The Eurovision Song Contest has been broadcast every year since starting in 1956 and is one of the longest-running television programmes in the world. 600 million people across the globe watch each year, including my family. Well done Denmark for their great success this week.
In 1967, Dana’s family had moved to the Bogside, an area in the shadows of the historic city walls of Derry in Northern Ireland. The Bogside was a majority-Catholic area within a Protestant-British state which probably explains the long and terrible history of unrest in Dana’s home town in the late 1960s and early 1970s. And it also probably explains why Dana’s victory was so sweet for Catholic Irish citizens.
The other Dana, Dana International (born 1969) is an Israeli-born pop singer of Yemenite Jewish parents. Born Yoram, he was the youngest of three children and was named after an uncle who had been massacred by Arab terrorists.
Dana International in feathers
winning for Israel, 1998
Dana International could not have been more different from Ireland’s Dana. The Israeli lad came out as a transsexual when he was barely into his teens and underwent sex reassignment surgery in London in his mid 20s. Could the very gorgeous Dana International have known at that stage that she was going to have an unlikely win in Eurovision and follow in the footsteps of Ireland’s very plain Dana?
In 1998 Dana International was selected to represent Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest with her song Diva. Diva was an amazing song about strong women in history:
“Viva nari'a, viva Victoria, Afrodita
Viva la-Diva, viva Victoria, Cleopatra”.
Dana International came onto the Eurovision stage in Birmingham, with confident movement, fabulous legs, fabulous dress, amazing voice and jazzy lyrics, and took the audience’s breath away. There was nothing passive about this Dana! Every Jewish viewer in the world (except perhaps for the most religious) prayed to whatever god they had ..for a win for Dana International. Gays, straights and transsexuals thought their moment in the sun had arrived. Jordan and the other middle eastern countries censored her performance and blocked their state-run television programmes whilst the Jewish performer was on stage. Yet she won anyhow!
Dana International released Diva as a single in Europe and the song climbed towards the very top of the hit parade in the UK, Sweden, Belgium, Finland, Ireland and the Netherlands. She later represented Israel in Eurovision for a second time, but never quite reached the giddy heights of 1998.
For Israel's gay community, Dana International's victory in the Eurovision song contest was a turning point. When Israelis celebrated Dana International's victory in the streets of Tel Aviv that night, people started to recognise that there was a big gay community, full of talent and colour.
Eurovision’s own history page said that Time magazine chose her as one of the important people in the world. Dana International's story is not only the story of a successful singer; it is a rare and inspiring story about courage. She completed the cultural revolution that she started with her first album; a symbol of liberalism and human rights.
winning for Ireland, 1970.