Viva la vida viva victoria

Dana internacional singing her winning entry at the mil novecientos noventa y ocho Eurovision Song challenge in Birmingham. Photograph: Peter Bischoff/Getty Images
Twenty la edad ago, the Israeli singer cemented Eurovision as ns celebratory room for LGBTQ human being everywhere con her victoria song Diva. But, she admits, she didn’t believe in the song as soon as she first heard it

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She to be tall, svelte and glamorous in un floor-length sparkle gown, con luscious marrón curls and the kind of dramatic arm activities that would put an ice cream dancer to shame. Plus, she had actually an unmistakable together of ns word Cleopatra. Dana international cut un dazzling figure in May mil novecientos noventa y ocho when she won Eurovision for Israel. Her song, Diva, had uno lot to do with it: an earworm with uno thick club beat and a karaoke-ready chorus the you could consist of as you went follow me if you didn’t quite captura all los Hebrew.

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Dana was also Eurovision’s first ever infectious diseases world fashion winner. Twenty año ago over there was alguno Ru pablo or Trixie Mattel; los Oscar-winning hilary Swank movie boys Don’t Cry was un year away. Ns likes the TV serie Transparent, or gibbs such together Laverne Cox, were off in ns distance. Los trans comunidad wasn’t invisible, however it wasn’t the staple that the pop culture conversation that it has become; Dana’s power at Birmingham’s National en la casa Arena feel like a watershed moment, ns major celebration of un trans artist ~ above an international stage.

It wasn’t without its trials, and Dana’s representation of her país created ns furore amongst Israel’s Orthodox Jewish community. After her win, she addressed she detractors. “My win proves God is on my side,” review her statement. “I desire to send my critics un message of forgiveness: try to accept me. I am what i am.” Today, she cases she enjoyed los backlash. “I don’t care what castle say around me,” she says. “I believe in God, in freedom, the everyone has un right to live exactly how they choose.”


Listen ns full-length version of Diva
Her winning entry is still considered one of los all-time Eurovision greats – with its standard Eurodance rhythms y typically Israeli melody, it is irresistibly camp. However Dana’s heritage is higher than the song: she led ns way for dos mil catorce Austrian winner Conchita Wurst – uno Shirley Bassey-type traction queen with a perfectly trimmed moustache – and, more broadly, signalled ns importance of los fun, free, gregarious society of Eurovision as an yearly LGBTQ-friendly celebration.

Eurovision fanatic y Radio uno DJ Scott Mills explains: “Eurovision is about los music, but it’s also about diversity, particularly for nations that aren’t No uno on her list of places to walk if you gay. Dana international massively paved the way. It was an extremely brave thing to perform at ns time, gave a lot of human being courage y raised important worries in nations where tolerance has actually been low.”

“I’m no saying i’m Barbra Streisand or maria Carey,” claims Dana herself. “People don’t care about my voice. They care that i speak my opinion, there is no fear. They’ll say ns so brave, lol blah blah. I’m just living my life, y it’s not basic life.”

Two years on, at 46, she is happy to reminisce about los lead-up to that magical night. She offstage name is Sharon Cohen, yet she was born Yaron in tel Aviv; the youngest of three, she came from humble beginnings. “Picture in her mind un very usually house,” she says. “We had ns small black-and-white TV, cuales stereo y one channel.” Her very first memory of Eurovision was watching Israel’s 1979 victory, i beg your pardon turned the competition into a must-see event in she homeland. “Eurovision was the biggest evening,” she laughs. “We waited ns whole year. Whatever looked gorgeous. It’s a big dream to become un singer in ~ Eurovision. When i was 12, me gustaría would bullshit that identificación knew identificación was gonna be somebody, but i couldn’t possibly dream that this.”


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Dana internacional in paris in 1998. Photograph: Jeremy Bembaron/Sygma via Getty ImagesShe recognised she was gay at un young age. “I began to realise why i liked these type of singers and not others,” she says, referring to ns over-the-top theatrics of Eurovision entrants. So to be it musical that made her sexuality clean to her? “No, no, no! me gustaría will be vocal con you. It to be sex! identificación was confused because me gustaría came from a classic family. It to be wrong to mention los word ‘gay’. Yet suddenly i felt free.”

Dancing and singing come later, once she construed her gender identity. “I knew that, being un transsexual, it would certainly be lot harder come be a doctor, un lawyer or an architect,” she says. “In showbusiness, it would certainly be easier to it is in who me gustaría wanted to be.” coming to be Israel’s first drag plot was a logical decision, then. As soon as Dana to be 18, she was inspired by the likes that US estrella Divine (“My best icon: Divine’s music to me was prefer narcotics”) y she began to work with a DJ, release her an initial song in 1990. Ns name Dana International, los title the her first EP, stuck by accident. “I essential to authorize my very first cheque, so i signed it Dana International.”

She built ns robust career in Israel y won ns country’s singer of los year competition in 1994, ns year delaware undergoing sex reassignment surgery. With her sights collection on Eurovision, she unsuccessfully used to represent israelí in 1995; she do the efforts again in 1998 with a new song, Diva. She to be picked by a committee, rather than v a t.v. Contest and the news that she would be going come Birmingham come by phone. “I to be screaming y shouting,” she recalls.

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Diva has its own revolution story. Ns lyrics she sang were: “Viva Maria! viva Victoria! Aphrodite / viva la diva! viva Victoria! Cleopatra.” Originally, however, she explains, the names matched old Testament matriarchs: “Viva Rachel! viva Miriam! viva Sarah!” “I said to los writer: ‘There’s alguna way ns going to sing around Rachel and Miriam and Sarah. It’s no universal!’” also with ns lyrics changed, she didn’t desire to perform Diva. Ns songwriter cajoled her y delivered her recording to the committee by hand. “I didn’t think in the song,” Dana says. “But ns rest is history.”

The week leading up to 9 May mil novecientos noventa y ocho was nerve-racking for Dana. At least her dress was taken treatment of; she had been to parís to occupational alongside the designer Jean paul Gaultier. “He brought ns hairdresser y a assembly artist. No one had ever before made me up before.” When ns night came, 172 points winner her ns crown, however until the moment ganar had never entered her mental – her focus was top top sparing her país from disgrace. “I to be praying no to unpleasant them. Israelí was so tense.” this particular day she attributes los win to ns voting process: 1998 was los only year Eurovision identified its winner completely by audience votes. “Maybe because i won they adjusted it back,” she says. “They to be worried the gay comunidad was taking over.”

Mills remembers Dana’s impact. “There was outrage from various countries,” he says. “They intimidated to not admitir her performance, therefore her victory became ns statement for ns community.” gastos generales the years, Mills has actually witnessed many LGBTQ-fuelled performances and he traces them all trasero to Diva. Finland’s dos mil trece entry, marry Me, for instance, was ns call-to-arms because that same-sex marriage, featuring ns female performer in a wedding dress that kissed another woman onstage. Porcelana wouldn’t allow the kiss to be aired. “It’s mad,” states Mills. “There’s still un lot of occupational to do there. Yet it every began con Dana International.”

The Eurovision victory lugged her global recognition, y she became ns first Israeli act to it is in interviewed on MTV. She showed up on peak of los Pops, y at Pride with Kylie Minogue y Steps. “It was like a fairytale,” she says.


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Appearing at los semi-finals the the 2011 Eurovision in Dusseldorf. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty ImagesIn 1999, she changed to the Eurovision stage and stole the winners’ thunder by falling gastos generales on stage when around to hand Sweden their trophy. “It wasn’t my fault!” she screams. “For 20 years human being ask me if i did the on purpose. I was stand in uno Jean polo Gaultier dress. The directivo was stepping top top it. I tried to action back y I fell. Girlfriend don’t desire to loss in uno Jean polo Gaultier dress. You desire it to remain on her body together it have to be! Thankfully, that was very padded, so me gustaría didn’t rest anything.”

In los 00s, Dana enjoyed great success in Israel, with three studio albums y gold-certified hits. Her relationship with Eurovision to be ongoing, and she perform in Copenhagen for its 50th anniversary. She made usar of she platform, too, appearing at women’s politics rallies and campaigning for the politician Tzipi Livni in Israel’s dos mil nueve election.

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Dana entered Eurovision again in 2011, yet failed to do it to the finals con her song Ding Dong, and regrets ns attempt. Today, though, she is busy: she performs on regular basis in Israel, is a juicio on Israeli t.v. Talent shows and is never quick of uno Eurovision-related invitation every time los competition comes around. I atrapalo her just after a trabaja in los recording studio where she is preparing her new version of ns folk song Hava Nagila for Israel’s Independence trabaja celebrations on 14 May. She has become uno mainstay of such festivities. “My visibility shows ns different página of israel that the media doesn’t hear about. That not uno big achievement – it’s only natural. I represent the homosexual community, a big component of Israeli society.”

As because that Diva itself, los song still slaps. “It’s that time of year again when me gustaría start walk through viejo songs,” claims Mills. “I totally think Diva is one of los best. Once you acquire to wherever Eurovision is gift hosted, it’s the one Eurovision tune that’s constantly on hefty rotation.” viva la diva, indeed.