Anitta has been chasing this dream for as long as she can remember. In one of the most revealing moments of Vai Anitta, she watches a home movie of her 5-year-old self doing a dance routine at a school assembly. All the other girls and boys look stone-faced, dreading the obligatory performance, but Anitta is beaming in a two-piece yellow outfit, eye on the camera, hips swiveling with precocious glee. “I was the only one who could shake it!” she shrieks at the screen.
Growing up in the modest Rio barrio of Honório Gurgel, the daughter of an artisan mother and a father who sold (and still sells) car batteries, young Larissa de Macedo Machado faced pressure to choose a practical vocation. She opted for business administration, landing an accounting job after high school with Vale, the multinational mining conglomerate, but then quit to pursue music.
A gag YouTube video, in which she sings into a deodorant stick, landed her an audition with Furacão 2000, a local record label that specialized in funk carioca, the bass-thumping, ass-bumping music of Rio’s underclass. She soon adopted her stage name, derived from a Lolita-inspired Brazilian series, Presença de Anita, featuring a teenage seductress with chameleon-like gifts. “That’s completely the concept of my album right now,” says Anitta. “That’s completely me.”
But to a surprising degree, Anitta is still very much in touch with Larissa, who is strategic and disciplined. Although she has a loyal cadre of friends and family in Rio who help keep her on schedule, she runs her own business, studying markets around the world and tailoring her promotional campaigns to regional tastes. She has worked with a phonetics coach to minimize her accent in both English (which she studied as a young girl) and Spanish (which she took up only recently, to prepare for the Latin media circuit). And she regularly gives paid speeches at trade shows and business expos, including last year at Harvard and MIT’s annual Brazil Conference.
“I make more money right now from these speeches than even from concerts,” she says, explaining that she always reminds audiences they are hearing from Larissa, the boss, not Anitta, the product. She adds with a laugh: “When I go to these panels, of course, I’m fully clothed.”