“You know, I grew up seeing CK ads all over the magazines and billboards and now I AM ON THOSE BILLBOARDS! It is a dream coming true and a turning point in my career,” writes drag queen Pabllo Vittar to ICON. “That is my first global campaign, with a brand that I have always admired and with people with great talent and love-filled hearts! Shooting was incredible, all the experience around it was amazing.”
This year, and in a time when we need positivity the most, Pabllo Vittar fronted Calvin Klein for #ProudInMyCalvins, a celebration of self-expression among the full spectrum of LGBTQ identities. Boasting 10.8 million followers on Instagram alone, the drag queen, singer and songwriter is one of the most recognised faces within and outside the LGBTQ community not only in her home country of Brazil, but across the globe. Despite political unrest and extreme right-wing views from the country’s top politicians, Vittar has become a pioneer for queer identities. She credits her mother for not only protecting her growing up, but ensuring she is 100 percent authentic.
But her viral success following a television performance of Whitney Houston’s ‘I Have Nothing’, was by no accident. “I wanted to be seen,” she tells ICON. And seen she has become. Following her global campaign with Calvin Klein, we spoke to the performer on coming out and what she hopes to inspire in others.
ICON: You’re one of the world’s biggest drag queens, but I would love to start from the very beginning. What was your childhood like and how has that shaped you, into who you are today?
Pabllo Vittar: “I grew up at the north of Brazil moving around a bit with my mom and two sisters. Growing up surrounded by them was very important and it definitely shaped me to who I am now. My mom is a very strong and independent woman, open minded and against all kinds of prejudice and bullying. That is important so she and my sisters protected me a lot of times of other child’s violence and bullying during my childhood and always encouraged me to be who I truly was all of the time. It made a lot of my process of finding myself and “getting out of the closet” easier and natural.”
Can you tell us about the first time you performed in drag? What inspired you to start doing it?
PV: “I think the first time I performed in drag was opening a Jujubee’s show in Brazil! 2015 I think. I didn’t even have any original songs and it was a fully cover show. But it was amazing! About inspiration, I’ve always loved the drag world but it was Ru Paul’s Drag Race that gave me the energy to start doing drag.”
During that time, what was the general response to the LGBTQ+ community in Brazil?
PV: “It was amazing! Later that year I released my first EP with five songs, all versions of global pop songs with a Brazilian twist, and I was able to tour around Brazil for almost two years. My first year I did almost 200 shows and it was crazy amazing!”
You went viral after performing a rendition of Whitney Houston’s ‘I Have Nothing’. Did you ever expect that response from the public?
PV: “I’m gonna be super honest with you. YES! Lol! I wanted to be seen and I tried very hard. I was always putting my videos on [YouTube], going to local TV shows, asking to sing at bars and clubs and all of that hoping that people would like me and would like my work and art.”
How has your life changed? Can you pinpoint a specific ‘I’ve made it’ moment?
PV: “There were a lot of life changing points during the past couple of years. Releasing my first album and touring all over Brazil was one of them, being invited to sing with Fergie on Rock In Rio main stage was another, winning and performing on the EMA’s last year, another one and the last one was being the face of the CK global campaign! I am very grateful for all of that. I’ve been in a lot of places that I’ve only dreamed of and so it’s surreal.”
You now have a massive following on social media. What do you hope young people take from you and your own journey?
PV: “That it’s incredible to be who you truly are!
“Don’t be shy, don’t be afraid, if people around you don’t like it, change them, don’t change yourself and always be true to yourself.”
Who do you personally look to for inspiration?
PV: “I gotta say my mom! She’s been through a lot of difficulties in her life but she is a joyful, respectful and inspiring person.”
What are your favourite pieces from the Calvin Klein Pride collection?
PV: “First of all the undies. I can’t live without them! In second place are the T-shirts. I always cut them because I like to show my body (lol), but they are always in my travel bag anywhere I go. Especially that black one with the rainbow logo that I used during Sydney Pride this year.”