A warm smile forms across my face as I pick up the phone and I hear a woman speaking in a familiar accent on the other line. Something about broken English always brings me a sense of comfort. It reminds me of my mother. Reminds me of home. The woman on the other line is none other than Brazilian mega pop star, Larissa de Macedo Machado, or better known by her stage name, Anitta. While her roots reside in Rio de Janeiro, this triple threat has global ambitions. Already making her mark in her native country by being the first Brazilian artist to reach over 100 million views on Youtube, gaining instant success in most of Central and South America, having one of her tour stops this year be inside the prestigious Madison Square Garden, and collaborating with the likes of Pharrell and Major Lazer, Anitta is out for world domination. Or so it would seem, but in truth, Anitta is content with the success she’s achieved thus far. She tells me she’s not one to constantly crave “the next best thing” and credits her humble beginnings for the ability to be able to be revel in her accomplishments, calling any other goal she reaches along the way, “an added bonus.” As we giggle on the phone over the next hour and a half, Anitta goes from being a complete stranger to quite possibly one of my favourite women on this planet. The second she tells me she values honesty more than anything, she’s instantly catapulted to very top of my list and as she explains her views on second chances, I start to think we might be kindred spirits.
What is something that you are not willing to compromise on?
Honesty. I hate when I can’t be honest. Something I’m not happy doing and I’m not open to being, is fake. If I have to be fake to gain money, publicity, or accomplish some goal, it’s not worth it to me. I feel so disgusted when anyone asks me to lie about anything. I simply refuse to pretend to believe in something that doesn’t feel genuine to me as an artist or as a person. To lie or to be lied to, for me, feels like taking a bullet. It’s excruciatingly painful.
I feel the exact same way. There is nothing I despise more in this world than a liar. Although lately, while I’m honest to those around me, I feel like i’ve been lying to myself a lot.
Do you ever find yourself doing this? If so, what is the biggest lie you’ve ever told yourself?
I really try not to do this. I mean it when I say lying is painful to me so I avoid doing it to anyone, myself included. You know actually, I’ve realised that as an artist, it’s really difficult to be as honest as I like to be and I often get into trouble for my level of transparency. When I first started my career in Brazil, I got a lot of plastic surgery because I felt ugly. I changed my whole face. My nose, my lips, everything. I was on a talk show once where they put an old photo of mine up on the screen and instead of denying my surgeries, I told the truth. I told them that was back when I used to photoshop all of my pictures. I got so tired of having to photoshop every single image that one day I went into a consultation and told my doctor, “you see the way I photoshopped myself in this picture? Make me look like this in real life.” Needless to say people lost their shit when the interview aired. They couldn’t believe I was promoting plastic surgery. I was basically shamed for not lying. But what was I supposed to say to young girls watching? “Oh hey ladies, I woke up like this?” No.
I absolutely love that you did that. I think it’s so important for young girls to know that what they often see on TV or in Magazines is not an attainable ideal of beauty. And that celebrities don’t just “wake up like this.” They have trainers, nutritionists, beauticians, and in your case, plastic surgeons, whom they pay hundreds and thousands of dollars to create this made up notion of perfection. Everyone has insecurities and you aren’t less of woman because of it.
I completely agree. That’s exactly why I chose to be honest about the work I had done. I also choose to be honest about the “imperfections” that I still have. In fact, in my Via Mallandra music video, I purposely left in a scene with my ass covered in cellulite. It’s the opening shot of the video, I am not trying to hide it one little bit. I mean initially I did plan on editing it out but then I heard how much it would cost to photoshop that out of my video I said, “fuck it. Let them see.” I’m glad I went with that decision because it shows girls, “hey you can have cellulite all over your ass and still be Brazil’s biggest pop star.”
Do you remember the moment you fell in love with music and realised singing was absolutely what you were born to do?
According to my mom, I’ve known I wanted to be a singer since I was a year old. She said I used to sing all day long and I would profess to everyone that I was going to be a singer someday. There was no specific moment, I’ve just always had this knowing in me. There was never a doubt in my mind.
I know that you started singing when you were eight in a church choir, is this correct?
Yes, in Brazil I started singing at church with my grandpa. Going to church was like going to school. Singing in that choir taught me everything I know. When I got older I started to sing on Youtube and then on a telenovela. My work became really great in Brazil so I began to seek a new challenge. I started to learn Spanish and began to study how I could cross over and sing in other countries. It’s only been a year since I’ve started to sing in Spanish and English. I love it.
Aside from creating music and film, what are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about the fashion world, social work issues, now that I’m really satisfied with my work as a musician, I’m starting to think of how can I make a difference with my platform. This year I’ve started to work on a cartoon for children in Brazil. It teaches children how to love, how to forgive and how to care for the nature around them.
Wow, that’s fascinating. I think it’s so important to teach kids about diversity and different ways to love from an early age. No one is born knowing how to hate, discriminate or judge others, those are all learned behaviours. If children are watching something about love and compassion from an early age, that’s going to affect them in the most positive way. What is the greatest lesson you think you’ve learned from your childhood? Or just your upbringing in general?
I learned the importance of being grateful for every single thing. I didn’t grow up with a lot of material items. I thank God for everything. I think in this industry and just in life, a lot of the time people become obsessed with reaching their goals. And even when they do achieve them, they’re already thinking about achieving the next one, and the one after that. It feels like they are never happy. They are never fully satisfied. I’m not like this. We need to be honest with ourselves and start thinking about being happy with who we are as people, and not have our state of happiness or success be driven by what we don’t have or what we still want. You are the only person who knows what you’re capable of and what you can offer this world. Don’t let anyone place their expectations on you.
You’ve said before that in order to be able to take the criticism from being in the public eye, you’ve had to learn to separate who you are as a person and who you are as an artist? What is the difference between those two individuals?
As an artist I know that I have my goals, my responsibilities, so when I’m home or when I wanna make sure I have to be the person who I am, I go by my real name, Larissa.
How is Anitta different from Larissa?
Anitta is always there to entertain people to give give give, and make people feel. Anitta is always trying to send happiness to everybody. As Larissa, I think I’m much more calm. I’m more reserved. I’m more quiet and reflective.
I see, so there was a purpose to giving yourself a stage name other than just having a name that people would like. I personally think you’re real name is beautiful (Larissa) and I was really surprised when I discovered you go by Anitta.
Anitta is the name of a character in a soap opera here in Brazil. She’s a 19-year-old girl who’s really independent, really beautiful and sexy. Everyone in the Telenova was curious about her. Men, women, children, you get the gist. Her character in the novela used to say it was not necessary for her to be just one type of woman. She said she had the desire to be a lot of different women at the same time. She wanted to be strong today, weak tomorrow. One day intelligent and the next day ditzy. Some days she was romantic, others she was sexy. She would change personalities and be a different woman everyday.
What a wonderful message. Especially now when we’re in this time where we are showing women can be complex creatures and we’re taking back what it means to be a woman.
Oh absolutely. Something that I really try to do with my work is spark up a perhaps, controversial conversation. I think just the fact that we live in a society where we are able to discuss a difference in opinion shows we are already moving in the right direction.
What do you think is the biggest misconception people have of you?
Well I think now with the power of the internet, it’s easy for people to have misconceptions of me. People often have doubts about my personality or my values and it makes me feel really bad to be honest. But misconceptions are part of being in the public life and being in this industry.
Are there any traditions or rituals that you live by or that you do before each performance?
Prayer is the only thing I always practice.
What excites you? What is your favourite part of creating? Is it writing, producing or touring? What do you love the most about the process?
I love creating music videos. Anytime I get to act, I’m happy. I love getting lost in a character and creating an entire universe for every song. And whenever I’m recording or inside the studio, that’s when feel like the best version of myself.
What turns you on and what turns you off?
Whenever I see people being honest, people being good, people being real. That really turns me on. Also food. Food always turns me on. It really turns me off when I witness someone being treated unfairly. The thought alone makes me sick.
Do you believe in giving people second chances?
Yes. I’m the most forgiving person I know. My friends and family think I’m dumb because I really do forgive every time. You offend me, I forgive. You say bad things about me, I forgive. I just want people to be better, to change and the only way someone will receive the opportunity to change is if you give it to them.
Do you feel like most people take that second chance and actually do change or do they often prove you wrong?
Honestly, at this point I think people know I will give them a second chance so they don’t care if they are hurting me or not. They know I’ll forgive them regardless.
What inspires you more than anything?
Whenever I travel to rest, I always return home feeling incredibly inspired. I literally come back home feeling like I could create an entirely new planet if I wanted to. Another thing that serves as fuel for my inspiration is wherever I’m confronted with challenges or whenever someone underestimates me. The second someone tells me they think I won’t be able to do something it makes me extremely giddy because I know how much it will be to prove them wrong.
I love that. Proving myself right is often a huge source of motivation or inspiration for me as well. I have one more question. Ready? If you had to choose one song to describe who you are as a woman, what song would you choose and why?
Oooh. Fun question. Hmm. I’d choose “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child because I’m strong and I’ll never give up.