Tonight, millions of people around the world will gather around their televisions and computers to watch the Eurovision final, the European song festival that is followed, above all, by the LGBT+ community. Of the 26 countries that will seek to take the crown, there is one that, for obvious reasons, starts as the favorite from the zero minute: Ukraine.
And it is that as much as the festival insists on presenting itself time and again as apolitical, the truth is that the European political situation has always permeated the competition. It is, after all, a battle between European states, and an unbeatable platform for countries to exercise their soft power before a massive audience that is only surpassed by soccer finals.
The six-piece Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra received special permission from the government of Volodymyr Zelenskiy to travel to Turin and represent their country in this great showcase of pop culture. It is that, since Russia invaded its territory on February 24, the authorities allow the departure of children and women but not men, who must stay fighting as a reserve army. “After Eurovision we are going to return to Ukraine to make our contribution,” the leader of the band Oleh Psiuk told the Ansa agency, while clarifying that a member of his team stayed in his country, fulfilling his obligations. military.
On February 25, one day after the start of the military aggression ordered by Putin, the directors, represented by the public television channels of the member countries, decided to veto Russia from this year’s contest. With Russia out and Ukraine in the middle, there’s a good chance they’ll win the jackpot tonight. “There are some people saying that we could win because of the war, but our song was among the five favorites before the start of the conflict, which means that people like it beyond that,” he cut short. front man ukrainian
Stefania, as the name of the Kalush Orchestra song, was born as a tribute to Psiuk’s mother and in recent weeks it has become a kind of hymn to the resilience of the Ukrainian people. This was said by the singer Olena Topolia, who represented her country in the 2010 edition of Eurovision under the stage name of Alyosha. In an opinion column published in the last hours in Guardian, the artist explicitly asks for the support of her country in this contest as a way to galvanize the aid that she sees as insufficient and dwindling. From New Jersey, where she is in exile with her children while her husband is on the front lines, she wrote: “When the Kalush Orchestra takes the stage, I hope the world will hear our rallying cry.”
On Tuesday of last week, when the members of Kalosh performed for the first time in Turin, the reaction of the public was unanimous. The LED lights on the stage formed the colors of the Ukrainian flag and, between shouts and applause, the leader of the band thanked those present for supporting his country. Meanwhile, the cameras focused on two men wrapped in a blue and yellow flag and kissing.
Queer visibility and joy
The Ukrainian gay couple was not and will not be the only queer element in this celebration. How could it be otherwise for the festival that consecrated neither more nor less than ABBA in 1974 and which had Madonna as a guest star in 2019, the party will continue on televisions, phones, tablets and… discos. In Argentina, the party will be in Puticlú (Marcelo T 980, CABA), in Tel Aviv in Lima Lima (Lilenblum 42), in London in Heaven (Under The Arches, Villiers Street) and the list could go on.
In this edition, in addition, there are some performers from the LGBT+ community who use the platform (the ceremony is broadcast live on the public television networks of the participating countries and the total audience is estimated to be 200 million) to give a message strong visibility.
Michael Ben David was Israel’s representative this year. Although he didn’t make it to the final, his openly camp performance and homage to disco culture earned him a place in the Israeli gay mainstream. In fact, her song is going to be the official anthem of Pride 2022, scheduled for June 10, and this week, before competing, she had the pleasure of proposing to her boyfriend, Roee Ram. “In the most exciting moment of my life when I represent my country on the biggest stage in Europe, I fulfilled another dream by asking the love of my life to marry me,” she celebrated.
Systur is a trio made up of three Icelandic sisters: Sigga, Beta, and Elín. In addition to having performed at various Prides in their country, they are personally committed to the queer community. Elín is a lesbian and Sigga has a trans son, so the rights of trans childhoods is one of the causes that calls them the most. “Our goal is to tell people, especially mothers and fathers around the world, that they should love their children unconditionally,” Sigga told the festival’s official website.
“No matter who they are, they must be loved and protected; That is what is going to make this world a better place. If boys and girls have the space they need, they will make the world a more loving and warm place. Our part of the job is to sing to pave the way for them. We see them, we love them and there is hope. If you want, you can always contact us because we are here for you and we listen to you”. Tonight you will have the opportunity to express this message from the stage.
Sheldon Riley, 23, is the representative from Australia and will also be in the final tonight. Married to her husband Zachery Tomlinson, he introduces himself with a song that speaks of the value of difference and the importance, or beauty, that can be found in belonging to minorities. In Sheldon’s case, she was bullied in elementary school to the point that she had to change schools 14 times; his classmates made fun of him for his Asperger’s and his gay identity. “At six years old they told me that they would avoid me if my heart is cold”, the lyrics start, “it was difficult for me to speak and explain what was happening to me, they would never like the things that I liked”.
As Sheldon finished singing in Thursday’s semi-final, cameras found her husband giving him a standing ovation.
“As far as possible, I want to take Australia as far as I can,” Riley told DNA. “We can all see who needs this victory more than the rest”, he remarked in clear reference to Ukraine, “but in terms of the competition I think Sweden is well up”.
Four years ago, when he won a talent reality show in his native country, Sheldon told a local outlet: “I want young people in the LGBT+ community to know that it is okay to be themselves. Everyone thinks being gay is accepted now, but I still get messages from young people asking me for advice.”
Who will take the crown?
Tonight, 26 artists will perform on stage: the ten who won in the semi-final on Tuesday, the ten who won in the semi-final on Thursday, and the six who have a permanent spot reserved for them, like a kind of United Nations Security Council: France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, plus the host, Italy.
The winner will be chosen by the combined vote of the jury (one committee per country, of the 26 that reached the final) and the public. While almost everyone assumes that Ukraine is going to hit the ground running, Sweden, Iceland, Italy or Australia could pull off an upset.
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