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Tap your mics and give a warm welcome to Dandara Pagu, the latest Clubhouse app icon! Read on for the story behind this singular voice – we believe that she represents the Clubhouse community at its best, and we’re incredibly proud to have her infectious smile welcoming people to the platform around the world.

Photographed by Helen Salomão

Dandara Pagu has an energy that can’t be ignored. It’s impossible to come through one of her rooms on Clubhouse without getting caught up in the wisdom of her mind and the warmth of her voice. In fact, you don’t even need to understand Portuguese to find yourself enthralled, as any of us at Clubhouse discovered when we started tuning into her rooms. Pagu first rose to the top of the Brazilian Clubhouse scene when she started unofficially moderating tense conversations between strangers. Today, she often finds herself doing a service her country (and let’s be real, the whole wide world) sorely needs right now: Reaching across the gulf of political and social ideology to find dialogue with her fellow citizens, even when their very beliefs deny her basic rights as a Black woman.

Photographed by Helen Salomão

It hardly seems fair that someone who has been a victim of racism and violence should take on the burden of moderating discussions on the same. But Pagu does it with endless clarity and incredible grace. Her work as a moderator is never to smooth things over or even to bring the people on stage to some kind of compromise: “I think that nowadays, unfortunately, you can't be on the fence anymore,” she says. “It seems that, from the moment you don't take a firm stand, you are saying yes to certain violence, to certain disrespect, willingly or not.” Instead, she seeks to elevate everyone in the room to a higher plane of understanding, and she deeply believes that people can change. “I've also been criticized for that, but I believe that yes, these people can be allies. They will never know what I went through, but even the power is in their hands. So I really believe that one day, we can be more united.”

Pagu has found herself in conversation with some of the biggest names in Brazil, including the singer Preta Gil, TV host Luciano Huck, and producer Boninho. Outside of Clubhouse, Pagu is an activist, a producer, a leader in body positivity, and a fighter for the rights of Black women in particular. Her work on the platform has not only increased her fanbase and profile in Brazil — it’s also where she met her boyfriend. “I had just left a room where there had been an argument, and he was there too. He stayed there until the room closed. I reached out to him and said, ‘What crazy guys, huh?’ Then we spent some time talking virtually and, by coincidence, he lives in the same neighborhood as me.” And they’ve been together ever since.

It’s fitting that an argument between strangers led to love for Pagu. She views emotional confrontation and conversation an essential balm for collective trauma. For Pagu, anti-racism is a shared journey that improves the lives of all humanity. “Racism is a disease that unfortunately affects everyone. Some people will suffer more, others will suffer less,” she explains. “I don’t think Black people have any obligation to explain it...but I feel calm talking about things that for me, thanks to God and the Orishas, I have already solved it in therapy. I have solved it within myself and I am able to talk about it today. I've suffered sexual violence, I've suffered a lot of things...I operate based on the principle that, if someone is listening to me or wants to listen to me, they want to change.”

It hasn’t been an easy journey to arrive at this point of self-knowledge. Pagu was born in Recife, Pernambuco, a state in the Northeast region of Brazil. It’s one of the poorest areas in the country, and one of the most naturally beautiful places on Earth. She is one of 12 children, 4 of whom passed away as kids. “One of the things that helped me a lot to survive the violence I have been through was rationalizing. It was thinking and understanding: ‘Why is this person doing this to me?’” She doesn’t shy away from talking about the harsh realities she’s been through — sharing freely that when she suffered physical abuse from her grandmother, a deep sense of empathy built through therapy helped her overcome the emotional pain. “I wondered, ‘Why is my grandmother so violent to me?’ Because everybody was always violent to her...In the past, I used to be sadder. Nowadays, I’m not anymore. I talk about my experience because I think that if someone, sometimes, is experiencing some violence, some poverty, or an extreme situation, she may look at me and think: ‘maybe I can get through this!’  And if another person has never experienced it, she will be able to understand that in Brazil, in the world, there are people who go through certain violence, and she maybe will empathize with it.”

Pagu suspects that people are drawn to her on Clubhouse for the same reason she was drawn to the platform: the ability to be fully, deeply herself in a democratizing, “horizontal” environment. She describes a feeling of becoming the protagonist of her own story, of feeling seen, or rather, heard, as she truly is.