INTERVIEW: Ludmilla Talks Coachella, Singing in Spanish & Meeting Beyoncé

Photo by João Maia.

For an artist who has conquered so much in her home country, it is only right for Ludmilla to now aim for the world. The Brazilian singer is no stranger to exploring different music genres. She started as a funk MC, transitioned to a pop star, landed a successful career in the male-dominated genre of pagode, sang trap music, and is featured in the biggest axé hit of Brazil of 2024, Ivete Sangalo’s “Macetando.” In her latest new genre venture, the merengue-pop “Piña Colada” with Colombian singer Ryan Castro, she took on her latest challenge – singing in Spanish.

“I’ve always been one to take risks and do what I feel [like doing] at the moment,” Ludmilla tells Remezcla in Portuguese. “Even before the pandemic, I already wanted to take bigger steps beyond Brazil, but never have I felt so sure to do it like I am now.”

“Piña Colada” follows other collaborations with Spanish-singing artists, like “No_Se_Ve.mp3” with Emilia and “Vem por cima” with Piso21. However, she sang predominantly in Portuguese in these projects. But despite planting seeds for a future international career targeting Latine audiences outside Brazil, Ludmilla was focused on reaching new milestones in her own country. Throughout 2023, she was still reaping fruits from the pagode project that won her a Latin Grammy in 2022, Numanice. The Numanice Tour went on to break attendance records and generated an on-seas leg, the transatlantic Navio Numanice, earlier this year. 

After an outstanding year, 2024 feels like the right time for Ludmilla to embrace her dreams of an international career fully. And if she needed a sign, the invitation to perform at the main stage of Coachella came just at the right time. “If I’ve been given such a cool stage to start an international career, I might as well take the chance to do something I’ve always wanted and been asked to do [by fans]: to sing in another language,” she shares. 

Though Ludmilla humbly admits she is not fluent in Spanish, she is dedicating herself to studying the language. “I know I will have to take risks and I will make mistakes [while trying to speak in Spanish], but that’s how we learn,” she adds.

But singing in a second language and performing at arguably the most famous festival in the world are minor challenges for someone who has overcome several hardships related to racism and homophobia back home. As a Black woman starting as a funk MC in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro in 2012, she had a hard time being taken seriously as an artist. And after she broke that barrier, more hate and prejudice came in 2019 after revealing she was in a relationship with a woman, her now wife Brunna Gonçalves. 

Only I know what I go through in my own country, let alone [what can happen] in a different country. But I am brave. Even if I’m scared, I go on anyway.

Though there’s no assurance that Ludmilla won’t face the same prejudices abroad, she’s ready to take on anything. “Only I know what I go through in my own country, let alone [what can happen] in a different country,” she shares. “But I am brave. Even if I’m scared, I go on anyway.”

Despite the sour side of fame, fulfilling her younger self’s dreams gives her strength. In November 2023, Ludmilla was among a select group of Brazilian personalities who met Beyoncé during her surprise appearance in Salvador to promote Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé. It was a meeting that would’ve seemed unthinkable for teenage Ludmilla, who went by MC Beyoncé before her first album release in 2014. 

“Beyoncé is my biggest influence in music. To meet her had always seemed [like such a] distant [possibility]. But to know that she knows me and was excited to meet me? I was so surprised,” she exclaims. 

Looking back, meeting Beyoncé feels even more special, given the recent release of the Houstonian singer’s latest album, Cowboy Carter. As Brazilian funk conquers more fans across the world, Beyoncé included a sample of DJ Mandrake on “SPAGUETTII.” Merely hours after its release, we ask Ludmilla about this culture clash. “I know Beyoncé is very attentive, does a lot of research, and looks for new music and producers across the world,” she says. “It would be pretentious to think I presented Brazilian funk to her. Perhaps I have shown her different ways of singing and dancing funk, but when I started my career, she was already dancing to funk in Rock in Rio [in 2013].

While grateful and proud of her origins, Ludmilla’s sound and brand are no longer restricted to funk or any genre or label in Brazil. “I am a singer. If I have a purpose, if I want to do something [in a different genre], I won’t hold back. I consider myself an artist. That’s it,” she says. 

Now, it’s time for the rest of the world to know all of her sides. “I’ve dedicated myself so much to ‘Piña Colada,’ and the outcome is amazing. The video is fun, it’s sarcastic, it has a double entendre. And there’s so much more to come. I’m rehearsing for Coachella, and after that, there’ll be an international leg of Numanice, a new pop tour in Brazil, more international songs… I am very excited about this moment of my career,” Ludmilla exclaims.