In bright-red, body-hugging tights with a Workers' Party logo on the rear, Brazilian pop star Anitta seductively caresses a dance pole and urges her 60 million Instagram followers to vote for Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Artists like Anitta are pulling out all the stops, strutting sex-appeal and star power ahead of high-stakes elections Sunday in a bid to sway voters either for leftist Lula or his far-right rival Jair Bolsonaro.

Analysts say the mobilization may be working, as young people register in large numbers to cast their ballots, with a record figure in the 16-18 age group.

"There is a sense of mistrust of politics. When a celebrity says she is going to vote for a candidate... she touches her fans in a more personal way, erasing that feeling of distrust," Issaaf Karhawi, a social media researcher at the University of Sao Paulo, told AFP.

The list of star supporters of ex-president Lula is as long as it is eclectic, and stretches as far as Hollywood.

At a concert-style campaign event in Sao Paulo on Thursday night, pro-Lula video messages from American actors Mark Ruffalo and Danny Glover added to the message of "hope" being championed by local celebrities on stage.

While Lula's camp includes everything from Brazilian pop megastars and rappers to popular singers from a previous generation, such as Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, Bolsonaro draws most of his celebrity support from sertanejo, a style of Brazilian-influenced country music.

- 'God, homeland and family ' -

Sertanejo star Gusttavo Lima, 33, declared his support for Bolsonaro already in 2018, brandishing an assault rifle in a video backing the then-presidential candidate's pro-gun policies.


Singer Gusttavo Lima supports Bolsonaro's 'God, homeland and family' values / © ANP/AFP/File

More recently at a concert in Brasilia, Lima, who has more than 44 million followers on Instagram, launched into a diatribe against the "communism" he and Bolsonaro claim Lula embodies and defended the incumbent president's "God, homeland and family" values.

Left-wing celebrity activism is nothing new for Brazil, dating to the opposition movement against the military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985, said historian Paulo Cesar Gomes of the Fluminense Federal University.

But, he added, "to see singers supporting the extreme right is much more recent" -- a phenomenon that dates to no earlier than the 2013 mass rallies against left-wing president Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached in 2016.

- DiCaprio vs. Bolsonaro -

While Anitta or fellow singer Ludmilla have their fans largely in Brazil's sprawling urban favelas, the sertanejo stars appeal to rural voters in Bolsonaro's conservative bastions.

But are these celebrity interventions making a difference?

Possibly, said Karhawi, by galvanizing a large number of young people active on social media to vote.

To this end, Anitta, the first Brazilian singer to reach the top of Spotify's hit parade, told fans she would only pose for photos with those who were registered to vote.

Calls for voter mobilization also came all the way from the United States.

In April, Leonardo DiCaprio tweeted: "Brazil is home to the Amazon and other ecosystems critical to climate change. What happens there matters to us all and youth voting is key in driving change for a healthy planet."


Ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (R) and far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro are vying for Brazil's presidency / © AFP

Bolsonaro responded with sarcasm at the time, tweeting: "Thanks for your support, Leo! It's really important to have every Brazilian voting in the coming elections."

Observers say the star-studded election drives could also have unintended consequences.

"Bolsonaro's campaign feeds on these (celebrity) attacks to galvanize his supporters," said pop culture researcher Thiago Soares of the University of Pernambuco.

"The rejection of a hyper-sexualized artist such as Anitta can be a good thing for him (Bolsonaro), strengthening his position as a defender of traditional mores."