Drag Musician Lia Clark Talks 'Bumbum No Ar,' Anitta & Brazil's 'Difficult' Political Situation

Lia Clark
 Rodolfo Magalhães

Lia Clark

"I think people should look at their own privileges and start thinking about each other. After all, we all just want to be happy and free to be who we are."

As the presidential election approaches in Brazil, the country’s LGBTQ community faces a serious risk of living under an ultraconservative government, as right-wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro leads polls with 28 percent of the vote. The front-runner has made several derogatory remarks throughout his campaign, saying that he would beat gay men if he saw them kissing on the streets and implying that congresswoman Maria do Rosario doesn't deserve to be raped because she is "too ugly."

The alarming situation caught everyone's attention with the rise of a Facebook group named “Women Against Bolsonaro,” which now has more than 3.4 million members. What started as a group of women protesting against the candidate quickly escalated to the online campaign #EleNão (#NotHim), where people point out the reasons why they will not vote for Bolsonaro. The campaign has taken over social media in the last few days and has now been supported by several artists like Cher, Madonna, Dua Lipa, Dan Reynolds, the Black Eyed Peas, Nicole Scherzinger, Diplo, Kehlani and Pabllo Vittar.

Last week, Brazil’s biggest pop star Anitta got herself into the center of a social media storm when her fanbase (which includes a significant following from the LGBTQ community) noticed that the singer followed an Instagram account that publicly supports Bolsonaro and asked her for an explanation. Anitta first refused to make any comments on the issue, leaving fans feeling betrayed. The hashtag #AnittaIsOverParty quickly took over Twitter and became a trending topic. After days of intense speculation, Anitta finally announced that she was against the conservative candidate and joined the #EleNão campaign. The whole situation raised the debate if artists can be on the fence about critical political issues, especially when it concerns their fans.

In the middle of all this, 26-year-old drag queen Lia Clark, who started her career in 2016 in the Brazilian funk music scene, released a politically charged music video for her latest single “Bumbum No Ar," which features pop singer Wanessa Camargo. In the video, the two portray hit women trying get their revenge on a presidential candidate character with a history of actions against the LGBTQ community, racial minorities and women. The video is eerily similar to a recent event, as it was filmed days before Bolsonaro was stabbed in the stomach during a campaign event. He is now recovering in the hospital.

Billboard spoke to Clark about her new video, the LGBTQ community and the political situation in Brazil.

What was your inspiration for the “Bumbum No Ar” video?

My biggest inspiration was some music collaborations between international artists. Since I listened to the song for the first time, I knew the video was supposed to be like an action movie. I told my ideas to the director, Felipe Sassi, and he came up with the concept of talking about everything that is happening in Brazil right now. As an LGBTQ artist, I loved the idea, since I am one of the people who is being silenced in this political process. What happened to Bolsonaro was never in our script, though. We shot the video way before the incident, but I was still afraid that people would think we were making fun of his condition. We would never do such thing.

What was your fans’ reaction to the video?

The best possible! I’m too hard on myself when it comes to music videos, because I’m a fan of my own visual work and I’m always trying to improve the quality of my videos. In my opinion, this is my best one so far, and from what I’ve heard from my audience, they think that too. My fans who are into politics are also very happy that we spoke out about the situation. Not only me, but also Wanessa, who is a cisgender singer who has always supported our community.

You started your career doing Brazilian funk music, a genre that was born in Brazil’s marginalized communities. Have you ever faced any prejudice or difficulties being a drag queen in the genre?

For sure. I have faced a lot of prejudice. ... I don’t think it comes exactly from being a funk artist, though. I believe it is a mix of elements, like my style of drag, that is sort of camp. There’s also the fact that I’m not a super vocalist, which is the main reason I started in the funk genre. Since the beginning of my career, I always said that I’m not a singer. I’m someone making music for people to have fun. That’s it.

Now, thanks to the attention drag music is getting here, people are starting to embrace my work. It’s still difficult, though, because I have to deal with lot of negative comments. I’m always working hard to evolve as an artist, but I know I will never be able to hit a high note. I’m really focused on creating music for people to have fun and dance in the clubs and at the concerts.

How does your work as a drag queen influence a young generation of LGBTQ people in Brazil?

I think what is happening with the drag culture in Brazil now is beyond amazing. The word for this is representation. I believe Gloria Groove said this in an interview, and I always take her answer as mine: I feel jealous of this young generation that is living now, because when I was younger I had no artists to look up to as a model. As an effeminate kid, I was always feeling bad about myself. I felt I was somehow wrong and I struggled a lot to understand that I was normal too. And I believe our work now shows that, because we are effeminate boys in drag, with wigs, women’s clothes, and we are out there, being successful, and proving that you can be whoever you are.

What are your thoughts on the political situation in Brazil right now and the upcoming election?

It’s a very difficult moment for our country. I even get nervous talking about it, because it’s a situation that was not supposed to be happening at this point. Respect and the right to be whoever you are are not things that should be even a topic of discussion in 2018. And it’s so sad to see such a significant part of our population supporting this type of speech and saying that he is racist, misogynistic and homophobic, but he might be good for the economy. I think people should look at their own privileges and start thinking about each other. After all, we all just want to be happy and free to be who we are.

As Brazilians, we need to open our eyes and get together to stop this from happening, because it would be such a sad scenario for us. Unfortunately, we’ve seen this happen in the U.S. with Trump, despite all protests against him. I pray every day for this not to happen in Brazil, because it would be such a tragedy.

Do you think it is important for musicians to have a role in political activism?

Absolutely. I think every artist should be conscious about this, but especially the ones whose audience is the LGBTQ community and those who come from a working-class background. When you are an influencer and you have a voice, you must use it to spread kindness, love and respect. I believe this is an attitude that comes from within. It’s bigger than politics; it’s humanity. It’s respect. We all witness hate in our everyday lives; the only difference is that it’s also in politics now. In my opinion, if you are a public person, whether a singer, a blogger or a politician, you must use your voice to spread love.

Recently, Anitta faced some backlash online for being on the fence about political issues. What are your thoughts on the whole situation?

I love her so much. She’s my favorite artist here and, as a fan, I was kind of torn. I know she’s a great businesswoman, so I thought maybe she was afraid to say something for some marketing reason. Deep inside I knew she would never support that, because she is a feminist, and she faces a lot of sexism. There’s also the fact that the artists that are now supporting #EleNão are facing a huge hate wave online. Maybe she was afraid of it, but thank you God, she spoke out about the situation. I love you, Anitta!

What does it mean to you to see internationally acclaimed musicians such as Cher, Dua Lipa, Imagine Dragons’ Dan Reynolds and the Black Eyed Peas speaking out about the #EleNão campaign?

It’s amazing! Artists who support this are truly showing that they are special human beings, because they know it’s necessary to talk about it and raise awareness about the whole situation in Brazil. As I said before, it’s not about politics; it’s about respect. If you are a person that can see beyond your own privileges, you know that there are people dying because of racism, homophobia and sexism, and we need to fight this. Brazilians are used to taking the opinion of international artists more seriously, so I believe the effects of the campaign are going to be much bigger now.

How can Americans help the situation in Brazil?

I don’t know if Americans can help us directly. Maybe through social media. Dan Reynolds wore a T-shirt with the hashtag recently, and I was at Nicki Minaj’s concert last night and #EleNão was written on her drum set. I believe those small actions are important to give us strength to fight and move on from this whole thing.