?
In that moment, I freaked out because it's a dream come true. I feel so blessed. I want to inspire all the girls, all the drag queens and other people in the queer community to believe in your dreams and never forget them because you can do anything.
This month, you were scheduled to perform at Coachella. The event was postponed to October due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Are you still planning to perform at Coachella this year?
For sure! Last year, I was a special guest for Major Lazer's set. I said to the world, "Next year, I'm coming here with my own show and my tour." And b**ch, boom! I'm here! For sure, I'm going. I'm super excited to do it.
Anitta is also one of the confirmed artists at Coachella this year. Will you two perform together during your set?
Maybe yes, maybe no. Right now I don't know the scheduling of the performances. I wish to do something with her at Coachella.
In your music videos, you serve spectacular and sexy looks. Do you see a link between music and fashion?
Yes, I do see a link, because you need to send a message. I send a message with my music. When I put on all my colors and my outfits, I'm also sending a message with that. I feel so grateful because I love fashion and I love music and I get to put them together.
Pabllo Vittar | Photo: Ernna Cost
What would you say is the message of your new album, 111?
The concept of this album is my birthday. I was born on November 1 [11/1]. I'm a Scorpio. Yasss, hunty! This album is like a birthday playlist. I played all these songs on my birthday. I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that when my fans listen to this album that they feel confident, sexy [and] happy and dance a lot to it at home.
One of the big collaborations on 111 is "Tímida" with Mexican pop icon Thalía. Can you tell me about how she got involved with the song and what it was like to work with her?
Thalía is a queen. Her image is amazing. Last year, I sent her a demo of "Tímida," and she loved the song, put her vocals on it and sent it back to me. I told her, "I can't believe that you did this for me and I thank you so much." This album wouldn't be the same without her. The first time I met her, she told me, "Finally, two Latina queens working together." I was like, "Oh my God!"
Who are some artists you would want to collaborate with next?
I really want to collaborate with ROSALÍA. I love her so much. She's an amazing artist. I would also like to collaborate with Bad Bunny, Maluma and Karol G, for sure. I love so many Latin music artists.
Speaking of Bad Bunny, what did you think when you saw him dressed in drag in his recent music video for "Yo Perreo Sola"?
The video was so sexy. I was feeling it. I love Bad Bunny because he always embraces the queer community. He also does everything with a lot of respect, and we embrace that. He looked stunning! The legs, the nails, the makeup. Everything! The boobs! I love to do my boobs, too. Baby, let's shake our boobs together sometime. It's my dream to work with him. I love him and his new album [YHLQMDLG].
What's one of your favorite moments in your career so far?
My favorite moment, for sure, was last year at the MTV Europe Music Awards [EMAs]. I was the first Brazilian to perform at the EMAs and the first drag queen to win an award there. Yasss!
People are saying music doesn't have to be in English anymore to be successful. What do you think about that?
When you do music with your heart, with positive energy, no matter the language, everyone embraces [it], dances to it and feels your energy. I can speak in English or sing in Italian, but if I don't put love into what I do, then that doesn't matter.
You use your platform as a performer to represent the LGBTQ+ community, especially in Brazil with President Jair Bolsonaro, who has been described as anti-LGBTQ+. How important is it for you to use your platform as an activist?
It's very important for me to give some voice to the community in this country. I'm not alone. I have some friends who are embracing the rainbow flag and the community. I feel so happy because I'm here, I'm Brazilian, and we are staying in this fight together. We are not letting anyone cancel that. We are putting our heads together and fighting.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
I will work more with my album in a deluxe version. I have some collaborations that I'm recording. I'm so excited to share them with my fans. I will start my new tour. I'm so excited to hug my fans and put on my wig again and dance on the stage. Oh my god! I'm freaking out.