Dana International (Sharon Cohen) Wins Eurovision Representing Israel
On May 9, 1998, Sharon Cohen—known professionally as Dana International—won the Eurovision Song Contest representing Israel. She made history as the first trans person to win the competition with her song “Diva.” The competition took place in Birmingham, England.
In 1993, Cohen collaborated with Offer Nissim to record her first song, “Saida Sultana,” a parody of Whitney Houston’s “My Name is Not Susan.” The same year, the duo released an album called Dana International (Offer Nissim Presents). In 1994, Cohen was named Israel’s Best Female Artist of the year. In 1995, she applied to represent Israel in Eurovision but was unsuccessful. In the meantime, she released three more albums.
In 1998, Cohen again applied for Israel’s Eurovision contest with the song “Diva,” written by Yoav Ginai. She was selected by a committee, rather than in the usual TV competition. The Haredi community in Israel was outraged by her selection because she is trans and unsuccessfully attempted to have her disqualified.
Cohen won the competition with 172 points, becoming the third Israeli to take home the crown. It was the first and only year that the winner was determined by audience vote, as opposed to a judge’s panel.
Since her win, Cohen has released many more albums and singles. She represented Israel at Eurovision again in 2011 but didn’t qualify for the final round.
Barlow, Eve. “Viva la diva! How Eurovision's Dana International made trans identity mainstream.” Guardian, May 10, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/may/10/viva-la-diva-how-eurovisions-dana-international-made-trans-identity-mainstream.
Bryant, Tony. "Winning Eurovision was a dream, but it actually made my life a lot harder." SUR in English, June 13, 2017. https://www.surinenglish.com/lifestyle/201706/09/winning-eurovision-dream-actually-20170609102650-v.html.
Cockburn, Patrick. “Orthodox rabbis in uproar over Israel's Eurovision sex-change diva.” International, November 25, 1997. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/orthodox-rabbis-in-uproar-over-israel-s-eurovision-sexchange-diva-1296157.html.
Eurovision. “Birmingham 1998.” Accessed June 9, 2022. https://eurovision.tv/event/birmingham-1998.
Israel Illustrated. “How Dana International Made Israel Fun.” Accessed June 9, 2022. https://www.il-lustrated.com/dana-international.html.
Shironet. “Biography of Dana International.” Accessed June 9, 2022. https://shironet.mako.co.il/artist?type=biography&lang=1&prfid=306.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Dana International (Sharon Cohen) Wins Eurovision Representing Israel ." (Viewed on November 30, 2023) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/may/09/1998/dana-international-sharon-cohen-wins-eurovision-representing-israel>.