Gay singer Bilal Hassani has won the right to represent France in the Eurovision Song Contest.
The 19-year-old singer, who has faced a wave of homophobic hatred online in recent weeks, lost the judges’ vote during Saturday’s (January 26) French selection show Destination Eurovision, but won the public vote by a huge margin.
This was enough to catapult the singer from fifth place to first in the standings, going from 44 points behind one of his seven competitors, Seemone, to 44 points ahead of her, according to the Eurovision site.
Watch Eurovision finalist Bilal Hassani singing:
Eurovision finalist Bilal Hassani targeted by haters
Hassani has been subjected to homophobic harassment on social media, according to French LGBT+ rights groups.
SOS Homophobie and Urgence Homophobie said on Thursday (January 24) that they were working with LGBT-friendly lawyers to report every person who has used anti-LGBT language against the French-Moroccan performer.
“Following the shocking wave of hatred facing Bilal Hassani, SOS Homophobie and Urgence Homophobie are teaming up to target every person who has insulted, discriminated or threatened Bilal Hassani on social networks,” read the joint statement.
“I’ve been a Eurovision addict since I was nine.”
— Eurovision Song contest finalist Bilal Hassani
“The words that can be read against him are unworthy, unacceptable and will not go unpunished,” the groups said, adding that they had already identified “more than 1500 tweets insulting, discriminating or threatening [Hassani] because of its orientation and/or appearance.”
The joint statement continued: “All these tweets will be subject to complaints. all without exception. We’re not going to let anything go. Bilal Hassani is an example to many young people: he is owed respect. Shame must change sides.
“Lesbophobia, transphobia, biphobia, but also racism, homophobia and queerphobia are not an opinion, but a crime.”
Who is Eurovision contestant Bilal Hassani?
Hassani has already won fans on YouTube, where he has around 800,000 subscribers.
The star, who also has more than 400,000 followers on Instagram, has written about his passion for the Eurovision Song Contest on the platform.
He said: “I’ve been a Eurovision addict since I was nine, as much for the artistry as for what it symbolises—all the cultures and differences that are brought together by music.”
His song is a message of self-acceptance, with lyrics like: “I am me, and I know I will always be. I am free.”