The X Factor UK made Saara Aalto the most Googled person in Finland in 2017. She was already one of the country’s biggest homegrown stars, but prior to her stint in the UK the “sassy, fun and colourful” Saara didn’t feel like she fitted in back home.
“In Finland I was too theatrical, too flamboyant,” she tells PinkNews over a bowl of noodles in Camden. “In Finland they like neighbourhood girl artists – I wasn’t like that.”
A year on from X Factor and Saara has come on leaps and strides. She has been public with her girlfriend for a while, and has had a boyfriend in the past, but is now openly, proudly identifying as a lesbian (with a policy to never say never to men).
“I am very proud to be lesbian and I feel very much like I am lesbian, totally,” she tells us.
The flamboyant singer has a new, strong message of empowerment tied into the release of her forthcoming as-yet-untitled fifth album, which drops ahead of her Eurovision stint where she represents Finland this May.
New single Monsters, which Saara will perform at Eurovision, is about “living life as you want, finding your strength, being brave as who you are and not being afraid to show it.”
Saara knew she was into other women from a young age. She only went public with her girlfriend around the time of the X Factor, but admits to have been lucky never to have struggled with her sexuality. She says: “My sexuality was never an issue.”
The star has worked out how to dispel the trolls who could have stood in her way and revealed to us her coping mechanism. “I have worked on my own mental health always,” she explains. “I have always been very fine with who I am and never cared about people’s opinions.”
“If people say nasty things then they are sad with their lives. If you are a balanced, positive person you don’t say bad things to each other. All those people who say bad things are miserable, and I don’t want them to affect my decisions or my life.”
Saara has suffered from career-related stress though, and accredits a “healthy” approach to counselling as her saving grace at work and in her private life. “I went to therapy at 22 or 23 because I wanted to go for fun. I knew it’d help me, and it did,” she says.
“I had a burnout when I was younger, I was working so much, but now I’m wiser and I’m older and I want to balance my life, Meri [Saara’s fiance Meri Sopanen] was always like, ‘Saara you need to stop working now and we need to relax!’”
That work isn’t likely to start slowing now Saara’s on the Eurovision promo trail, and she’s determined to prove the bookies right with a win. “I’ve always come second in every competition I’ve done, so I dunno if I can fail this time.”
Eurovision single Monster, Saara makes clear, is “sassy, fun, colourful, and versatile,” and will precede an album of a similar standard. “My X Factor fans will be happy…”
Despite an impending wedding (there’s no date yet) Saara confesses she’s “not really” into marriage, but hers and Meri’s will be a modern and fuss-free affair.
“Me and my fiancé are really similar, we are quite free spirited. We want to get married and we are like soul mates, it’s unbelievable. But we also know nothing in life will stay the same.”
“We know that even though we will get married, we know that there might be time where either me or her will go ‘Okay, I need to grow. I need to do something,’ and if we grow apart, then we grow apart. So, for us marriage is maybe not very traditional – it’s not like we have to stick together no matter what.”
“If we’re both very unhappy, we wouldn’t stay together just because we are married. But we do feel like we would want to have the wedding, because for us we see it like a celebration of love.”
“It’d be very nice to have a party, a celebration where we really commit to each other. It just feels very beautiful,” she says, but as with her boundary-pushing music, Saara assures us: “Our wedding certainly won’t be traditional.”
Saara Aalto will be performing songs from her new album at Eurovision Wonderland in London on May 25