Brazilian drag queen Pabllo Vittar combines electronic dance-pop with elements of Brazilian music and has swiftly become an icon for his country's LGBTQ community, as well as an international star.
Pabllo Vittar is the on-stage alter ego of Phabullo Rodrigues da Silva. Born in 1994 and brought up in the island city of São Luís, capital of the northern state of Maranhão, he was bullied as a child for his effeminate voice and looks, later coming out as gay. Inspired to become a singer by divas such as Aretha Franklin, Donna Summer, and Whitney Houston, and Brazilian legends Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, he began performing and songwriting in his teens. Developing an interest in drag after seeing RuPaul's Drag Race on TV, he borrowed his sister's makeup and started dressing up. He did his first performances in city bars, initially under the name Pabllo Knowles in homage to Beyoncé, but later changed it for fear of getting sued. In 2014 he appeared on local TV with a note-perfect rendition of Houston's notoriously difficult "I Have Nothing," which launched him on the path to fame. He began recording his own material, becoming a well-known personality on video streaming networks and social media, with his hit "Open Bar" surpassing one million views. He signed with Sony and in 2017 released his debut album Vai Passar Mal ("I'm Going to Be Sick"), which combined electronic dance-pop with a multitude of niche Brazilian genres such as forró, funk carioca, tecnobrega, and axé. His second album, Não para Não ("No, Don't Stop"), released the following year, saw him tour internationally and become even better-known. With its lively character and self-affirming, sexually frank lyrics, his music became a rallying point for Brazil's increasingly marginalized LGBTQ community. His third album, 111, released in 2020, featured spots from Ivete Sangalo, Thalía, and Charli XCX; he also collaborated with other high-profile artists such as Anitta, Major Lazer, and Diplo. ~ John D. Buchanan