This year’s Eurovision Song Contest isn’t for another four months, but the hype has already well and truly begun.
People are getting really excited about Bilal Hassani, a young singer chosen to represent France in the final competition after winning the country’s selection show, Destination Eurovision.
Because France is a “big five” country, he gets automatically entered into the final – performing in Tel Aviv to around 186m viewers across the world.
So who exactly is Bilal Hassani?
First, the basics
Name? Bilal Hassani (yes, we know we covered this already).
Age? 19 – he was born on 9 September 1999.
Where is he from? France. More specifically, he was born in Paris to French-Moroccan parents.
Followers? Lots. He has 801,000 subscribers on YouTube, 414,000 followers on Instagram, and 128,000 followers on Twitter.
What is his Eurovision song? It’s called Roi, which means King, and it’s about self acceptance and being unashamedly true to oneself. It’s also meant to be catchy, of course – this is Eurovision after all.
He’s not new to performing
This isn’t Hassani’s first taste of fame. He’s already pretty well-known in France for being on The Voice Kids in 2015, when he was 15 years old.
For that contest he sang Rise Like a Phoenix – Austrian singer Conchita Wurst’s winning Eurovision song from a year earlier.
He didn’t win, but he carried on creating music and posting videos for his fans on social media.
Hassani says he’s been singing since he was five, when he would put on mini pop concerts for his family.
Shortly after that he started taking formal singing lessons – and then dance, piano and guitar.
He’s already an LGBTQ+ icon
Each of Hassani’s posts on Instagram gets tens of thousands of likes, mainly for his big personality, his gender-neutral style, and his impressive collection of wigs.
He also takes part in Pride marches and has built up a YouTube following for his videos with irreverent titles like Queer Is The New Black’ and I’m Falling In Love With A Hetero!
Hassani first came out as gay to his fans online when he was 17, by writing a song called Hold Your Hand and posting it to Twitter.
“I can’t stop all the angry eyes trying to judge our love,” he sings. “But you know that I’ll smile when I can be allowed to hold your hand.”
When he was trying to break into the music business, not everyone appreciated Hassani for who he was.
In an interview with Billboard magazine last year, the young singer said music labels in France thought he was too “different” to be successful.
“They tried to make me look like some kind of teen pop star, like a Justin Bieber format,” he said. “I’m not really against that, I think it can be cool, but I always fought with that. So I sort of got blacklisted from everything.”
Even while he was competing on Destination Eurovision, his critics dismissed him as an “Arab in a wig”.
He also faces a barrage of homophobic abuse every time he posts online – something that has only become worse since he won Destination Eurovision.
Two French advocacy groups, Stop Homophobie and Urgence Homophobie, say that they’ve counted more than 1,500 “insulting, discriminatory or threatening tweets linked to his sexual orientation and/or appearance”.
They have promised to take legal action against every individual sending homophobic and queerphobic abuse to Hassani, so that it doesn’t “pollute his brain with hatred”.
But Hassani has taken it in his stride.
Being chosen to represent France at Eurovision this year, he says, is “the best response to the haters”.
Source : BBC