Israel’s Eurovision champ heads to Europe with empowerment message

TEL AVIV: With a multicolored kimono, clucking sounds and chicken-like dance moves, Israeli singer Netta Barzilai won over audiences with a hit inspired by the #MeToo movement to claim the Eurovision Song Contest.Now as she sets off on her first European tour the pop star has told AFP in an interview that she aims to pass on a message of empowerment after overcoming her own self doubts.Her winning song “Toy” became an anthem for others who, like her, have been bullied or made to feel like an outcast.She has said her childhood was marked by teasing over her body and bouts of bulimia.“We’re made to feel small in all kinds of situations. I don’t want to feel small anymore,” the 25-year-old said Saturday at her publicist’s apartment in Israel’s economic capital Tel Aviv.“I want to empower and love, to be empowered and empower others. Because when we send out good energy, it comes back at us and makes the world a better place.”Her upcoming tour, which begins on November 12, includes venues in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Britain, as well as a November 17 show at the Salle Wagram in Paris.Articulate and intense, Barzilai said she applied for a spot representing Israel in 2018’s Eurovision in Lisbon because she was failing to make ends meet as an experimental musician.“I knew nothing about Eurovision,” she confessed.Before the contest shook up her life, Barzilai said, she and her band would “be paid in beer and basically jam.”“I’d get drunk, sing on the tables, eat French fries off people’s plates and sing about them,” she recounted.“I tried to get a job in music but was too unique to stand behind someone as a backing vocal or to sing in weddings.”Barzilai’s mother pushed her to leave Tel Aviv and return to their home in central Israeli city Hod Hasharon and her father suggested she learn agronomy and join him in the family business.In despair, she turned to an Israeli reality singing show, the winner of which would represent the country at Eurovision.She never expected anything would come of the local exposure beyond maybe “getting gigs.”But she eventually made it through and took her eccentric look and show to Lisbon, where her victory earned Israel the right to hold the 2019 Eurovision, which will take place in Tel Aviv.Basking in the “superman powers” she received after her win, Barzilai can now return to Europe as a star with a repertoire blending her Eurovision fame and avant-garde roots.There have been calls for artists to boycott next year’s Eurovision in Tel Aviv over Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory, but Barzilai doesn’t think a boycott will solve anything.“Instead of boycotting we should think how we can help, how to improve the situation,” she said.“Tell me where to sing to solve the world’s problems and I’ll go.”Unconcerned that the calls to stay away could harm next year’s event, she added: “I think it will be very happy here and those voices are small ones.”

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