“My unique look is a crazy advantage,” Eurovision Song Contest winner Netta Barzilai says of her act, in which she struts and clucks in a multicoloured kimono, hair in magenta-streaked buns.
The 25-year-old Israeli singer has no time for body stereotypes.
“The way I carry myself inside my own body, when I play with it, how I choose to present it” is her only concern, she told Israel’s Yediot Ahronot newspaper.
Her uptempo song “Toy”, whose lyrics were inspired by the #MeToo movement, also reflects a spirit of independence and freedom with its refrain: “I am not your toy, you stupid boy.”
Her performance at the contest in Lisbon on Saturday night was punctuated by trills, clucking sounds and chicken-like dance moves.
Even before the contest, the physical presence she cultivated and the tone of her song captivated not only Israelis but also foreign viewers.
The song’s official video on Youtube has been viewed over 29 million times.
In recent days newspapers had constantly updated the rise and fall of bookmakers’ odds for the song.
The Israeli foreign ministry even put the song on its Arabic-language Facebook page.
“Through this song, we’re trying to show the cultural diversity we have here and shatter stereotypes regarding Israel in Arab countries,” the ministry said on its English-language site.
Barzilai’s career took off in February, when she landed first place on Israeli TV’s talent show Rising Star.
Previously she was seen mainly at clubs and private functions.
– Teasing and ‘exile’ –
The fame and popularity that followed her TV success led to her being selected to sing at a state ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Jewish state, where she brought the house down.
She said it was a form of validation after a childhood marked by teasing over her body, the repeated failure of diets and bouts of bulimia.
She also experienced upheaval in her surroundings.
Born in Hod Hasharon, north of Tel Aviv, she moved with her family at a very young age to Nigeria, where her father was employed by an Israeli construction company.
For four years she lived in West Africa before returning to her homeland, where she had to readjust to life.
She understood quickly that singing was a way for her to overcome her traumas.
She joined the Rimon School of Music, one of the most prestigious music schools in Israel, after doing her compulsory military service in the navy’s musical troupe.
Single, she lives in the Mediterranean beachfront city of Tel Aviv.
Her Lisbon Eurovision win is Israel’s fourth.
The last was in 1998, with “Diva” by transgender performer Dana International.