Anitta for President
If modern pop stardom had a blueprint, Anitta has torn it up. She’s the hottest Brazilian music sensation since forever and her latest album, Versions of Me, a trilingual multi-genre knockout, broke Spotify records and solidified her as the queen of funk carioca, a style she absorbed growing up in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. We got Anitta, whose real name is Larissa de Macedo Machado, stalking the streets of L.A. wearing the new Fendace collection, and talking to her friend J Balvin about what’s up in her world.
J BALVIN: Hola, hermosa! I feel really proud to be here with you—one of the greatest artists of history in Brazil. So, what’s up Larissa?
ANITTA: I’m good, I just got to Vegas. I’m working a lot, so I’m tired, but I’m very, very happy. Are you good?
BALVIN: Yeah, I’m here in New York, chilling. So, I’m going to go a little deeper, because as artists we’re tired of the same questions. First, who is Anitta as a human being? The artist side is really easy to find on Google; I want people to know the human side.
ANITTA: It’s crazy because as an artist—maybe because we don’t want to feel insecure—my character is very powerful, this girl that does everything. But most times I’m very worried about everyone, caring about everyone, thinking about my family and making sure everyone is good. I’m very private, so I don’t let anyone know about that— it’s kind of a secret. But I’m actually very much the opposite of this powerful, invincible person that I sell as an artist.
BALVIN: So there’s Anitta the artist, and there’s Larissa the person. But you’re the creator of Anitta, so that means that in a way you are Larissa all the time.
ANITTA: That’s when it gets tricky, because I created this whole thing. Whenever I suffered any damage as a teenager, I created this character inside of me that no one could ever play with. She was tough, but I was very insecure. It’s part of me, this side that’s very confident—and I like that. But there’s this other side that’s the opposite, and it helps my career because then I don’t forget about where I come from. What keeps me going with this character, with this whole industry, is that I care so much about everything. I’m a very political person, and I use this character and industry to make the changes I want to see in the world. But I don’t like when people notice that, because I feel like people are noticing that I’m fragile or weak.
BALVIN: But what’s the problem with showing the world that you’re fragile? Do you think that’s going to hurt your streams?
ANITTA: You know what? I have no clue.
BALVIN: Does it scare you? Do you think that people are going to bully because you show a weak side?
ANITTA: Yeah. I’m starting to show it more. In the beginning I wasn’t. For the people close to me, I’m scared of them hurting me somehow. Even though I’m scared, I still keep letting people into my life. I meet new people every day and bring them into my routine and I don’t think about it. My family says, “You’re always bringing new people around.” And I’m like, “Because I like to meet people, to know people.” I like to go to places alone, no security. I like to talk to people in the streets, get a taxi and ask about the driver’s life. I’ll stop the car in the middle of the street if a woman is alone, and be like, “Are you okay? Do you need to talk?” And then this person will be in my house days later.
BALVIN: Right now, you’ve got everything, but what’s “everything,” right? We know that what people think is everything is not. So, looking back to when you dreamed of being where you are right now, how do you feel when people come up to you and say, “Anitta, you’ve got everything”?
ANITTA: I always have the same answer. I say that it’s very sad that we need to get to the point where we’re able to buy anything we want to know that money is nothing.
BALVIN: There you go!
ANITTA: And they say, “It’s easy to say that if your account is full of money.” And I’m like, “Trust me.”
BALVIN: People don’t know that growing up, your family didn’t have the money to pay for school, basically.
ANITTA: Yeah. In Brazil, public schools are not good, so I used to study at this paid school. My dad wanted to provide a good education for me and my brother, but he didn’t have the money. The school made a competition for the “Girl of the Spring” and whoever won would get a sponsorship to study the whole year. I wasn’t a beautiful model, I had this big hair and huge toes. But that was my chance to study one more year in a good school, so I signed up. I became the joke of the school because the most beautiful girls at the school signed up for this thing and I wasn’t cute at all. When I got home I said, “Mom, I signed up for this fashion competition and I’m going to win because I need to study one more year for free.” And she said, “How are you supposed to win? What are you going to wear?” I said, “The theme is recycling. Let’s just build an outfit that’s recycled.” So I started to get little coffee cups and empty soda bottles from the streets and we built a crazy skirt and top. When we got there, everyone was so well produced—I think they hired people to do their outfits and shit—and my outfit was me and my mom literally doing it with our own hands. My mom was like, “We have no chance, let’s go home.” And I said, “No, I need to study next year for free. I’m going to win.” When they called my name, I was catwalking, talking about fashion, answering questions with charisma. They took hours to give the result, but in the end they announced that I won. So I looked at my mom and I said, “I told you that I was going to win!”
BALVIN: I just saw you at the Met Gala a few weeks ago. When you go back to wearing the dress that you made with your mom, did you feel the same happiness then and now?
ANITTA: It’s the same! I actually called my mom and we had this exact talk. I was telling my team about this story when we were trying on the Met Gala dress. My mom never forgets it. She has pictures. I actually posted them on my “close friends” Instagram story.
BALVIN: You know what sacrifice is, you know what suffering is, you know what it is to feel neglected or treated in a bad way. So that’s why you have the power to tell people, “You know what? This is not everything.”
ANITTA: When people look at me, they take a while to see it because I’m Brazilian. I’m a mixed person. My dad is Black. My mom is Latin. And I was born and raised in the streets, in the ghetto. I used to wake up and see dead bodies at my door. Nowadays, even though I have the opportunity to have everything, I don’t care. I don’t even know how much money I have. If someone calls me asking for help, for donations, I say, “Take it.” The one who knows how much money I have is my brother. If I want to buy something expensive, which is not something that I do—or at Coachella, for example, I wanted to bring all of my culture and this beautiful veil on- stage, and that was really expensive—I call my brother and say, “Yo, do I have money to spend on this?” And then he tells me if I have it or not. Because I don’t want to know. I don’t want my life to be about money. And my family’s like that, too. We don’t care about the things we have, we just need to be together.
BALVIN: Your family are the people who make you feel like you’re still a normal human being.
ANITTA: Yeah. And I told you, my mom prays for you. They really love people that support me. It’s very cute.
BALVIN: You are the result of your past, which means that you were really well surrounded with a lot of values and morals.
ANITTA: When we get fame, we can get lost in this game and forget who we are. Why did I start this whole thing? Why am I doing this? For me, it was never about getting famous and rich. It was about changing my people’s lives, my country’s life. So if I’m going to the Met Gala or Coachella or the VMAs, it’s not because I want to show off. It’s because I want my country to believe that they can go to places that they’ve never been.
BALVIN: You are the living country.
ANITTA: They say that!
BALVIN: You’re giving people inspiration to be whatever they want to be. The people of Brazil want you to be the president! Have you ever thought about that?
ANITTA: They won’t stop asking me, but I’m only 29! To run for president you have to be a minimum of 35. So I’m not even thinking about it. I just want to make sure I bring attention to the important things. So if I need to fight with the president, I will fight. If I need to fight with the minister, I will fight, as I’ve already done. I’ve gotten myself in a little trouble, but I care about protecting the environment, Indigenous people, and society. My family will call me like, “You’ve got to slow down.” And I’m like, “No! The Indigenous are dying. The forest is being killed. We need to do something. I have the voice.”
BALVIN: You have put your life at risk.
ANITTA: I’ve done that, yeah. That’s why my family’s kind of scared. I went to Brazil this week and I didn’t let people know I was there because of some threats I was getting. I’m being very active this year with the elections coming. I want this country to change and I’m not scared. I just tell my family, “Don’t worry. If I die, I’ll come back as a ghost and haunt their lives!”
BALVIN: So you’re saying you’ve got to wait until you’re 35 to be the president.
ANITTA: No, no, no! I’m not saying that! I hope that Brazil will be in very good hands and they don’t ask me. Before I started getting involved in politics, I never knew how evil human beings can be. It’s so sad that power just makes people blind.
BALVIN: What is the saddest thing you’ve ever seen in your country’s political situation?
ANITTA: People pretend they care just to make sure they stay in power, to make sure their egos are fed. It’s sad because people believe them.
BALVIN: Do you think [Brazilian president] Bolsonaro doesn’t like you?
ANITTA: He hates me! He says it out loud. But I understand now that his strategy is just using my name to create buzz online and I won’t let him do that. So I’m avoiding saying his name. I call him Voldemort.
BALVIN: [Laughs] You’re the realest! Let’s say you retire from music just because you want to. What would be your dream job?
ANITTA: I want to have a big family, live in the middle of nowhere, be a farmer. Just planting my own food on my vegan farm with kids. I know I have this whole thing going on, but at the same time, as Larissa, I just walk around naked all day in my house with the animals. I like having a small cozy house with dogs. I’m simple.
BALVIN: I love that. I also want to congratulate you because you became the first Latina artist that reached the number one global song on Spotify. That’s a big deal. I think it’s a holiday now in Brazil, if I’m not mistaken.
ANITTA: That day was like the World Cup! The whole country stopped. There were no soap operas, no movies, no anything. Everyone was just talking about this.
BALVIN: You deserve it all. You keep it real. That’s your power.
ANITTA: I’m very bad at faking things.
BALVIN: When was the last time you had to fake a smile?
ANITTA: I’m not having to give fake smiles recently. I don’t remember the last time. It’s been so fucking long.
BALVIN: Who was the last person that you put in their place?
ANITTA: I can’t say, he’s too famous.
BALVIN: What did you say?
ANITTA: I said, “Listen, I’ve been where you are. It doesn’t matter how much power you get, how much money you get. It doesn’t matter if everyone wants to work with you or vibe with you. You’ve got to treat people properly. Don’t use people for your benefit and then discard them like they’re nothing. Don’t let this whole people-kissing-your-ass thing make you stop being a genuine person. I don’t like that. Don’t talk to me until you come back be- ing real.” I said a little bit more, but I’m not going to be that specific.
BALVIN: You have a big heart like me, but you’re a little more open when it comes to liking someone fast. Are you in love with someone right now or do you have someone that you think, “This might be my next ex”?
ANITTA: Oh, stop! I never date anyone and think they’re going to be an ex! I date the person thinking we’re going to get married and have kids. I think I’m going to die with this person holding hands and we are going to be buried in the same cemetery side by side. If you’re in love, you’ve got to trust that it’s going to work.
BALVIN: Are you in love right now?
ANITTA: Yes. And it’s going to happen.
BALVIN: So deeply in love that you would have kids right now?
ANITTA: I’ll have the kids! You’ll be the padrino.
BALVIN: The godfather! I’m ready.
ANITTA: When I’m in love, I want the wedding for a thousand people, and I’ll plan the band and the dress.
BALVIN: Who would you want to design your wedding dress?
ANITTA: A Brazilian designer, obviously. Look at me talking about the wedding! I’m not even dating! I’m in love only! Anitta, are you single? Yes. Are you in love? Yes. But I’m already planning the wedding and my dress. [Laughs
BALVIN: I can’t wait to be at your wedding. I went to a party at your house a couple of years ago and the vibe was amazing. I think I was the only one who was allowed to have a cell phone inside.
ANITTA: Well, they all had cell phones inside, but they knew they had to respect me, so they didn’t grab them. I don’t like to take cell phones because that means they don’t respect me if I need to do that. But if they get in with their cell phones and don’t touch them, that’s respect.
BALVIN: That really impressed me. I want people to know that this woman, this queen, is a real gangster. No one was even touching their pockets. I was like, “There’s no one with a cell phone here.” And you said, “I just told them they can’t.”
ANITTA: They know I’m tough. If you fuck up, I’m going to kick you out for real. My party, my rules.
Styling Assistant: Rachelle Duperoux
Hair: Florido Basallo III using IGK
Makeup: Patrick Ta using Patrick Ta Beauty
Nails: Merrick Fisher using CND at Opus Beauty
Production: Paige Viti for Born Artists
Production Assistant: Niamh Hannigan