17 August 1978
(m. 2004; div. 2005)
Jelena Karleuša Tošić (Serbian Cyrillic: Јелена Карлеуша Тошић; born 17 August 1978) is a Serbian singer. Referred to as the "Madonna of the Balkans" and "Lady Gaga of Serbia" by Focus and W magazine, respectively, she is noted for her often controversial public persona and provocative appearance.
Rose to prominence in the mid-nineties, Karleuša established herself as one of the leading regional performers during the following decades with a series of successful albums, including Samo za tvoje oči (2002), Magija (2005), JK Revolution (2008) and Diva (2012), and two headline Belgrade concerts: All About Diva (2010) and Viva la Diva Show (2013). Subsequently, she managed to gain in social media following and influence through her fashion style, becoming the first Serbian personality after Novak Djokovic to reach one million followers on Instagram. Karleuša also became a judge on the popular televised singing competition Zvezde Granda in 2015.
Jelena Karleuša was born on 17 August 1978 in Belgrade, SR Serbia, SFR Yugoslavia. Her mother, Divna (25 January 1958 – 3 March 2019), was born in Slovenia and worked as a host at Radio Belgrade, while her father, Dragan (1 January 1947), is a Belgrade-born retired Captain of Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs, who notably led the investigation of the Kosovo massacre of 1999 and took part in the police Operation Sabre in 2003. She also stated that her maternal great-grandmother was an Austrian countess who has a street in Graz named after her; this was, however, denied by the Austrian media and the City of Graz. Jelena was raised in the Fontana neighborhood of New Belgrade, where she lived with her mother after her parents were divorced. Karleuša demonstrated an affinity for music from an early age, being influenced by performers such as Lepa Brena. She attended Zemun Gymnasium, but eventually graduated from the New Belgrade's High School of Tourism. Karleuša often describes herself as the "black sheep" in the family, because she is the only one without an academic degree. Nevertheless, she did graduate from the music school playing the flute.
At sixteen years of age, Karleuša expressed desire to become a singer to her mother's support, who nevertheless wasn't able to financially support Jelena's debut album due to inflation and challenging economic situation in the country. Eventually, with help from singer Dragana Mirković, Karleuša managed to release her first album Ogledalce (Little Mirror) under Diskos on 24 April 1995, which was a commercial success, selling more than 100,000 copies in Yugoslavia. Later, she released five more turbo-folk-oriented records, but as her career progressed she tried to be perceived as a performer of exclusively pop music.
In 2002, she collaborated with Greek label Heaven Music and their eminent songwriter Phoebus on her seventh album, titled Samo za tvoje oči (For Your Eyes Only). In February 2004, Karleuša took part in Beovizija music festival to qualify as Serbia and Montenegro's entry for the Eurovision Song Contest with "Moli me" (Beg Me), however without success. Her album Magija (Magic) was then released in February the following year under new label, City Records. Following her performance on Beovizija and a brief appearance to promote her album, Karleuša got blacklisted from Serbia's public broadcaster, RTS, during the tenure of Aleksandar Tijanić due to her "inappropriate" appearance. She did not appear on RTS again until September 2016. In February 2008, Karleuša delivered her best-selling album to date, titled JK Revolution, despite facing scrutiny for the infamous studio session of the lead single "Tihi ubica" (Silent Killer), which was leaked to the public and provoked discussion about her vocal abilities.
In March 2009, she entered Serbian Celebrity Big Brother as a guest and exited on the second day. At the end of the year, Karleuša launched a clothing line, called JK Wear. In December, she also released "Insomnia", which covered a Bollywood song from the movie Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. The electro-infused single was downloaded over a million times for free from Karleuša's official website. Furthermore, the eccentric visual for the song became the first Serbian music video to go viral on YouTube. She then announced her concert in the Belgrade Arena, named All About Diva Show, with "never before seen" production by a Serbian performer. It was held on May 10 to a sold-out venue of 15,000 people. In November, she released a live album alongside a DVD from the concert, which was two years later, upon the release of her next album, certified platinum by the label. During the same year, Karleuša also landed a column in the daily newspaper Kurir, which raised controversy for her comments on politics and show business.
Her tenth album Diva was released on 11 June 2012, after being postponed several times. It saw commercial success, becoming one of the fastest-selling albums by a Serbian artist. The record also marked a significant departure from her previous pop-folk releases, as it comprises dance-pop and electropop songs with hip-hop and R&B influences. She announced her second Belgrade concert for 15 June 2013 in Ušće. However, the concert, titled Viva la Diva Show, began after over an hour of delay due to technical issues regarding video and audio production, which continued throughout the show. Nevertheless, Karleuša managed to perform all the songs. Afterwards, she faced heavy criticism from the media because of which she eventually decided to take a break from the public life. Karleuša also got banned from RTV Pink and lost her contract with City Records following a disagreement with Željko Mitrović.
In 2015, Karleuša ended her hiatus by signing to Grand Production and becoming a judge, and later a mentor, on the reality talent show Zvezde Granda. In 2016, she made a guest performance at Vodafone Park in Istanbul after her husband's team, Besiktas J.K. had won the national championship. The following June, she presented her first releases since 2013, two duets: "Bankina" (Hard Shoulder) featuring Aca Lukas and "Ostavljam te" (I'm Leaving You) featuring Azis, which she performed on the live finale of Zvezde Granda. In late January 2019, Karleuša performed "LaJK" (Like) featuring Serbian rapper Gazda Paja at the 2019 Music Awards Ceremony. The performance included an intro inspired by the work of photographer Platon Yurich, through which she reflected on the media backlash regarding her personal life from the past month. During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, she announced her online concert via Serbian music service YouBox, which took place on May 24. The live stream performance attracted more than 200,000 viewers. On stage Karleuša was also joined by the girl-group Hurricane, who were supposed to represent Serbia on Eurovision Song Contest that year, and singer Milica Pavlović.
Marriages and children
In June 2006, Karleuša started dating Serbian footballer Duško Tošić. The couple was eventually married two years later on 28 June 2008. They have two daughters: Atina (2008) and Nika (2009), both born by Caesarean section on the same date, September 7th.
Lawsuit against Ceca
In 2010, Karleuša was sued by Serbian singer Svetlana "Ceca" Ražnatović for damaging her reputation and causing her emotional violence after she had addressed Ražnatović in an open letter via Facebook in which she held her responsible of being involved in the 1999 assassination of Zoran Davidović, Karleuša's then-boyfriend who was often connected with crime. Furthermore, Karleuša accused Ražnatović of maintaining close ties with leaders of the Zemun clan, claiming Ceca was "at the head of the table" following the assassination of her husband and career criminal, Željko Ražnatović in 2000. Finally, Karleuša also addressed the rumors of Ceca ordering articles through her acquaintances in the media and show business, to create bad publicity for Karleuša.
In January 2019, media started speculating about an affair between Karleuša and Bosnian footballer Ognjen Vranješ, which she firmly denied. Subsequently, the scandal erupted when nude photos of her started circulating the web and were eventually placed on the cover of every daily tabloid in Serbia. On January 14, Karleuša broke her silence by claiming via Twitter that the majority of the photos had been edited and rest of it had been stolen from her cell phone. The Press Advise experts publicly condemned tabloids for violating the codex of Serbian journalism, blaming pro-government media for the downfall of Serbian media scene in the past couple of years.
The State Secretary of the Ministry of Culture and Information, Aleksandar Gajović, declared on January 16 that the Ministry would submit infringement reports against Serbian tabloids Kurir, Informer, Alo! and Srpski telegraf for their sexually explicit front pages. Karleuša herself initiated over 140 criminal charges against Vranješ and mentioned newspapers for organized and continuous media lynching, defamation, photomontages and attack on her family's dignity, reputation and honor. She also stated that all the money from lawsuits would go to charity.
Philanthropy and advocacy
Karleuša is one of the first Serbian celebrities to publicly support LGBT rights, thus considered a gay icon. On September 17, 2017, during the Belgrade Pride she received the honorable title of the 'pride godmother'. Since 2016, Karleuša has identified as vegetarian transiting to vegan and also collaborated with PETA on a campaign in July 2018. Karleuša is also one of the few Serbian public figures who publicly acknowledged the Srebrenica massacre. She was interrogated under suspicion of spreading panic on 10 April 2018 after she had publicly advocated for the freedom of choice when it comes to MMR vaccination. In May 2021, Karleuša was vaccinated against COVID-19 and publicly encouraged Serbian people to also get the vaccine.
Karleuša is noted for supporting various other causes during her career. Following the 2014 Southeast Europe floods, she supplied Serbian shelters with basic necessities for three consecutive days. Also that year, Kalreuša and her husband were amongst the few regional celebrities who financially contributed to ALS research after participating in the ice bucket challenge. In 2015 she performed at Donna Ares' charity concert for victims of cancer in Zetra Olympic Hall, Sarajevo. In December 2018, Karleuša donated 100,000 RSD to VK Partizan for pool-heating during winter seasons.
Jelena Karleuša has a very polarized public reception of her work, image and persona. Throughout her career, she has attracted significant controversy and criticism for her appearances, which are often deemed edgy and over-sexualised, as well as for her outspoken views, specifically regarding other public figures in Serbia. However, she has an undeniable influence over public life and mass culture in Serbia and its region. In a 2013 public survey executed by the Culture Development Institute, she was cited as the biggest influence of Serbian youth after Novak Djokovic. The title of her 2012 song, "Sodoma i Gomora" (Sodom and Gomorrah), appeared as a question on the standardized test for admission to the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Niš that year. In 2019, Karleuša also served as a subject of a master's degree paper titled Celebrity Diplomacy in the former Yugoslavia: The Case of Jelena Karleuša at the University of Zagreb, Faculty of Political Science.
Regarded as a style icon, over the years Karleuša has acquired significant foreign recognition through fashion. In 2015, she rose to international prominence after she had accused Kim Kardashian, and then Beyoncé, of copying her fashion style, thus was featured on The Wendy Williams Show, among many other media outlets from around the world, debating on her style and social media influence. The following year, Kardashian praised Karleuša's style in her Woman Crush Wednesday column, claiming that she heard of Jelena only after the media allegations.
At the beginning of 2016, she had another international media incident when the 2015 Academy Award-winning documentary about Amy Winehouse falsely used unlicensed scenes from Jelena's 2013 concert as ones of Winehouse's last Belgrade performance. Karleuša initially planned to settle lawsuits against the creators for copyright infringement, but eventually gave up due to respect of the late singer.
- Studio albums
- Ogledalce (1995)
- Ženite se momci (1996)
- Veštice, vile (1997)
- Jelena (1998)
- Gili, gili (1999)
- Za svoje godine (2001)
- Samo za tvoje oči (2002)
- Magija (2005)
- JK Revolution (2008)
- Picakojama (2010)
- Diva (2012)
- Alpha (TBA)
- All About Diva (2010)
- Viva la Diva Show (2013)
- Jelena Karleuša - Exclusive Event on YouBox (2020)
Awards and nominations
|Oskar Popularnosti||1999||Album of the Year||Gili, gili||Won|
|2001||Performer of the year||Herself||Won|
|2004||Female Performer of the Year||Won|
|2005||Album of the Year||Magija||Won|
|GayEcho Award||2010||Gay Icon||Herself||Awarded|||
|Oskar Popularnosti||2011||Female Folk Singer of the Year||Nominated1|||
|Music Awards Ceremony||2019||Collaboration of the Year||"Bankina" (feat. Aca Lukas)||Won|||
|2020||Trap Collaboration of the Year||"LaJK" (feat. Gazda Paja)||Won|
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- "Serbiens Pop-Ikone in Berlin, "Angela Merkel ist eine eiserne Frau"" (in German). Focus.
- Kevin McGarry (October 2013). "International Pop Stars: The Beyoncé of Brazil, The Gaga of Serbia". W.
- "Onja je prva Srpkinja sa milion pratilaca na Instagramu i samo 99 odsto ljudi će pogoditi ko je". telegraf.rs (in Serbian).
- "Preminula majka Jelene Karleuše! Divna izgubila bitku sa opakom bolešću" (in Serbian). Novosti.rs. March 2019.
- "Dragan Karleuša". Vreme. 30 August 2001. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
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- "KARLEUŠA: Imam šesnaestinu plave krvi, moja prababa je austrijska grofica! (FOTO)". Telegraf.rs (in Serbian). 23 August 2014. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
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- "Jelena Karleuša – folk ili pop, pitanje je sad!" (in Serbian). Tracara.com. 2011.
- "Gotov rat: Skinuta Tijanićeva zabrana, Karleuša se vraća na RTS!". kurir.rs (in Serbian). 31 August 2016. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
- "JK "Insomnia" ruši rekorde". tračara.com. 4 January 2010. Retrieved 17 November 2010.
- "JK napunila Arenu!" (in Serbian). Tracara.com. May 2010.
- "JK prodala 300 000 albuma u danu". Tračara (in Serbian). June 2012.
- "Šta sve nismo videli na Karleušinom koncertu na Ušću". tracara.com (in Serbian).
- "Karleušin dokaz da je na Ušću bilo 40 000 ljudi". vesti-online.com (in Serbian).
- "Jelena Karleuša: Nisam zaslužila da me zabranjuju" (in Serbian). Večernje Novosti. 31 August 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
- "Počinje snimanje nove sezone: Evo ko su novi članovi žirija "Zvezda Granda"!". Blic (in Serbian). 15 September 2015. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
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- "Karleušin PR: 'Život intor' je naš autorski rad, inspiracija ruski umetnik" (in Serbian). Tračara. 3 February 2019.
- "Jelena Karleuša na YouBox platformi - koncert koji će se dugo pamtiti". hellomagazine.rs (in Serbian).
- "Sve je prštalo! Jelena Karleuša izdominirala na nezampaćenom online koncertu". hellomagazine.rs (in Serbian).
- "4 kostima, 3 mašine, seksi gošće... Najmoćniji momenti Karleušinog lajv spektakla". telegraf.rs (in Serbian).
- "Istina nakon 15 godina, zašto su se Jelena Karluša i Bojan Karić razveli". hellomagazine.rs (in Serbian). Retrieved 27 March 2020.
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- "Gotovo je! Ce dobila Jelenu na sudu, evo koliko para Karleuša mora da joj plati" (in Serbian). Telegraf.rs.
- "Jelena Karleuša: Moj brak je jači od tabloida". tracara.rs (in Serbian). 11 January 2019. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
- "Porno afera 2. deo! Isplivale nove skandalozne poruke i fotke JK i Vranješa" (in Serbian). Kurir. 15 January 2019. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
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- "Prekršajne prijave protiv tabloida zbog pornografije na naslovnicama" (in Serbian). N1 Info. January 2019.
- "Jelena Karleuša se oglasila novim videom: Sve dobijene pare od tuzbe cu donirati". Tracara.com (in Serbian). February 2019.
- "Održana parada ponosa, kuma Karleuša održala govor" (in Serbian). Tračara.com. 17 September 2017.
- "Serbian singerJelena Karleusa: 'I'd rather go naked than wear fur!'". Peta.de. 2018.
- "Karleuša za N1: Brnabić iznosi stavove našeg predsednika". n1.ba (in Bosnian). 17 November 2018.
- "Saslušana Jelena Karleuša zbog kampanje protiv MMR vakcine" (in Serbian). telegraf.rs. 10 April 2018. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
- M. Dejanović (May 2021). "Karleuša: Ne želim da se moja vakcinacija politizuje". Nova.rs (in Serbian).
- "Evo kako i gde poplavljenima pomažu estradne zvezde!" (in Serbian). Telegraf.rs. May 2014.
- "Karleuša uplatila 220.000 dinara za obolele od ALS" (in Serbian). Telegraf.rs. August 2014.
- "Jelena Karleuša na humanitarnom koncertu Done Ares u Sarajevu" (in Serbian). Tracara.com. April 2015.
- "Apel VK Partizan za pomoć! Od Jelene Karleuše 100.000 dinara" (in Serbian). Novosti.rs. December 2018.
- "Šešelj: I dalje mi je drago što je Đinđić ubijen! Karleuša: Dobro je što Šešelj umire od raka!" (in Serbian). Novosti.rs. November 2014.
- "Jelena Karleuša protiv Aleksandra Vučića i Cece, dan drugi" (in Serbian). Tracara.com. April 2017.
- "Karleuša žestoko odgovorila Dodiku" (in Serbian). RTV BN. 2018.
- "Đoković i Karleuša idoli maturanata" (in Serbian).
- "Verovali ili ne: Karleuša u testu opšte kulture na fakultetu" (in Serbian). Telegraf.rs.
- "Nakon skandala izučavaju je ma fakultetima! jelena Karleuša postala tema diplomskog rada" (in Serbian). Story.rs.
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- "Karleuša u prvom redu Versace revije u Milanu" (in Serbian). Tracara.com. February 2018.
- "Kim Kardashian Copying Jelena Karleusa's Style? Stealing Or Not, Kim's Paris Looks Were Very Similar To This Serbian Pop Star's!". hollywoodtake. Hollywood Take. 13 March 2015. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
- "Is Beyonce a Copycat?". The Wendy Williams Show. wendyshow. 6 May 2015. Archived from the original on 9 May 2015. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
- "Kim Kardashian, model names Serbian singer Jelena Karleuša her WCW". Pulse.ng. 2016.
- "World-class scandal: In a documentary about Amy Winehouse used videos were stolen from the concert of a Serbian singer". Telegraf.rs. 2015.
- "Jelena Karleuša - Gej ikona godine". tracara.com (in Serbian).
- "Oređeni finalisti za Oskar Popularnosti" (in Serbian). Tracara.com.
- "Ovo je lista dobitnika regionalnih MAC muzičkih nagrada" (in Serbian). Tracara.com. January 2019.
- "Karleuša odbila Oskar Popularnosti" (in Serbian). Tracara.com. 2011.
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