Brazilian pop star Anitta on getting advice from her mom — and Mariah Carey
Anitta doesn't take kindly to commands like "just shake your butt."
The latest entry from EW's Bold School series, which celebrates Hollywood's female power players (in front of and behind the camera), features the "Girl From Rio" singer explaining how even though she's young, she knows what's best for her career. "If I'm sexy, I'm not smart — I've heard that. That's all I've heard," she says. "I'm like, 'Hell no. Get out of here.'"
At 28, Anitta has already dominated the pop charts in her native Brazil and become a fixture in the Reggaeton scene thanks to her work with artists like J Balvin and Myke Towers. Now she's experimenting with singing in English, releasing bangers including "Faking Love," which features rapper Saweetie.
Having introduced herself to new markets throughout career, Anitta has developed a tough skin, and says that the best advice she's ever received is from her mother, telling her "Don't care about what people say. People are always going to say something. And if you are always hunting or waiting for people to say good stuff, you're just going to become a product made by people's opinions."
While Anitta admits that "making music that people like all over the world" can be difficult, discovering ways to entertain a global audience is a challenge she embraces. "I'm just being myself, but I'm being myself in different languages so I can deliver the message to more people," she says. Pointing to "Faking Love," she describes how she took funk — "my rhythm from my favela, from my hood" — and mixed it with "some pop, some electronic vibes. So I'm always trying to bring Brazilian culture [into my music]."
Anitta adds that instinct and preparation are what have helped her find success through different parts of the world. A confident performer, she tells EW that she fought to release "Downtown," her single with J Balvin. She made the right call: When it came out in 2017, the song became a global hit. "I felt so good. I felt like I could do anything," says Anitta of the win. "You start showing your skills and your power to people, and be able to tell people what you want. These are the moments that I feel very empowered."
They're also what have helped her push past the bad advice she's received. Once, a Brazilian artist Anitta looked up to suggested she just chill and take a few steps back to deal with the pressure she felt as a rising artist. Thankfully, she had the foresight to ignore any suggestions she quit on her dreams. "I told this advice to Mariah Carey when we were talking, and she was like, 'What kind of sh---ty advice was that?!'" says Anitta, who considers the pop star one of her idols. (Mariah's advice to Anitta? "You're strong. You should always remember that.")
While being strong-minded has allowed Anitta to have a lot of say in what music she makes and what business opportunities she should pursue, she most appreciates having family around to keep her humble. "They're happy just to have each other and I'm happy just to have them in my life. And that inspires me a lot because, for me, if I didn't have them, nothing would make sense," says the singer. With her family as her foundation, Anitta has learned that "life is not about being big every time. Life is about this, being real."
For more on Anitta, including what musicians she thinks more people should know about, watch the full video above.