A country boy, hairdresser and pop star, Variações silenced homophobia with free expression – and has been reborn as an icon 35 years after his death
In the midst of wild olive trees, a muscular man sporting pink hair and a woman’s swimming costume stares into a mirror. There, at the meeting point of pastoral and queer, is António Variações: Portugal’s first gay icon, who shook the country from its post-revolution torpor after fascism’s 41-year reign.
These radical photographs provided the artwork for Variações’s final album, Dar & Receber (To Give & to Receive), released in May 1984. He would die the next month, on the feast day of Lisbon’s patron saint, António, marking what was widely believed to be the country’s first public Aids-related death. A gay man who had defined the zeitgeist, Variações was now the poster child for a taboo that threatened to consume his legacy. At his funeral the coffin was sealed because of safety concerns, and his remaining clothes were burnt.
A cut above: António Variações, Portugal's queer pop superstar