Why is Milei feuding with Argentine popstar Lali Espósito?

The singer replied with an open letter after the president attempted to publicly shame her on social media and TV

Lali Espósito and Javier Milei

Argentina has quickly become accustomed to President Javier Milei’s fierce and oftentimes derogatory words directed at opposing deputies and provincial governors. That’s not a surprise anymore. What has garnered massive attention this week has been seeing the president turn Argentine popstar Mariana “Lali” Espósito into the target of his inflammatory rhetoric, unleashing in turn a massive wave of support for the singer and even prompting her to write an open letter in response.

The question on everyone’s mind, of course, is: why does the president seem to have it in for the 32-year old performer?

It all started on Wednesday, when Milei was being interviewed on the LN+ channel. When asked about salary negotiations with teachers that might prevent classes from beginning normally this year in March, Milei argued that that was a problem for each province to solve on their own. He also offered a curious solution.

“If governors are worried about the money, they should organize fewer music shows,” he said, only to then single out “Lali” Espósito by name for the concerts she has played in different Argentine provinces, saying that the payments made to her contribute to the country’s fiscal deficit.

Calling out the actress and singer is no accident. Milei has seemingly had her in his crosshairs ever since Espósito seemingly commented on his win in the August 2023 primaries, writing “Qué triste. Qué peligroso” (So sad. So dangerous) in a post on X. 

His first comments against her came in January, when he reposted a comment made by an X user who published what she allegedly got paid for performing at a festival in La Rioja in 2023. The comment also accused the governor of saying he couldn’t pay salaries, but had been able to pay Espósito. 

In the president’s words, “she started it.” That’s what he said in a radio interview the day after his interview on the LN+, when local artists and performers, from actors and musicians all the way to Oscar winner Gustavo Santaolalla, showed support for Espósito on social media. 

In addition to this wide-ranging cast of Argentine personalities — even former La Libertad Avanza member Carolina Píparo came out to support “Lali” —,  thousands of internet users who have followed the popstar since she was a child also wanted to cheer her on. In order to know why this happened, we have to go back to when it all started to see where all the love for Espóstio comes from. 

Who is Lali Espósito?

Espósito’s career began on TV when she was only 10. She was part of the cast of three hit TV shows, Rincón de Luz, Chiquititas, and Casi Ángeles. Created by legendary producer Cris Morena, they were all massive hits in Argentina and became launching pads for the show’s young stars to tour the world. 

Her work on these shows not only turned Espósito into an icon for Argentine millennials but also made her massively popular in Israel, where she has been performing successfully since 2004.

Espósito starred in her first prime-time TV show when she was just 23. She has also appeared on the Netflix show Sky Rojo and been the protagonist of the Amazon Prime Video hit series El fin del amor, a show that remained in the top-10 most watched in 26 countries during its first week.

While working on these projects, she also began delving into music. Her first solo album, A bailar (Lets dance), kicked off a successful career that led her to be the first Argentine female solo artist to have a sold out performance in Vélez Stadium, where she performed in front of 50,000 people in March 2023.

Despite having been a coach for two seasons on the Argentine version of the singing contest The Voice and touring the world with her music, Milei still claims that Espósito’s wealth comes from tax-payers money acquired in public performances for provincial festivals.

Milei’s chainsaw plan aimed at cultural events

Milei has shown himself to be strongly against shows and cultural performances that are paid for by national or provincial governments. His first direct hit at Lali came in January, after La Rioja governor Ricardo Quintela said that there was not enough money for the La Chaya Festival this year. The president called him out on social media for hiring Espósito to perform there in 2023. 

La Chaya, a local festival that takes place around the “Carnaval” February season, is said to trace its origins back to ancient Quechua roots. During those days, ancient rituals meet new cultural expressions and local artists are hired to perform massive shows.

Sources close to the La Rioja government confirmed to the Herald that, thanks to La Chaya, the province was able to create 3,000 new jobs. This includes people who work in security, sound, and performance stages. Counting indirect activities such as lodging, taxis, restaurants, and street vendors, an event like this provides close to 7,000 new jobs.

During Mieli’s interview with LN+, the president also showed his discontent with Cosquín Rock, a private festival held in Córdoba every year since 2001 that has also been hosted in Uruguay, Chile, Mexico, and Spain. Another stage where Lali sang against his critics during its most recent staging. 

Against all evidence, Milei’s beef with Lali is not uncommon for far-right governments. Donald Trump famously feuded with Taylor Swift during his time in office, while former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro did the same with performer Pablo Vittar. 

Lali’s open letter to Milei

Up until recently, Lali kept a low profile and did not respond to Milei’s attacks. After he called her out in January, all she said was that the decision over how much money to invest in cultural events was something every government was entitled to make. 

Espósito changed course after the president’s words on LN+, however, and answered with an open letter. On her social media channels, she also published a video stating that her message was written out of respect and with the hope of “building something positive.”

Lali addressed Milei directly in the text, talking about her journey from being a child actor all the way to being a pop icon. 

“I’m 32 and I’ve been working for 22 years. During those years, I had the opportunity to be part of shows with great success. I was able to buy my parents a home, Mr. President! Do you know how proud that makes me feel?,” she said.

Lali also talked about the shows she has done for different local administrations, emphasizing the benefits they have for cities, mainly as avenues for creating jobs. “Culture doesn’t just create lots of jobs and speak about our identity; it also provides us with joy,” she argued, adding that although she doesn’t share Milei’s intentions of defunding culture, she respected his opinions.

She ended her letter by speaking directly to Milei: “Mr. President, you’re the captain of a ship we’re all in, those who voted for you and those who didn’t. Out of my respect for democracy, I want to have the freedom of thinking differently,” she stated, before wishing the best for him and all Argentines.


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