Dana International

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Dana International
(דנה אינטרנשיונל)
Dana International Euro 2.jpg
Dana International in 2009
Background information
Birth name Yaron Cohen
Born (1969-02-02) February 2, 1969 (age 45)
Tel Aviv, Israel
Genres Dance, pop, world, trance
Occupations Singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1992–present
Labels Hed Arzi Music
Website www.DanaInternational.co.il

Sharon Cohen (Hebrew: שרון כהן‎), professionally known as Dana International (דנה אינטרנשיונל), born Yaron Cohen ירון כהן; February 2, 1969) is an Israeli pop singer of Yemenite Jewish and Romanian Jewish ancestry. She has released eight albums and three additional compilation albums, positioning herself as one of Israel's most successful musical acts ever. She is best known as the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 1998 in Birmingham with the song "Diva".

Considered male at birth, she discovered that she was transgender at an early age, and came out as a trans woman when she was 13. Undergoing sex reassignment surgery in 1993, it was that year that she released her first album, Danna International, upon which she based her stage name. Consolidating her initial commercial success with the albums Umpatampa (1994) and Maganuna (1996), in 1998 she was selected to represent Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest with her song "Diva"; subsequently winning the international competition, Dana came to public attention throughout Europe.

Following this up with the albums Free (1999), Yoter VeYoter (2001), HaHalom HaEfshari (2002) and Hakol Ze Letova (2008), in 2011 she once more represented Israel in Eurovision, this time with the song "Ding Dong", although failed to make it into the final. That same year she also became a judge on the Israeli television music talent contest Kokhav Nolad.[1]

Dana International has been credited with being one of the world's best known trans women.

Early life[edit]

Sharon Cohen was born in Tel Aviv to a Jewish family of Yemenite and Romanian descent. In an interview, she said her grandfather originated from Transylvania (Romania).[2] Her paternal grandparents lived in Petah Tikva. She was the youngest of three children, and was named after an uncle who had been killed during a terrorist attack.

Though assigned male at birth, she identified as female from a very young age. She wanted to become a singer since the age of eight, when she watched legendary Israeli singer Ofra Haza perform her song "Chai" in the 1983 Eurovision Song Contest. Although the family was quite poor, her mother worked to pay for her music lessons, and she stated that her childhood was happy. She came out as transgender at the age of 13.

Dana International took her stage name from a feminized version of a childhood friend Daniel, who died in a car accident.[citation needed]

Career[edit]

1990–93: Dana International[edit]

At 18 years of age, Cohen (still legally male) earned a living as Israel's first[citation needed] drag queen parodying many famous female singers. During one of her performances, she was discovered by Offer Nissim, a well-known Israeli DJ, who produced her debut single "Saida Sultana" ("My Name is Not Saida"), a satirical version of Whitney Houston's song "My Name Is Not Susan".[3] The song received considerable exposure and helped launch her career as a professional singer.[3]

In 1993, Dana International flew to London for male-to-female sex reassignment surgery and legally changed her name to Sharon Cohen.[4] Returning home with her new name, that same year Cohen released her first album, titled Danna International, in Israel. Soon after, the album was also released in several other countries including Greece, Jordan, and Egypt (In Jordan and Egypt the album sold illegally). Sharon's stage name Dana International comes from the title track of the album, and was originally spelled with two n:s. Danna International soon became a gold record in Israel.[5]

1994: Umpatampa and Best Female Artist[edit]

In 1994, Dana released her second, Trance-influenced album Umpatampa, which built on the success of her debut and provided further hit singles.[6] The album went platinum in Israel and has sold more than 50,000 copies to date. Because of her popularity and the success of this album, she won the award for Best Female Artist of the Year in Israel.

1995: Eurovision song contest[edit]

In 1995, Dana attempted to fulfill her childhood dream of performing in the Eurovision Song Contest.[7] She entered the Eurovision qualifying contest in Israel with a song entitled "Layla Tov, Eropa" ("Good Night Europe") which finished second in the pre-selections, but became another hit single.

In late 1995, Dana released an E.P. called E.P. Tampa with three new songs and four remixes and special versions of her earlier songs.

1996–97: Consolidating popularity[edit]

In 1996, Dana released her third album, Maganuna. Although this album was less successful than her previous efforts, it still reached gold record sales in Israel and included the hits "Don Quixote," "Waving," and the club favorite "Cinque Milla." In 1997, Dana collaborated with the Israeli artist Eran Zur on his album Ata Havera Sheli, and together they sang the duet "Shir Kdam-Shnati (Sex Acher)" ("Pre-Bed Song (A Different Kind of Sex)") which became a huge hit.[8]

1998: Diva and mainstream spotlight[edit]

Dana was chosen to represent Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest 1998 in Birmingham with the song "Diva". Orthodox Jews and others with conservative views were opposed to her appointment and attempted to void her participation in the contest. However, in May 1998, Dana performed "Diva" at the Eurovision final and won the contest with 172 points. She became known internationally, and was interviewed by CNN, BBC, Sky News, and MTV among others mostly focusing on her life as a transsexual person before winning the contest. Dana's own words "the message of reconciliation" were; "My victory proves God is on my side. I want to send my critics a message of forgiveness and say to them: try to accept me and the kind of life I lead. I am what I am and this does not mean I don't believe in God, and I am part of the Jewish Nation."[9]

Dana released "Diva" as a single in Europe[10] and it became a hit, reaching number 11 in the UK charts and the top ten in Sweden, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, and the Netherlands.

1999–2001: Stage falling, Streisand cover and new albums[edit]

In 1999, Dana released "Woman In Love", a Barbra Streisand cover, but it was not the hit that "Diva" had been. In May 1999, Dana again participated in the Eurovision Song Contest held in Jerusalem. Dana was a part of the interval act and sang the Stevie Wonder song "Free". She also presented the award to the winners of the contest but accidentally managed to steal their thunder. Whilst she was carrying the heavy trophy, one of the composers of the winning Swedish entry by mistake stepped on the long trail of her dress and she fell over on stage – in front of a television audience estimated be to one billion or more, making it one of the most memorable moments in the 50-year-long history of the contest.

She released her next album Free in Europe in 1999, which enjoyed moderate success. A few months later Dana moved back to Israel and started to work on different projects. Israeli and Japanese editions of Free were released in 2000. That same year, an Israeli documentary film was made about Dana called Lady D.

In 2001, after a break, Dana released her seventh album Yoter Ve Yoter (More and More).[11] The album put her career in Israel back on track and provided two hits called "I Won" and "After All", which eventually both went gold.

2002–06: Fading from the scene and Sony incident[edit]

Dana was about to sign with a major label, Sony/BMG, for an international recording contract but something went wrong during negotiations. These were disagreements that led to Sony cancelling the deal before it was completed. In 2002, she released another album, HaHalom HaEfshari (The Possible Dream), which was a minor chart success. In 2003, she released an exclusive 8-CD box set, containing all singles from The Possible Dream and a new house version of the hit single "Cinque Milla", titled A.lo.ra.lo.la. A few years later, in 2005, Dana participated in the 50th anniversary of the Eurovision song contest, held in Copenhagen, after "Diva" was selected as one of fourteen songs considered to be the best Eurovision songs. The song did not make it into the final top five but, Dana got the chance to perform both "Diva" and an old Eurovision favourite of hers; Baccara's 1978 entry "Parlez-Vous Francais?". She also recorded the song "Lola" (sung in French), to which she released a video. This video can be found on the CD Hakol Ze Letova, released in 2007 as a bonus CD-rom video.

2007–11: Return to music and Eurovision comeback[edit]

Dana International, alongside Boaz Mauda (2008)

After a few years away from show business, together with the relaunch of her official website, a first single of the upcoming album was released in March 2007: "Hakol Ze Letova" ("It's All For the Best"). The second single to be released from the album, "Love Boy", became the most played song on Israeli radio in a decade.[12] It also gained a respectable place on the airplay of the Greek radio station FLY FM 89,7. The following album, also titled Hakol Ze Letova, was released on August 15, 2007. "At Muhana" was the third single and "Seret Hodi" (feat. Idan Yaniv)[13] the fourth to be released from the album, which became a bestseller in many online stores. The next single released from the album was "Yom Huledet".

On February 26, 2008, Dana gained an additional achievement when the song "Ke'ilu Kan" written and composed by her and performed by Boaz Mauda, was chosen on Kdam Eurovision to represent Israel at Eurovision Song Contest 2008 in Belgrade, Serbia. It came 5th in the semi-final and gained 9th place in the final rank.

Dana International in 2008

Dana also recorded the song "Mifrats Ha Ahava" ("The Love Bay") for an Israeli version of the TV-show "Paradise Hotel". She also collaborated with the Ukrainian duo NeAngely (Not Angels), recording "I Need Your Love" and releasing a video. In 2009, Dana starred in a mock reality show called Dana Kama/Nama for cellphone provider Cellcom[14]

Dana campaigned for Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni shortly before 2009 legislative elections in Israel. At a women's political rally in Jerusalem Dana performed a disco song alongside Livni onstage, announcing "I now formally invite you to the diva sisterhood."[15]

In April 2009, Dana performed in the opening concert of Tel Aviv-Yafo Centennial Year. She performed a cover version of Danny Robas' song "Lo nirdemet Tel Aviv" (Tel Aviv Doesn't Fall Asleep) in front of 250,000 people.

Also in 2009, Dana International joined the 7th season of "Kokhav Nolad" (the Israeli version of Pop Idol) as a judge, also joining the 8th one in 2010.[16]

Dana made a guest appearance, as herself, in an episode of the second series of UK sitcom Beautiful People, which was set around her Eurovision appearance.

On March 8, 2011, Dana International won the Israeli National Final for Eurovision with the song "Ding Dong", and represented Israel at Eurovision for a second time.[17] However, she did not make it into the final; she was the first Eurovision winner not to do so.

2013–present: new singles, TV show and album[edit]

In April 2013, after a two-year break, Dana released a new single, "Ma La'asot". It was released digitally worldwide on April 24, 2013. On May 29, Dana released a video clip for the song Loca, to promote the Gay Pride Tel Aviv 2013. Dana will perform on the main event for the Gay Pride on June 7. Her third single for that year, "Ir Shlema", was released in July. Late in January 2014, Dana's new music reality show "Yeshnan Banot" premiered. Dana is the main judge on the show, attempting to find Israel's next girl group.[18]

Dana's Eurovision Records[edit]

Year Artist Language Title Writers Final Points Semi Points Kdam
1995 Dana International Hebrew "Layla Tov, Eropa" Dana International
Failed to qualify for Eurovision
No Semi-Finals 2
1998 Dana International Hebrew "Diva" Yoav Ginai 1 172 1
2008 Bo'az Ma'uda Hebrew, English "The Fire In Your Eyes" Dana International, Shay Kerem 9 124 5 104 1
2011 Dana International Hebrew, English "Ding Dong" Dana International
Failed to qualify
15 38 1

Discography[edit]

Filmography[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nikia Brown proceeds in Kochav Nolad. Jerusalem Post
  2. ^ Dana International – Interview (Romania) on YouTube
  3. ^ a b Billboard. May 23, 1998. Retrieved August 22, 2011. 
  4. ^ Out. Retrieved August 22, 2011. 
  5. ^ Thomas Peele. Queer popular culture: literature, media, film, and television. Retrieved August 22, 2011. 
  6. ^ John Shepherd (2005). Continuum encyclopedia of popular music of the world. Retrieved August 22, 2011. 
  7. ^ Lee Walzer (April 15, 2000). Between Sodom and Eden: a gay journey through today's changing Israel. Retrieved August 22, 2011. 
  8. ^ Richard Middleton. Voicing the popular: on the subjects of popular music. Retrieved August 22, 2011. 
  9. ^ Jeffrey Heyman. "Dana International - the most famous transsexual in the world". Retrieved August 22, 2011. 
  10. ^ John Snelson. Andrew Lloyd Webber. Retrieved August 22, 2011. 
  11. ^ L'Arche. Retrieved August 22, 2011. 
  12. ^ Watch Dana International's new video, News, Eurovision Song Contest 2011, Düsseldorf
  13. ^ DANA INTERNATIONAL FEAT IDAN YANIV – SERET HODI on YouTube
  14. ^ Celebrity Grapevine, Greer Fay Cashman, JPost, 11/23/2008
  15. ^ Khalil, Ashraf (February 8, 2009). "Israel's Tzipi Livni turns to women and the left for votes". Latimes.com. Retrieved August 22, 2011. 
  16. ^ ".". L'Arche. Retrieved August 22, 2011. 
  17. ^ "Dana on Euro trail". The Sun. Retrieved August 22, 2011. 
  18. ^ "iTunes - Music - Ma La'asot (מה לעשות) - Single by Dana International". Retrieved 25 April 2013. 

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Harel Skaat
with "Milim"
Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest
2011
Succeeded by
Izabo
with "Time"
Preceded by
United Kingdom Katrina and the Waves
with "Love Shine a Light"
Winner of the Eurovision Song Contest
1998
Succeeded by
Sweden Charlotte Nilsson
with "Take Me to Your Heaven"
Preceded by
Liora
with "Amen"
Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest
1998
Succeeded by
Eden
with "Yom Huledet"