The story behind Loreen – the first woman to win Eurovision TWICE
The story behind Sweden’s Loreen – the first woman to win Eurovision TWICE: After reality TV made her a household name, she became a human rights campaigner, talked openly about her sexuality… and made song contest history
- Loreen last won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2012 when it was hosted in Baku
- But unlike many of the contest’s more obscure acts, she has long been a staple of her home country’s music scene – having shot to fame in Sweden in 2004
Loreen of Sweden won the Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool on Saturday night, making history as the first woman to have won the competition twice.
She scored a total of 583 points after the public and jury votes were combined, narrowly beating Finland’s Kaarija who scored 526.
Loreen, 39, who previously won Eurovision in 2012, said becoming only the second person to take the crown twice left her ‘seriously overwhelmed.’
Her intense love anthem ‘Tattoo’ had been the bookies’ favourite. While she faced a strong challenge from Käärijä – a wildly energetic performer whose rap-pop party anthem ‘Cha Cha Cha’ – she came out on top after a tense finish.
The Swedish singer has been on a long road to reach her second Eurovision victory. While reality TV made her a household name at home, she has also been given awards for her humanitarian work and spoken openly about her sexuality.
Here, MailOnline looks at the fascinating backstory of the Swedish pop sensation…
Loreen of Sweden won the Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool on Saturday night (pictured), making history as the first woman to have won the competition twice
The singer (pictured performing on Saturday) scored a total of 583 points after the public and jury votes were combined, narrowly beating Finland’s Kaarija who scored 526
Loreen, 39, who previously won Eurovision in 2012, said becoming only the second person to take the crown twice left her ‘seriously overwhelmed.’ Pictured: The singer is seen accepting the award on stage in Liverpool on Saturday night
Loreen, whose real name is Lorine Zineb Nora Talhaoui, was born in 1983 to Moroccan immigrant parents in the Swedish capital of Stockholm, before later moving to Västerås – a city in central Sweden – when she was young.
The green city on the shore of Lake Mälaren is a far-cry from her parents’ homeland of Berber, in the Atlas Mountains, more than 2,000 miles to the south.
It is perhaps from the Atlas Mountains – and the Sahara desert to the south – that the singer got her inspiration for her set in Liverpool – decades after her parents left.
Loreen shot to fame in Sweden at the age of 20. Driven by her dream of becoming a musician, she took part in Sweden’s ‘Idol’ (equivalent of the X-Factor) in 2004.
She came in fourth place, performing covers of songs by Celine Dion, Pink, Stevie Wonder and The Police – establishing her penchant for anthems.
Originally performing under the name Lorén Talhaoui, she proved popular with the public, and soon after her elimination released her first single in 2005, which reached as high as ninth in the Swedish music charts.
After going on to present the Swedish TV show Lyssna, she took a hiatus from more public-facing roles, and worked as a segment producer for reality TV shows.
But it was not long before she was thrust back into the limelight again, taking her first run at making it to the Eurovision Song Contest.
In 2011 she took part in Sweden’s Melodifestivalen, a song competition that runs from February to March – with the grand prize being getting to represent Sweden at Europe’s premier song competition.
While she failed the qualify in 2011, she returned to Melodifestivalen a year later – determined to represent her country on the European stage.
Her determination paid off, and she won the Swedish competition with her breakthrough entry ‘Euphoria’ – sending her to the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest hosted in Baku, Azerbaijan.
In the early 2000s, Melodifestivalen was consistently Sweden’s most-watched TV program, and in 2012, the heats averaged 3.3 million viewers.
Over an estimated four million people in Sweden watched Loreen win in the final, almost half of the Swedish population of around 10 million people.
As with her 2023 appearance, bookies placed her as favourite to win the competition in 2012 – despite drawing the ire of the hosts.
2012: Loreen performs at the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest in Baku, which she went on to win
2013: Eurovision Song Contest winner Loreen of Sweden performs on stage during the grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2013 in Sweden – the year after her win
During the contest, Loreen was the only entrant to meet with local human rights activists, later telling reporters that ‘human rights are violated in Azerbaijan every day. One should not be silent about such things.’
The government hit back, with a spokesman saying the contest should not ‘be politicised’. Baku requested that the European Broadcasting Union prevent such meetings with entrants. Sweden denied any rules were broken.
Despite the verbal tussle, Loreen went on to win over the hearts of the European public in 2012. Euphoria won 372 points from 40 voting countries out of 42, giving the singer her first Eurovision triumph.
The song proved popular abroad, charting at number three on the UK Official Singles Chart, the highest chart position for a non-UK Eurovision entry since Irish singer Johnny Logan’s ‘Hold Me Now’ in 1987. He has also won the contest twice.
Loreen’s music career took off from there, making frequent TV appearances and going on tours abroad – while releasing two full albums in 2012 and 2017.
She has also won a number of awards, including MTV Europe Music Awards’ Best Swedish Act in 2012 and the Scandipop Awards Best Alternapop Song in 2018.
2017 also saw her make another run at the Eurovision Song Contest by entering Melodifestivalen for a third time in her career with her song ‘Statements’.
As with in 2011, she failed to make it past the semi-final and was eliminated from the competition after losing a ‘duel’ to another singer.
While she performed at Melodifestivalen again in 2020 in celebration of its Hall of Fame, she would not enter as a competitor again until 2023.
She entered with the song ‘Tattoo’, participating in the competition’s fourth heat. However, during her performance, an environmental activist invaded the stage – resulting in her having to restart her performance.
Despite the distraction, she advanced from the heat, and Tattoo was released to the public, becoming her second number one single in Sweden and making it a clear favourite to go on to win the competition – which she did with 177 points.
Loreen is seen here on the Turquoise Carpet outside St George’s Hall in Liverpool at the opening ceremony for the 2023 edition of Eurovision Song Contest
Loreen attends the Eurovision Preparty, which was held in April 2023 in Amsterdam
Pictured: Loreen is seen with her dog in a photo from social media. Loreen, whose real name is Lorine Zineb Nora Talhaoui, was born in 1983 to Moroccan immigrant parents in the Swedish capital of Stockholm, before later moving to Västerås – a city in central Sweden
Loreen shot to fame in Sweden at the age of 20. Driven by her dream of becoming a musician, she took part in Sweden’s ‘Idol’ (equivalent of the X-Factor) in 2004
Thus, she became the country’s representative for the 2023 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest, and on Saturday, she claimed her second victory in Liverpool.
Sweden’s victory is the country’s seventh, matching Ireland’s record.
The win also gives Sweden the right to host next year, the 50th anniversary of Sweden’s first Eurovision triumph – ABBA’s 1974 victory with ‘Waterloo.’
Following her win, the Nordic country’s media was in a jubilant mood.
‘There is only one queen and her name is Loreen,’ wrote the tabloid Expressen.
‘What Loreen has achieved… is, without exaggeration, a greater feat than most of us realise,’ the paper wrote, calling her title ‘pure perfection’.
The Svenska Dagbladet (SVD) title said Loreen had ‘made history’, adding that her ‘participation lived up to all hopes’.
‘She has not succumbed to the pressure,’ the public broadcaster SVT said.
Loreen’s goth-like look is a far cry from that of ABBA – Sweden’s most famous musical export – who also made their name at Eurovision.
On Saturday night, she sported long wavy black hair, a skin-tight (and skin-coloured) jumpsuit, and inches-long stone nails – prompting people to take to social media to compare her outfit to that of Edward Scissorhands.
Sweden’s singer Loreen performs after winning the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2023 on May 13, 2023 at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool, northern England
Sweden’s singer Loreen performs after winning the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2023 on May 13, 2023 at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool
Danielle Lundgren, the artist behind the nails, told Vice UK that the singer wanted her outfit to be inspired by ‘Dune’ – the 1965 epic science fiction novel by American author Frank Herbert which was recently adapted into a blockbuster film.
But her Dune-inspired set is also a nod to her parent’s origins in Morocco.
Of her song Tattoo, she said it had been inspired by her heritage.
‘I am from the mountains, so I felt like I wanted to create this nature-ly environment,’ she explained to Wiwibloggs, a Eurovision Song Contest site.
‘Beautiful elements like stone and sand and sky and all these beautiful things that we sometimes forget,’ she added.
She has spoken in the past about being inspired by her grandmother. Speaking to Vogue Arabia, she said: ‘Music is a big part of how my Moroccan family spend time together. Everybody can sing or play an instrument.
It’s a huge part of the Moroccan tradition. I never strived to be the centre of attention or a public figure as an artist, I just wanted to perform and create. It has such a healing effect on my spirit and is my way of connecting and communicating with people. When I perform, I feel totally in sync with myself.’
In the same interview, she called on people to ‘be proud of your Arabic heritage.’
‘Let it be an inspiration when you create and don’t ever let anyone make you feel ashamed. Today, as an Arab or Muslim, you are very exposed due to the harsh political climate. It can make you despise your own traditions and culture.
‘But it’s important to understand that the political climate has nothing to do with the culture and traditions. Be proud,’ she said.
While 2012 was her breakout year with her first Eurovision win, her activities in Azerbaijan also sparked her work as an activist.
In July that same year, she performed in Belarus – ruled by autocrat Alexander Lukashenko. There, press freedom is nearly non-existent and protests are quashed.
Lukashenko was even in attendance during her performance.
But during her trip to the country, she also met with the wife of political prisoner Ales Bialiatski, representatives of human rights groups as well as independent journalists. During the meeting, she expressed her support for their work.
She also signed a petition to ban the death penalty in the country.
The singer later said that she was fully aware of the risks she faced by speaking out, which could have seen her stopped or arrested at the airport as she left the country.
A year later, in August 2013, she was named as the ambassador of the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, and she visited the country’s capital of Kabul as well as the village of Yaskin Bala in the country’s Warsaj Valley.
A year later, the construction of a new primary school was due to start in the village, and Loreen was due to return upon its opening.
‘Education is the most important issue, when it comes to decrease poverty and to help people taking control over their own lives,’ Loreen said at the time.
‘I am very impressed of what SCA is doing in Afghanistan. To me, this is the right way of development efforts. I am happy to be committed in that work.’
Loreen performs after winning the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool, Britain, May 13
Sweden entrant Loreen with the trophy after winning the Eurovision Song Contest at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool. Picture date: Saturday May 13
Pictured: Loreen holds up her trophy after winning Saturday night’s Eurovision contest
For her work, she was announced as the patron of the World Children’s Prize and received the Crystal Globe in 2013. She won the prize again the following year and met with Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai.
More recently, in March 2022, she performed at a live fundraising gala in support of Ukraine after Vladimir Putin’s and Russia’s invasion of the country.
And after her win on Saturday, she said she hoped that Ukraine should be allowed the opportunity to host Eurovision after the UK hosted in its stead this year.
Britain hosted Eurovision on behalf of Ukraine, which won last year but couldn’t take up its right to hold the event because of the war.
‘I love Ukraine, I’ve been a lot, I’ve done a lot of shows and it hurts me to see what’s going on there and I’m sad about that,’ she said.
Asked by a Ukrainian journalist about the power of creativity, she said: ‘For me creativity is spirituality. It does things to us. It is a powerful tool. It can create movements. Look at John Lennon.’ She then sang the line ‘Imagine all the people’, from Lennon’s song written during the Vietnam War.
She added: ‘Art is our way of expressing and it is very spiritual because it makes us feel. So use it constructively and collectively we can do some good changes.’
Loreen in 2017 came out as bisexual during an interview on Swedish TV.
‘Many people are so focused on sex, on sexuality. Love is so much more. I usually say ‘Love is where you find it’,’ she said in the interview. Asked by the host to define if that meant she was bisexual, Loreen said she ‘quite simply’ was.
She refused to delve into details about her relationship at the time, saying she was married to the job, but quipped that she has a ‘functional sex life’.
In 2011, she had already hinted at her sexuality. ‘I’m open. I want to find love. And if I find it with a woman and it feels right, then it is right,’ she said at the time.
Loreen performs on stage after winning The Eurovision Song Contest 2023 Grand Final at M&S Bank Arena on May 13, 2023 in Liverpool
Saturday’s contest came down to a nail-biting finish between Loreen, who won the jury vote of music professionals across Europe, and Käärijä, who was the runaway winner in voting by the viewing public.
After she was announced as the winner at the M&S Bank Arena, Loreen returned to the stage and was handed the trophy by last year’s winners Kalush Orchestra of Ukraine.
‘I am seriously overwhelmed,’ Loreen told reporters.
Comparing her win to 2012, she said: ‘It’s like coming back to a family.’
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