When Turkey crashed out of the Eurovision 2011 semi-finals, sister state Azerbaijan picked up the pieces and ran to victory with Ell & Nikki’s “Running Scared”.
And ever since then singer Nikki — real name Nigar Jamal — has enjoyed celebrity status in her homeland, where she’s a firm member of the A-list and a stalwart of prestigious events from the Islamic Solidarity Games to Zhara Fest.
Over the summer the queen of Eurovision 2011 caught up with wiwiblogger Deban on the red carpet at Zhara Fest, sounding off on everything from her friendship with Dima Bilan to the fact her face can be found on an Azerbaijani stamp. We’re ready to send those letters!
“It feels really good,” Nikki says of her duet with Dima at Zhara Fest. “I love Dima because he is a really nice guy. We are very good friends. It’s a pleasure for me to work with him.”
Does she ever discuss the song contest with the Eurovision 2008 winner?
“Sometimes when you go back to the memories — all those feelings when he won, when I won. He was a singer before he won so his life didn’t change that much. But my life changed completely.”
It’s no joke. Following her victory Nikki, who moved to London in 2005, returned to Azerbaijan as a major celebrity.
“When we won we’ve been everywhere,” she says with wonder still written on her face. “Wherever you go you can buy the cup with our face, the shirt with our face, everything was with my face. I got used to seeing my face everywhere. And when you put on any channel they showed [the performance] everywhere.”
The TV offers and appearances have come thick and fast since then. Some of her bigger gigs include serving as a judge on the 2014 edition of X Factor Turkey, and headlining the closing ceremony of the Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku last summer.
With all this going on, does she still have time to watch Eurovision? And what does she make of the 2017 edition?
“I do watch,” she says. “To be honest I thought that Bulgaria would win. I really liked his song.”
“I really liked [Azerbaijan’s] song, but I wanted something more on the stage to be honest. But I love the song.”
Given her reality show experience on X Factor and her own turn on the Eurovision stage, Nikki knows a thing or two about what makes a star.
“Not just voice — something new, something different, something really interesting,” she says. “If it’s a really good voice with nothing to say, it’s boring. There are a lot of people who have very good voices.”
Are you still listening to “Running Scared”? And which of Nikki’s songs is your favourite? Let us know in the comments box below.