Ludmilla: ‘I wasn’t worried about what gringos wanted!’ says Brazil’s next pop superstar 🌟

Already the most listened-to Black artist in Brazil and a favourite of Beyoncé, Ludmilla has a whole new audience after her viral Coachella show. She discusses the racism and homophobia she’s had to face getting this far

In between her two-weekend debut at Coachella earlier this month, while the first concert was going viral, the Brazilian singer Ludmilla did business meetings, spent a day in Miami and kicked off new music projects. This interview took place on her way back from a short trip to the mountains surrounding the Hollywood sign, a call squeezed into a schedule that will end with a party: “I deserve some fun too,” she says.

She is following the guidebook to pop stardom, with her sights on an international career. Performing a repertoire of Portuguese-language songs, drawing from Brazil’s raw baile funk sound as well as pagode (a modern branch of samba), Ludmilla has already won a Latin Grammy and become the most listened-to Black artist in Brazil, and one of the only women of Afro-Latin heritage anywhere to reach a billion streams on Spotify and do a set on Coachella’s main stage. One of her admirers, Beyoncé, sent over a voice note to introduce it: “From Rio to Coachella, ladies and gentleman, Ludmilla!”

“This is a new, strange scenario to me,” she says. “To me it’s not possible that in a country like Brazil, with so many Black women and more than 500 years of history, I am the first Black woman to sell out a stadium; the first one to reach one billion streams.”

At Coachella, in front of a giant LED cube and flanked by a dozen dancers, she started out with the energetic Rainha da Favela (Favela Queen) and a suite of baile funk tracks, then melodious pagode as her wife, the dancer Brunna Gonçalves, hit the stage to share a kiss with the singer. The final stretch featured Ludmilla’s latest singles in Spanish, like the merengue Piña Colada, and another nod to her beginnings with Favela Venceu (Favela Won It).

“I felt such a relief once the show ended, it was like getting rid of a building on my back,” she says; she had invested 8m Brazilian reals (£1.2m) on stage props, musicians, dancers and pyrotechnics. “I had 45 minutes to show the world who Ludmilla is. I sing in Portuguese and this can be hard for an international audience. I had a goal and I reached it – this week I’ve received several invitations for collaborations.”

Born in 1995, Ludmilla was raised in Duque de Caxias, one of the most populous suburbs of Rio de Janeiro. Baile funk was filling every corner of Rio by the end of the 90s, and became her bread and butter. In 2012, she released her first single, Fala Mal de Mim, under the moniker MC Beyoncé. She dropped the alias two years later, but never left the Bey-hive – hence the Coachella shoutout.

“Today, I’m more secure of who I am,” she says, while stressing her beginnings. “I’m a pagodeira, and I love R&B, but I’m also a funkeira. Baile funk comes from our communities, from people like me who started singing because we were trying to have a better life. We weren’t worried about what gringos wanted from us. Black people must take the baile funk movement by the hands.”

Read more of Felipe Maia’s May, 2024 article in The Guardian: