Interview: Reuben Ford; Images: ErnnaCost
Pabllo Vittar may be the most followed drag queen on the planet – yes, that includes the mother of them all, RuPaul – but she says she’ll never forget her humble beginnings.
The Brazilian sensation has the world at her perfectly manicured, stiletto-clad feet, with over 11.7million devotees on Instagram, and a glittering pop career that has seen her snatch a Latin Grammy nomination and an MTV Europe Music Award.
Gracing the front cover of the Attitude Summer issue, out now to download and to order globally, Pabllo tells us that she wouldn’t be where she is, were it not for her tough upbringing in Maranhão and Pará, among the poorer regions of Brazil’s north-east.
“It’s a part of Brazil that I love, and I’m proud to have been born there,” she maintains, “but it was very difficult at the same time.”
“I was bullied at school for being gay, for being camp, for being fat. Growing up in a rough, remote town that wasn’t ready for a person like me was difficult… it was tough, but at the same time I can’t imagine growing up anywhere else, because it’s shaped the person I have become today.”
The 27-year-old adds: “We didn’t have much there, but as an artist, you just do it. You create, and you improve. Especially in the north-east, there are no excuses. If you want something, you have to get on and make it.”
Pabllo – who released her latest album 111 last year – adds that the bullying prepared her for today’s toxic trolling culture.
“I’m completely bulletproof,” she exclaims. “I know who I am and what I am capable of. The haters and online bullies will [always] be there, and people can be cruel on the internet, but this doesn’t hurt me. I look at my scars from the past and think how I have overcome them.”
Discovering drag at a young age – “When I was a child, it was my dream to be Miss Gay in my hometown” – the 26-year-old puts her finger on when she first realised she could marry the rhinestone-and-feathers artform with music.
“It wasn’t until I had moved to the state of Minas [in south-eastern Brazil] and I saw RuPaul’s Drag Race for the first time,” she recalls.
“Queens who sang, acted, modelled… and I said to myself, I can do that, I want to do that. I could do the two things that always loved and when I put singing and performing together with drag, on stage, it just complemented and completed who I am as an artist."
Purposely adopting a masculine drag name, Pabllo explains that she likes to play with gender and challenge stereotypes.
“You break the stigmas of what is masculine and what is feminine,” she continues. “I like to be free to explore both my masculine and feminine side and I think it’s very important to make this something natural for children and future generations.
"They need to grow up knowing that they can be free and can question who they are.”
Read the full interview in the Attitude summer issue, out now.