English Version | Starry Night
Not that of Vincent Van Gogh, but of Giulia Be, whose achievements at such a young age already make the musical artist a star in her own right. But the Brazilian singer is more than the hits that make her popular: knowing her and her dedication, honesty and innate talent (the one that also comes with a lot of effort) is to place her in a constellation that is hers alone.
Disco Voador [Flying Saucer] is the name of her debut album, released at the end of 2022, Depois do Universo [After The Universe] is the film she starred in for Netflix, in 2021, and the celestial references at the start of this article seem like a commonplace to guide this text about Giulia Marine Bourguignon… that easy cliché based on the analogy of her superstar status. But the truth is that “written in the stars” seems like a mantra that fits like a glove in the journey of the artist who wrote and sings Menina Solta (2019), just as her star status is far from being a pedestal of entitlement that one might assume of an interstellar 24-year-old young adult. With number 1 hits, a consolidated tour of full house concerts and nominations for coveted awards, such as the Latin Grammys (a nomination in September 2021, being the youngest artist nominated for this, and the second very recent nomination, in September 2023), to be able to have reached the place where she is, all with just an EP Solta (2020) and a recently released album of originals in her curriculum, was a path taken with a lot of effort and some intuition, but above all with much gratitude to the mix: “I [still] am very [surprised by the international recognition]. We’re not sure of anything in this life. I can wake up tomorrow and something happens and all this falls apart, so whenever I wake up, if I can be grateful, I will wake up and be grateful for every little step, you know?”, Giulia tells us, in a conversation just before being photographed in Lisbon for this issue of the magazine and right after the Vogue Iconic Party, where she performed. Her posture is always serene, pensive but not overly prepared, with a remarkable honesty and a reasoning that happens live, as she speaks. Humbleness seems to guide her step by step, which is curious, because, at the same time, saying that the sky is the limit for Giulia Be is imposing a ceiling that is too low for someone who builds her path by always pushing the finish line forward. “I think life is a staircase, it wouldn't be any fun if it was an elevator and I got up there quickly. Every time I achieve a dream, I create a bigger one, a new goal. And that makes me enjoy living and the moment. There was a time in my career, I think in 2020, when I launched Inesquecível, when I was getting that first taste of what success was and people were talking about me, that I didn't feel 100% happy, I felt like I was waking up on autopilot, and I thought 'damn, I need to make choices in this career that will be choices that in 30 years I'll be really comfortable with. I can't wake up thinking about what next week or next year or next month will be like, it doesn't matter, I need to wake up and live the day, because I would end up just thinking about or be anxious about the future, and tomorrow, and miss today. Certainly for me, one of the priorities and one of the greatest joys is to live in the moment, it's such a simple phrase, so commonplace, so worn out, but so true, you have to make an effort to live in the moment, even more so in today's world that tries to distract us every second.”
For Giulia, however, this living in the moment also has a bit of control and concern, which arises from a self-imposed focus and the innate duty she feels towards her audience. It is true that she enjoys the eternal carpe diem, but it is also true that she is a perfectionist and prepares herself for eventualities, which seems an incongruity, but it is an incongruity that lives harmoniously in what the artist from Rio de Janeiro is: “I I don’t know if you believe in astrology, but I have the Moon in Virgo and the Sun in Leo, so I’m like a combination of the two”, she begins by saying, in between laughs, when we sit down to talk about both her perfectionist side and her more relaxed one. “I love being on the show, doing the show, but I also need everything to be as good as possible, you know? Perfection is impossible and that was something that maturity and wisdom brought me, but I am demanding of myself, I demand a lot from myself, I know what I am capable of delivering, and precisely because I know, I take myself to the limit. I even have a tattoo, which has a little circle and outside of it an x, and I always say that this is my comfort zone [within the circle] and this is the place where I like to be [the x], always outside of it. And I feel like it's a little bit of both, when I'm on stage. I love making sure that while we are preparing the work, the album, the show, the art, that is the time to be as careful and perfectionist as possible. But from the moment you enter the stage, all the control I had ends, it no longer exists.”, she explains, revealing a little more of the duality that characterizes her, one that was refined and that was not always guided by self-assurance, one which seems to emanate from the singer, effortlessly, now: “When I think back to my school days, growing up, I was someone who always looked for approval, to be honest. I really wanted people to like me, I really wanted to be popular, I wanted to be in the group at school where the pretty girls were... I wanted to be invited to parties, so, during my childhood/adolescence, I was in that place of seeking approval because I think there was self-doubt, about who I was, about what I was bringing to the world, I think sometimes I tried to become more like someone else to be able to allow myself to be in their environment, and through my career, it seems that I have managed to separate this more: there is nothing more important to me than music, than this dream, than making this happen. Right at the beginning of my career, many people didn't believe in me, they said 'ah, you're trying to be a singer', so I remember my success wasn't a certainty, it didn't exist. And today, having gone through all of this, besides the feeling of like I have something solid, something that I can embrace, hold on to for a long period of time, I really appreciate being able to be myself, you know? It changed my priorities. When I started singing, I saw that I was giving the floor to so many people who looked at me and judged and didn't support me and thought I wasn't going to work. And I thought: 'Wow, I'm wasting a lot of time looking for approval from people that I might not even approve of'. I think that maturity and life bring these perceptions and my career managed to show me that very early on. I love making friends, nowadays, I love allowing myself to get to know people, I have another tattoo, which also has a meaning, which is this heart [on my wrist], I got it at the beginning of my career, because I never want to stop wearing my heart on my sleeve, regardless of what happens, regardless of the pain that life throws at me, the disappointments that I will have, that I know will happen, still, I never want to stop showing people my heart .”
Listening to her is to feel the years of experience for her young age, and it’s also to feel the dedication she has to her art, one that began at just 6 years old, when she started playing the piano, but which she only began to take seriously, meaning, professionally, when, in 2017, on a trip backstage at Rock in Rio to meet the band Maroon 5, she ended up singing with the artists and was praised by guitarist Mickey Madden. From then on, she pushed the pause button on the Law degree and music became her priority, but not without many struggles along the way. “I think it's a list of factors [that can make people underestimate me], not just age”, she shares, when we mention how far she's come at just 24 years old. “People see me and don't imagine that I write the songs, they think there must be another composer behind it, another producer... so, when I can make people understand how personal each song and each story is, for me it's like If I were Neymar scoring a goal, 'oh, exactly, you understand! You really know me!’ But there’s also the fact that I’m a woman, you know, you can’t ignore that, historically in music, like many songwriters… Taylor Swift herself, I think she talks about this a lot, in interviews, as she had to achieve this place, people didn't believe that she was the one who wrote the music, despite having started very young... It was very difficult for me to write the songs in my room and have to do all the extra work to convince people that in fact I was the one who wrote that. I feel that women have to go through this not only in music, but in various areas of the job market, still... you do the work and then you still have to spend all your time proving to others that you did it. Therefore, I feel very happy to be part of a movement that is bigger than me... I think that women are going through a kind of feminine Renaissance and I am very happy that I am increasingly able to see that people see that through work - I always reply with work, you know? People question, and the best way to answer is to work harder, prove it through the result. And when Menina Solta was questioned, I thought ‘ok, isn’t one enough? So here's one more. And one more. And one more’. And one by one, we’re making an album.” Menina Solta, a theme that has surely been on loop in your mind since you started reading this article, was one of the moments that sealed, in a certain way, her validation, even if it was Giulia's for herself. “Menina Solta, in fact, was the first song I wrote and I thought 'no one is going to take this away from me'”, she tells us about the song that rose to number one in Portugal at the time of its release in 2019. “It was the first song I released where I was the only composer. And I think that before 'Menina Solta', whenever I entered a studio (there's this culture, when you're working with a producer, you end up sharing the music, the producer ends up changing some things) and, in the beginning, I felt that a lot of people tried to question the song 'ah, did she really write it? She's here saying that so-and-so wrote it with her and he wrote it for I don't know who else, so she didn't write it... this isn't her story.' And Menina Solta was a song that I wrote over a weekend, in 15 minutes... I was very anxious before traveling, and my mother said to me ‘sweetie, relax, go to Saquarema, enjoy' and thank God she said that, because it was a song that changed my life. And when I wrote it, I thought, 'guys, this is it, this is what I want to do, I want to tell stories. I want to share this feeling with people'”. And telling stories is, in fact, what she does in her art and proof of this is her most recent album, Disco Voador, whose name also has a story behind it: “Since I was very little, when I close my eyes, I see stars, before I sleep. And I thought that each star was a different dream and that, every night, I went to a different star, which was a different dream. And that has stayed with me my whole life. And when I was preparing this album, it seemed like I was receiving several signals from the universe, from the stars, from the cosmos, and things started to align. There is a specific song by Gal Costa, which was written by Caetano Veloso, called Objeto Não Identificado. I was on my way to Rio de Janeiro to finish the album (and the album actually had a different name, for years I thought it was going to be something else) and I picked up a book called Letra Só, which is an anthology poetry book by Caetano Veloso. And one of the poems was this song Objeto Não Identificado, which has a phrase that says: “I'm going to record a love song, to make a flying saucer”… and before, it was bothering me that I had so many songs on the album talking about love, and I thought 'am I talking too much about love?'. Except I wasn’t. I realized that the world needs to talk more about love, we never talk enough about love, it’s never too much.”
It is also through this story that “written in the stars” takes on a new dimension after speaking with Giulia. The singer from Rio never tires of talking about her faith in the way things happen, in the way things line up and how blessed she is, and it becomes inevitable to ask her about it: “I grew up Catholic, and I have things of my Catholic process and my religion that I embrace and adore. But I'm also a person who can't help but see truth in all religions, you know? I think the relationship between human beings and God is such an incredible thing, so creative, that I think that looking around the world, you can see so many different interpretations of what God is, and God for me is Love. Therefore, regardless of the name that people give, to this energy of unconditional love, I respect and embrace it... I have also started, a couple of years ago, to do a therapy called thetahealing and I think it drinks a lot from the sources of philosophy from Buddhism to Taoism and you can see that there is a lot of intelligence in this oriental medicine, almost a medicine for the soul, too. So, in addition to faith in the planet, that things will work out, I also find it incredible how people manage to create a spiritual relationship with the universe, with nature, through different names they give to the same things.” A transcendent connection similar to the connection she forges with her fans: “No, [I can’t get enough of songs like Menina Solta]. I love singing and I hope to be like this until I die, I hope to always sing Menina Solta with the same desire as the first day I sang it, because... that's it, I have a feeling of gratitude towards that song, and whenever I sing the song - no matter how many times I’ve sung it -, for that person who is watching me, it may be the first time for them, so I want to deliver a performance as if it were the first time I am singing the song”, she explains , confirming the contrasts that characterize her so much - this kind of consecrated fame with accessibility, of ambition with humility, of youth with maturity. “I think that nowadays, as the world in general is much faster, because of the internet, because of all the consumption, people are finding it more difficult to hold their attention, it is more difficult to hold the attention of someone for anything, even more so for musical work. I also see a lot of artists getting into music, who only think about TikTok or social media or challenges and... I think music, it doesn't happen - at least for me - it doesn't happen that way. If I tried to make a hit song for TikTok, I would fail. But if I tried to write a good song, it might become a hit on TikTok. And the path cannot be reversed, in my opinion.” Giulia Be may well be the most grounded shooting star we know.
Translated from the original in the Arts Issue, published November 2023. Full stories and credits in the print version.