Dana International

Dana International

Dana International performing in 2009.
Background information
Birth name Yaron Cohen
Also known as Dana International
(דנה אינטרנשיונל)
Born (1972-02-02) 2 February 1972
Tel Aviv, Israel
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1992–present
Labels Hed Arzi Music
Website www.danainternational.co.il

Yaron Cohen (Hebrew: שרון כהן), professionally known as Dana International (דנה אינטרנשיונל), is an Israeli pop singer. 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".

Assigned male at birth, Sharon discovered that she was transsexual at an early age, and came out as a trans girl when she was 13, in 1985. She underwent sex reassignment surgery in 1993 and in that year released her first album, Danna International, basing her subsequent stage name on it. After consolidating her initial commercial success with the albums Umpatampa (1994) and Maganuna (1996), she was selected in 1998 to represent Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest with her song "Diva". Placing first at the international competition, she came to public attention throughout Europe.

Dana following up this success with the albums Free (1999), Yoter VeYoter (2001), HaHalom HaEfshari (2002) and Hakol Ze Letova (2008), she represented Israel in Eurovision a second time in 2011, this time with the song "Ding Dong", which failed to make it into the final. The same year, she 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

Sharon Cohen was born in Tel Aviv to a Jewish family of Yemenite Jewish and Romanian Jewish descent.[2] In an interview, she said her grandfather originated from Transylvania (Romania).[3] 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 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.


1990–93: Dana International

At 18 years of age, Cohen (still legally male at the time) earned a living as Israel's first 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".[4] The song received considerable exposure and helped launch her career as a professional singer.[4]

In 1993, Dana International flew to London for male-to-female sex reassignment surgery and legally changed her name to Sharon Cohen.[5] 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.[6]

1994: Umpatampa and Best Female Artist

In 1994, Dana released her second, Trance-influenced album Umpatampa, which built on the success of her debut and provided further hit singles.[7] 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

In 1995, Dana attempted to fulfill her childhood dream of performing in the Eurovision Song Contest.[8] 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

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.[9]

1998: Diva and mainstream spotlight

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 the choice 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."[10]

Dana released "Diva" as a single in Europe[11] 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

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).[12] 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 BMG incident

Dana International became a famous singer after winning Eurovision.

Dana was about to sign with a major label, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, for an international recording contract but something went wrong during negotiations. These were disagreements that led to Sony Music 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

Backing vocalists of Dana International at the Eurovision Song Contest 2011, in Düsseldorf, Germany.

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.[13] 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)[14] 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 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[15]

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."[16]

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.[17]

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.[18] 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

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.[19]

Also in 2014, Dana was the main attraction aboard the first Jewish boat to participate in the Amsterdam Pride Canal Parade.[20][21] Dana stated, "I don’t believe in any religion, so I’m here as an Israeli, not as a Jew. But it’s time to end the persecution over religion or national reasons. Just cut out all that shit. That’s my message."[21] Previously, after she won the Eurovision song competition, a serious religious debate had been held as to whether, and how, Dana should pray in a synagogue, with one rabbinical authority concluding that Dana should be counted in a minyan as a man, but could not sing in front of the community since she was also a woman, according to the rabbi, and that would violate the Orthodox rule of kol isha.[22]

Dana's Eurovision records

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




See also


  1. Nikia Brown proceeds in Kochav Nolad. Jerusalem Post
  2. Ivry, Benjamin (2 June 2010). "In Israel, Not So Many Gay Days?". Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
  3. Dana International – Interview (Romania) on YouTube
  4. 1 2 Billboard. May 23, 1998. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  5. Out. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  6. Thomas Peele. Queer popular culture: literature, media, film, and television. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  7. John Shepherd (2005). Continuum encyclopedia of popular music of the world. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  8. Lee Walzer (April 15, 2000). Between Sodom and Eden: a gay journey through today's changing Israel. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  9. Richard Middleton. Voicing the popular: on the subjects of popular music. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  10. Jeffrey Heyman. "Dana International - the most famous transsexual in the world". Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  11. John Snelson. Andrew Lloyd Webber. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  12. L'Arche. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  13. Watch Dana International's new video, News, Eurovision Song Contest 2011, Düsseldorf
  15. Celebrity Grapevine, Greer Fay Cashman, JPost, 11/23/2008
  16. Khalil, Ashraf (February 8, 2009). "Israel's Tzipi Livni turns to women and the left for votes". Latimes.com. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  17. ".". L'Arche. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  18. "Dana on Euro trail". The Sun. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  19. "iTunes - Music - Ma La'asot (מה לעשות) - Single by Dana International". Retrieved 25 April 2013.
  20. "Jewish boat vying for spot in Amsterdam gay parade". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  21. 1 2 "Aboard Amsterdam's Jewish gay boat, activists warn against tolerating hate". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  22. dan schifrin. "the space between - Stanford prof: Talmudic rabbis were into analyzing sexuality - j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California". Retrieved 24 October 2014.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dana International.
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Harel Skaat
with "Milim"
Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest
Succeeded by
with "Time"
Preceded by
United Kingdom Katrina and the Waves
with "Love Shine a Light"
Winner of the Eurovision Song Contest
Succeeded by
Sweden Charlotte Nilsson
with "Take Me to Your Heaven"
Preceded by
with "Amen"
Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest
Succeeded by
with "Yom Huledet"
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