MEXICO CITY (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Time magazine on Thursday named a top Brazilian drag queen and LGBT+ advocate as one of 10 young people “changing the world” in its biannual list.
Pabllo Vittar, a 24-year-old Brazilian drag pop singer, was included alongside other rising stars from around the world such as rapper Stormzy in Time’s roster of “Next Generation Leaders.”
Vittar “has established herself as someone to watch on many fronts...using her platform as a musical star to demand equality for LGBT communities in Brazil and beyond,” the U.S. magazine said.
The drag performer, who identifies as gay and genderfluid, has become something of an internet sensation in recent years, racking up half a billion Spotify streams and a billion YouTube views as well as garnering nine million Instagram followers.
Vittar has also collaborated with major international artists like Charli XCX and Major Lazer, whose popular song “Sua Cara” featuring Vittar was nominated for a Latin Grammy award last year - a first for a drag artist.
The young Brazilian’s prominence has become particularly significant since the election last year of President Jair Bolsonaro, who once described himself as a “proud” homophobe and has taken steps to clamp down on LGBT+ expression.
“I feel really ashamed to be a Brazilian sometimes because of this president,” Vittar told Time.
“People are dying. People are having their homes and rights taken away,” she said.
While its Supreme Court ruled in June that homophobia and transphobia are crimes, Brazil remains a deeply religious country where both the Catholic Church and the popular evangelical Christian movement frequently criticize gay rights.
It is also one of the world’s deadliest countries for LGBT+ people, with 320 gay and trans people murdered there last year, according to watchdog group Grupo Gay da Bahia.
LGBT+ rights campaigners welcomed Time’s announcement as coming at a particularly precarious time.
“I think it’s extremely important,” said lawyer and activist Luis Arruda.
“She brings an incredible visibility for the LGBT+ issue. Not just in Brazil but internationally,” Arruda said of Vittar.
On taking office in January, ex-army officer Bolsonaro cut LGBT+ concerns from the human rights ministry’s responsibilities and announced plans to purge all references to homosexuality, feminism or violence against women from school textbooks.
The conservative leader also pushed to have funding for films, including a handful of LGBT-themed projects, suspended by the national film agency, a move that was blocked by a judge earlier this week.
Amid this crackdown, Vittar has become a rising global gay icon, performing at World Pride in New York in June this year and at Rio’s carnival festivities last year.
Arruda said the visibility of Vittar and other openly gay artists in Brazil is now more important than ever.
“Despite Bolsonaro, there’s a lot going on in parallel,” Arruda said. “Censorship is very strong here, it’s very difficult. But people are still fighting.”
It was the second time this year that Time has included an LGBT+ advocate from Brazil on its list, with openly gay congressman David Miranda named in the May edition.
“Congratulations beautiful, you really deserve this recognition,” Miranda wrote on Vittar’s Instagram page.
Others on the list include Moroccan feminist and comic artist Zainab Fasiki and American opera singer Davone Tines.
Reporting by Oscar Lopez, editing by Chris Michaud. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org