When Rolling Stone reaches Pabllo Vittar for the first time, she has just turned twenty-five; but the Latin Grammy-nominated drag superstar is clearly tapped into a higher power. In November she snagged an MTV Europe Music Award for Best Brazilian Act, achieving the dual feat of being the first Brazilian act to perform at the ceremony, and the first drag act to win the award. She’s also raring for further international takeover with her latest EP, 111 1 — the prequel to her next EP, 111 2, set for release in 2020.
“I am who I am: a gay boy, drag queen, super feminine,” Vittar tells Rolling Stone. “I speak my truth through my music.”
In contrast to previous records Ñao Para Ñao and Vai Passar Mal, the new 111 1 — which gets its name from Vittar’s charmed November 1st birthday — is her most experimental, pulling sounds from every corner of the globe and stretching her voice across samba horns and four-on-the-floor dance beats. “I learned a lot as an artist during the process [of making this record], and know my body, voice and stage techniques so much better,” says Vittar.
111 1 is a trilingual celebration of the dance floor, a sonic U.N. meeting held in a club where English, Spanish and Portuguese entwine freely. The EP boasts two collaborations that couldn’t be better representations of Vittar’s sonic duality: opening track “Parabéns”, or Portuguese for “congratulations”, sees Bahia’s pagoda juggernaut Psirico trading verses with Vittar over distorted samba horns and bass. Vittar makes a rare foray into the Spanish language with her industrial closing track, “Ponte Perra”; and in her slickly-produced English language debut, “Flash Pose,” she gets an assist from British avant pop force Charli XCX, who tears into a roiling verse about wearing vintage Versace and party-hopping in a bright pink car a la Malibu Barbie.
“Charli was an artist that I always loved,” she says of the hitmaker — who previously featured Vittar on her Pop 2 anthem “I Got It,” as well as on her latest record, Charli. Vittar nabs the closing verse of Charli’s deliciously weird standout track “Shake It,” alongside Big Freedia, Brooke Candy and CupcakKe. “That interest in experimenting is something we have in common for sure… I am here for any crazy idea she could have in mind.”
This openness to surreal sounds, combined with an innate swagger and a transnational perspective, is precisely what makes Vittar an emblematic pop star of our time. A drag queen who first cut her teeth in North Brazil, where she grew up, Vittar binges on music from all parts of the world — she cites Spanish export Rosalía and Chile’s Tomasa del Real as her faves — and shouts out fellow Brazilians Baiana System and Attooxxa. Vittar is also a noted “Blink”, or, a stan of K-Pop heroines BLACKPINK.
“I love the way that music, dance choreography and image come together to create something extraordinary, and how they manage to take over the world [despite] speaking languages that most of us are not familiar with,” she muses.
Vittar’s vital presence in pop music does not come without political undertones. In the last year alone, 167 trans people were killed in Brazil, and the political climate has only further made the country unsafe for the country’s LGBTQ+ population with the presidency of climate change-denier and noted homophobe Jair Bolsonaro. “As an artist I cannot just shut my voice and watch all the atrocities that are happening in Brazil,” she says. “It’s my duty to speak up, as loud as I can, to fight against it and try to generate awareness about everything.”
That the country’s biggest export of the moment is an outspoken, femme, queer pop star performing in drag is not lost on Vittar, nor on the world — with some proclaiming her “a beacon of hope” as her profile continues to elevate, surpassing even RuPaul’s numbers on social media.
“I love making pop music because for a couple of minutes, you can forget about everything and just enjoy yourself. That is music and drag for me. The stage is sacred for me; it’s a shield that protects me… it’s where I can be free from any prejudice and violence.”
111 1 is out now via Sony Music Entertainment Brasil.