Pabllo Vittar Talks 'Gay Conversion Therapy' & Other LGBTQ Issues in Brazil, Plans for 2018

Fernanda Tiné
Pabllo Vittar

Brazil is internationally known for its vibrant music, beautiful people and paradise landscapes. But what a lot of people don’t know is that the country also holds the record for hate-based LGBTQ murders. According to Transgender Europe (TGEU), 123 trans and gender diverse people were murdered in Brazil only in 2016. As this scenario looks catastrophic enough by itself, the violence that plagues the country is only one of many issues that Brazilian LGBTQ population is facing at the moment.  

This past September, a Brazilian federal judge overruled an 18-year-old ban on conversion therapy, allowing psychologists to treat homosexuality as a disease. The regressive decision came only one week after a queer art exhibition at a multinational bank’s cultural centre was shut down after online protests. What seems to be a sequence of huge missteps towards LGBTQ rights in the country is also the reflection of a major conservative wave that is increasing substantially in Brazil.

When it comes to music, the country paradoxically witnesses the epic rise of 22-year-old drag queen Pabllo Vittar to the mainstream music scene. Pabllo first came to the scene back in 2015 with a samba version of Major Lazer’s hit single ‘Lean On’. Since then, she released her debut album, Vai Passar Mal, and presented the audience with a bunch of party hits like “K.O.,” “Todo Dia” and “Corpo Sensual.” Her latest collaboration, Major Lazer’s “Sua Cara,” which also features Brazilian superstar Anitta, got 17.8 million views in its first 24 hours on YouTube.

Although Vittar has been collecting impressive numbers like 400 million views on YouTube, 100 million streams on Spotify and 5 million Instagram followers, that seems hardly enough to keep her safe from all the hate LGBTQ people are getting in her country. Recently, conservative consumers called for a boycott of Coca-Cola after the singer was announced as one of the faces of the company’s new campaign. We spoke to Pabllo about the LGBTQ situation in Brazil, how she deals with negativity online and plans for 2018.

How do you feel about what is happening towards the LGBTQ community  in Brazil at this moment?

It makes me really sad to see all the setbacks we are facing now. It doesn’t feel like we are in 2017. It feels like 1500 and it’s so frustrating that we still have to talk about subjects that should be normal at this point. We are humans, we pay our taxes, we just want to be respected and keep doing our work. It’s ridiculous that we are still talking about things like conversion therapy in 2017.

Recently, you’ve received a lot of backlash from haters after the announcement of your new Coca-Cola campaign and I believe that’s not the first time that type of thing happened to you, right?

No, it has happened a few other times, but thank God it hasn’t had any effect on my career. Mainly because I’ve got my fans and they are my support system. They give me love and strength. I also have nothing but gratitude for the companies that are supporting us and bringing attention to Brazil. I hope this will inspire other brands to embrace our cause, which is such a beautiful and necessary one.

How do you deal with all the negativity that you find online?

Positivity. That’s the only way you can deal with that. Negativity only brings negativity and, at this point, I am kind of immune to fake headlines and to the way some people comment online. The internet can be an incredible place but it can also be very hurtful if you don’t get away from the bad things so I’ve decided to stop reading the mean comments. Now it’s important for me to focus on what’s good like my work, my fans, because that’s what brings me peace and happiness.

What advice do you have for LGBTQ youth in Brazil?

I feel very honored to have become this type of reflection of the LGBTQ youth here and it makes me really happy to be able to fight against prejudice and homophobia, from the bottom of my heart. I believe the best way to turn yourself into a game changer is by reassuring who you are. Despite some change is starting to happen, we still have a long way to go until we guarantee all the respect we deserve from society. The most important thing in this situation is that we have to stay together and we must never give up the fight.

How can Americans help the situation in Brazil?

Not only Americans but everybody can help by respecting the differences and the identity of people around you. We can only change the world if we start by changing the environment around us.

You are now the most followed drag queen on social media and that includes a significant amount of really young followers. Do you feel like a role model for the LGBTQ youth?

Yes. I believe I can represent them somehow, because, just like them, I was a child and I’ve been through a lot of things they go through everyday. Being an artist prevents me from getting all the bullying that I know some people get at school, at work, in the streets. So I want to use my position to show them that they are not alone, that they can be anything they want. That if you believe in your dreams nothing bad can really affect you. That a lot of people are going to say "no" to you, but the only "yes" you really need comes from within.

Have you ever thought you would get this big when you first started doing music?

No. I never thought I would be performing at award shows and collaborating with artists like Major Lazer, Anitta, Preta Gil and so much more. It’s very rewarding being gay, a drag queen, effeminate and being able to achieve things I’ve never dreamed of achieving. It’s really cool.

You recently have been signed to a major label. How does that affect you work?

Yes, I was just signed to Sony Music and it was a dream coming true. I’ve always dreamed of seeing my face on the cover of magazines, being on TV, being signed and this is all becoming reality in a very organic way. I’ve been working really hard and now I’m getting the pay back. Now I can record my new album in Los Angeles and bring more quality to my music, to the fans. I believe they are happy with the decisions I’ve been making in my life and if I’m happy, they are happy. What I really want now is just to keep doing music.

Vai Passar Mal was a huge success. Are you already working on new music?

Yes. We are working on some stuff for the new album which comes out next year. I’m very excited because that’s what moves me. New projects, new music, going to the set to record music videos. Vai Passar Mal is still a huge success and we’re going to release one more single from the album which is… Oh! I was going to reveal the name! Unfortunately I can’t tell you yet but we are already collection ideas for the video. It’s gonna be amazing.

I’ve heard that you have an international collaboration recorded. Is that true?

It’s totally true! I can’t say who it is though. I don’t know when it is coming out because it’s not a project for my own album. I will have some international collaborations on my new album as well, but not this one.

What can we expect from you in 2018?

A lot of things. We have projects for TV, for the movies and I want to be in every field that I can. I love to be challenged and to try different things. Today I’m tapping Vai Que Cola [a popular Brazlian TV show]. I just love acting and that’s something I don’t often have the opportunity to do. I’m driven for new things and people can expect a lot of good stuff for 2018. 2017 was definitely the year that crowded me and I’m proud of all the work I’ve done so far, but 2018, darling, is going to be apocalyptic.