Former Eurovision winner Dana International returned to the stage of the singing competition, bringing a kiss-cam to celebrate love in all its forms.
Dana International, who led Israel to Eurovision victory in 1998 with the song “Diva,” performed “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars on the first day of the Eurovision Semi-Finals on Tuesday (May 14).
The competition is being held in Tel Aviv, Israel, after the victory of Israeli performer Netta Barzilai in 2018—according to Eurovision rules, the winning country gets to host the competition the following year.
As Dana International sang, a heart-shaped kiss cam scouted the audience for lovebirds—finding many same-sex couples, who happily embraced.
A screen behind the singer projected various messages, including the marriage equality slogan “Love is Love.”
Several LGBT+ pride flags could be also be seen among the audience during the performance.
A rainbow flag even made its way to the stage thanks to a member of Iceland’s group Hatari, who waved it to the audience as the band was called to join the other nine countries who made it to the grand final—Greece, Cyprus, Czech Republic, San Marino, Slovenia, Belarus, Serbia, Estonia, and Australia.
“Dana International, a young signer from Israel with an amazing voice and an unbelievable life story, went on the Eurovision stage and changed everything.”
— Assi Azar
Dana International was the first transgender singer to win Eurovision and Israeli host Assi Azar credited her with giving him the courage to come out.
He said: “In 1998, I was 20 years old, deep in the closet, a closet I never thought I’d come out of.”
In 1998, Dana International won the Eurovision Song Contest, representing Israel.
Her amazing voice and an unbelievable life story changed everything for many around the world.
— Eurovision (@Eurovision) May 14, 2019
Azar added: “But then, Dana International, a young signer from Israel with an amazing voice and an unbelievable life story, went on the Eurovision stage and changed everything.
“Her victory helped millions of people around the world, including me, to feel comfortable with who they are.”
International performers set to take Eurovision stage
The Israeli singer is one of several former Eurovision acts set to return to the song competition—but none of them will perform their own song, singing fellow former contestant’s hits instead.
Austria’s Conchita Wurst will perform the Måns Zelmerlöw track “Heroes,” which won the 2015 contest for Sweden.
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Ukraine’s Verka Serduchka will perform Netta’s “Toy,” which won the 2018 contest, while Måns Zelmerlöw will return to perform Cypriot Eleni Foureira’s 2018 runner-up track “Fuego.”
In turn, Eleni Foureira will perform Verka Serduchka’s 2007 runner-up “Dancing Lasha Tumbai.”
Madonna is also expected to sing two songs at the Eurovision Grand Final on Saturday (May 18), even though Eurovision’s executive supervisor Jon Ola Sand said on Monday (May 13) that a contract for the performance had yet to be signed and was in the “final stage” of negotiations.
The non-profit Creative Community For Peace has opposed calls for boycott with a letter signed by several celebrities attesting to the power of Eurovision—which claims to be a non-political event—to “bridge our cultural divides and bring people of all backgrounds together through their shared love of music.”
Madonna addresses calls to boycott Eurovision
Madonna addressed calls to boycott the competition in a statement to the press:
“I’ll never stop playing music to suit someone’s political agenda nor will I stop speaking out against violations of human rights wherever in the world they may be,” the statement said, quoted by Reuters.
“My heart breaks every time I hear about the innocent lives that are lost in this region and the violence that is so often perpetuated to suit the political goals of people who benefit from this ancient conflict. I hope and pray that we will soon break free from this terrible cycle of destruction and create a new path towards peace,” it added.
Israeli media reported that Madonna landed in the country on Tuesday.