Last week we brought you a queen who defies mainstream culture at every turn. This week is all about an international drag superstar. And no, I don’t mean RuPaul. In fact, RuPaul is no longer the most famous drag queen in the world. Pabllo Vittar, a Brazilian pop star with a huge online following, has stolen that title.
Pabllo Vittar has done it all. She’s been on a telenovela and Coca-Cola cans. She’s sold out stadiums and signed with Sony Music. She’s collaborated with Major Lazer, Charli XCX, and Fergie. She’s even made out with Diplo. And she’s only 23.
With 7.3 million Instagram followers and over 4 million YouTube subscribers, Vittar is easily the most followed drag queen on social media. Her success on platforms such as Instagram can be attributed to her large base of younger fans as well as her immaculate aesthetics. Just scroll through her photos, and you’ll see: Vittar is a true bombshell, modeling colorful wigs and striking outfits. She embodies what it means to be a pop diva, always glamorous, always sexy. And she knows it too: One of her most popular songs is called “Corpo Sensual” (“Sexy Body”).
But to call Pabllo Vittar just an Internet sensation would be vastly underselling her work. In fact, Drag Race alum Aja, an unabashed fan of Vittar, is insistent that the Brazilian’s art transcends even drag itself. “I wouldn’t consider that drag music; she’s a pop star,” Aja tells Mic about Vittar’s music.
Aja’s comment articulates Vittar’s incredibly influential yet complicated role not just in the world of drag, but beyond as well. Aja’s not the only one who’s struggled to label Vittar. Is she a drag queen? Is she a pop star? She performs in drag, but not in clubs. She doesn’t lip-sync either. There seems to be such a struggle to categorize Pabllo Vittar because something about her act feels too mainstream or too professional to be drag. But the beauty of Vittar is that she resists such categorization: she’s a drag queen and a pop star. She’s paving the way for drag performers to be taken seriously as artists beyond their own subculture. She’s changing the way people across the globe think of drag. Aja herself says it best: “She is breaking society’s box of what drag is capable of.”
Although she’s been doing drag since her teens and made her first television appearance in 2014, Vittar’s career really took off in 2015 after her Portuguese cover of Major Lazer’s “Lean On” went viral on YouTube. Since then, Vittar has been releasing music and performing across Brazil, her popularity steadily rising. Two years later, the story of her success came full circle when she was featured in Major Lazer’s “Sua Cara.”
Last year saw the release of Vittar’s debut album, Vai Passar Mal. The album consists of 10 eclectic tracks that blend modern pop with traditional Brazilian sounds. Vittar might cite America divas like Rihanna as major inspiration in her career, but the biggest influence on her music remains her home country. “I will always try to take my culture to every corner of the world; I want everyone to know the culture I grew up in, [the culture] I fell in love with, because it’s not enough to love other cultures and step on my own,” Vittar explains to Remezcla.
And the love is mutual. Vittar is not only immensely popular in Brazil, but she’s also a huge role model and spokesperson for the LGBT community there. It’s a position Vittar doesn’t take lightly. She uses her platform to speak freely about issues facing the queer community and is a comfort to kids across the country. “[Fans] tell me a lot about their daily struggle to go out on the street being gay, being drag… I want to give them strength so they can continue being who they are,” says Vittar for the Guardian. Through her music, Vittar spreads messages of empowerment, liberation, and pure joy. Vai Passar Mal is a truly a soundtrack of self-love and positivity.
The album’s most notable tracks include “K.O.,” the music video for which features Vittar in a boxing ring wearing nothing but a matching underwear-and-bra set complete with thigh-high, heeled boots over fishnet tights. She’s a total knockout both literally and figuratively.
Of course, we would be remiss to mention Vai Passar Mal without discussing the music video “Então Vai,” where Vittar, dressed in a rainbow bathing suit, boldly kisses Diplo. Vittar doesn’t even “have words” to describe that experience, she tells Charli XCX in an interview for Paper Magazine. She tries anyway: “Diplo’s mouth and mine were meant to be together. His lips are sweet and soft, it felt like eating Jambo, which is a very sweet and delicious fruit from Brazil.”
What makes these two music videos so remarkable, is Vittar’s blatant, unashamed display of her sexuality. Whether it’s showing off her body in the “K.O.” video or making out with a famous DJ in “Então Vai,” Vittar is truly ‘out ‘n proud,’ and she’s all the more popular for it too.
At a time when violence against LGBT communities is at a high, Vittar stays powerful by simply living her truth. Just last year, Vittar used her platform to speak out against the overturning of Brazil’s ban on gay conversion therapy. “We can only change the world if we start by changing the environment around us,” Vittar explains to Billboard. Which is precisely why, despite such increasingly rampant homophobia, Pabllo Vittar refuses to let her wonderfully gay self be silenced: No matter what gets thrown her way, she’ll keep singing and dancing her way to the top charts.