Anitta, Brazilian LGBTQ icon, is set to conquer America

Brazilian pop star Anitta has been coming out of the closet since she was 14 years old.

I kissed a girl before I kissed a guy,” she says, calling backstage at Coca-Cola Music Hall in Puerto Rico, where she will be performing with reggaeton singer-songwriter Justin Quiles. “I didn’t tell my mom until after I kissed a guy because… I didn’t know how to feel. I thought there was something wrong with me because I wanted to kiss a guy and a girl. But my mother just said: ‘So what?’ ”

Ten years and many friends later — “I change boyfriends like I change panties,” she often jokes — Anitta was born bisexual in her 2018 Netflix documentaries.Vai Anita.” Though initially hesitant to speak out about what she describes in the past as casual relationships with women, Anitta opened up after a stranger secretly snapped photos of her kissing a woman at a party.

“My family never had a problem, but everyone else needed an answer,” she explains. “So I said, ‘I don’t want to hide.’ If I go to the club and want to kiss a girl, I don’t want to be scared that people will see me and freak out.”

On Saturday, Anitta will be one of the headliners of the LA yearbook along with Christina Aguilera Pride in the Parkan open-air concert and celebration of the city’s LGBTQ community at Los Angeles State Historic Park.

The day-long event includes performances by Syd, Rebecca Black, Chika and RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Bob the Drag Queen.

A singer performs on stage with her backup dancers

Anitta performing at Coachella 2022.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Anitta’s Pride show follows the 29-year-old’s monumental debut at Coachella in April, where she became the first Brazilian solo artist to take the main stage.

There she held court amidst a specially designed set inspired by Disney World’s Animal Kingdom by Joe Rohde Rio de Janeiro favelas, Anitta’s birthplace. Supported by a half Brazilian, half American dance crew, Anitta treated fans and onlookers to a live performance Deposit Funk extravaganza, featuring guest appearances from Snoop Dogg, Diplo and rapper Saweetie, the latter of whom guest-starred on Anitta’s recent single Faking Love.

“I wanted to have a mix of Brazilian and American culture on stage,” she says of her performance, which she conducted in English, Spanish, and her native language, Portuguese. “Bringing us all together is a beautiful thing.”

On the morning of her Coachella performance, Anitta released her fifth studio LP, Versions of Me. Released on Warner Records, it marks the artist’s first major label appearance in the United States, cementing her full transition into the English-speaking market.

Produced by Grammy-winning hitmaker Ryan Tedder, “Versions” is an enthralling selection of bouncy, pan-Latin pop grooves. Highlights include the sassy queer dance cut “Me Gusta” (featuring Cardi B and Myke Towers), the trap-infused “Girl From Ipanema” song “Girl From Rio” and “Envolver”, a reggaeton smash, Reached #2 on Billboard’s Global 200 Songs Chart – the highest ranking ever by a Latina artist.

Meanwhile, “Envolver” spawned a full-body twerk turn fitness challenge on TikTok, generating over 2 million videos on the platform. (Thanks to Anitta’s unabashedly sexual approach, the original TikTok video is extremely not safe for work.)

“Anitta wanted to make history,” says Tom Corson, co-chairman and COO at Warner Records.

Corson, who once oversaw releases by Ricky Martin at Columbia Records and Pitbull at RCA, is confident that Anitta can both inspire enthusiasm for Brazilian music and culture around the world and keep up with America’s biggest pop stars.

“She’s fearless,” he tells the Times. “She loves the idea of ​​playing in the biggest music market in the world and it’s not for the faint of heart. She sings in Portuguese, English, Spanish, even Italian – opening doors to the people of Brazil that have never been opened before.”

Anitta was born Larissa de Macedo Machado in Rio de Janeiro and grew up in the working-class neighborhood of Honório Gurgel; Her mother worked as a craftswoman while her father sold car parts. She borrowed her stage name from the seductive protagonist of the 2001 Brazilian period drama The Presence of Anita — and remixed the name with an added ‘t’ to differentiate herself.

Anitta grew up as a chorus girl at the church she attended with her maternal grandparents, but funk carioca, Brazil’s livelier, rhythmic approach to hip-hop, had captivated the singer from an early age. “I was such a party crasher,” she says. “I’ve been to every kid’s party. I was only there to dance, especially when they were playing funk music.”

At the age of 11 she started after school with intensive English courses and private dance lessons. At the age of 16, she graduated from commercial school with a degree in business administration – a pragmatic degree from which she still draws today. “My mother always said I was crazy but responsible,” she says.

After making YouTube famous in 2010 by singing into a deodorant stick — yes, really — Anitta worked with various funk producers in Rio, eventually securing a record deal with Warner Brazil in 2013. She made a strong showing in the Portuguese market with her own -titled debut, followed by her second album Bang in 2015; the following year she was invited to the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics, where she shared the stage with two legendary Brazilian artists who created their own international crossover moment in the 1960s: Tropicália pioneers Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Colombia, Spanish-speaking MCs J Balvin and Maluma have been making waves in the US and Europe with their pop-oriented spin of reggaeton. Anitta decided to hire a Spanish teacher. In 2016, she crafted a Portuguese-Spanish remix of Balvin’s 2015 hit “Ginza,” then joined Maluma on “Sim ou Não,” a balmy pop mélange that helped her conquer the coveted Hispanic market.

Anitta also caught the attention of English-speaking audiences in the United States. In 2017, Diplo – famous for mining sounds from around the world – hired Anitta to share diva duties with drag superstar Pabllo Vittar on Major Lazer’s funk-fueled dance track, “Sua Cara.” The song was the first and only track featuring a Brazilian artist to make the US Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart.

Anitta had officially entered the Portuguese, Spanish and English speaking markets; and in the two years leading up to her 2019 album Kisses, everyone from Madonna (“Faz Gostoso”) to Snoop Dogg (“Onda Diferente”) sought Anitta’s global reach.

But back home in Brazil, fans worried Anitta was straying too far from her Rio roots.

Brazilian superstar Anitta last night released her new single “Me Gusta” featuring American rapper Cardi B and Puerto Rican rapper Myke Towers. The music video followed this morning.

“Anitta has a very entrepreneurial spirit,” says Raquel Moreira, professor of communications at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, and author of Bitches Unleashed: Performance and Embodied Politics in Favela Funk. “People criticize Anitta for that, but in order for her to break out of Brazil and go mainstream, she had to brand herself as Latina,” she says.

“As a mixed race woman with fair skin, Anitta was allowed to move through Hispanic space,” says Moreira. “Whereas favela funk is a sound associated with poor people of color, particularly black people in Brazil. People don’t associate them with Latinidad.”

Anitta has long shied away from most social and political discourses; that is, until after the 2018 presidential campaign in Brazil, which resulted in a victory for right-wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro.

After opening up about Bolsonaro’s touting homophobic beliefs and rolling back protections for the Amazon and its indigenous communities, Anitta decided to use her solid social media following — she has 63.2 million followers on Instagram — to do the same political commitment among them to strengthen their fans. In 2020, she hired her friend, lawyer and journalist Gabriela Prioli to explain Brazilian politics to fans in an Instagram Live series, urging teenagers in Brazil to sign up to vote Bolsonaro out in 2022.

“There is still a lot of chauvinism and prejudice in my country,” she says.

Bolsonaro, in turn, mocked the singer on his Twitter account – among other things, because he discussed the Amazon with Leonardo DiCaprio and carried the Brazilian flag at Coachella. Anitta promptly blocked the president’s account in April, suggesting he “not use my social media to stir up internet turmoil.”

But with each new award she adds to her resume, Anitta has the last word.

“My successes are too great to be accidental; it took years of hard work,” she says. “But we can’t ignore the fact that women have a harder time getting things done than men, and it’s not just in the music industry.

“I’m not just fighting for women or LGBT people,” she adds. “I fight for all of us to have a healthy environment. At least that’s what we deserve.”

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/music/story/2022-06-09/anitta-brazil-lgbtq-bisexual-pride Anitta, Brazilian LGBTQ icon, is set to conquer America

Sarah Ridley

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