When we first met Mariya Yaremchuk at Ukraine’s Eurovision selection show, she was a sex kitten in leather with an orange spray tan and hair extensions. She sang a song with incestuous lyrics that left all of us thinking she may crash out of Eurovision.
Boy were we wrong. Mariya hired a stylist, cast off those locks and worked with Swedish songwriter Sandra Bjurman (the genius behind “Running Scared”, “When the Music Dies”, and “Drip Drop”) to re-shape her song “Tick Tock”. First it became a ballad. Then it morphed into the commercial pop song that we eventually saw in Copenhagen. Mariya grew from a girl to a woman, and from a newbie to a true ESC pop diva. She worked her hamster wheel like no other and left all of us shouting Ukrainia! en route to her sixth-place finish. Not bad given that she had to perform first in the final.
For coming the furthest of any competitor, our readers have awarded Mariya the 2014 Yohanna Award for Most Improved Performer.
The Yohanna Award for Most Improved Performer
1. Mariya Yaremhuk — Ukraine: 1,113 votes, 36.46%
2. The Common Linnets — the Netherlands: 611 votes, 20.01%
3. Sebalter — Switzerland: 414 votes, 13.56%
4. Valentina Monetta — San Marino: 383 votes, 12.55%
5. Conchita Wurst — Austria: 330 votes, 10.81%
6. The Tolmachevy Sisters — Russia: 202 votes, 6.62%
The road to Eurovision is long and bumpy, and it doesn’t always start out with a strong song—or the ability to sing said song. The Yohanna Award honors Iceland’s 2009 contestant Johanna Jonsdottir who illustrates the principle well. When she won the Icelandic national selection, we thought she was gonna flop at ESC. Then she put on that blue dress, hired some back-up singers, and wowed us all the way to second place in Moscow.
This award is just one of a dozen awards that make up the second annual Valentina Monetta Awards. Our 12 categories—from best dressed to most most wronged at ESC—identify the contestants who left the biggest impression on Eurovision fans, regardless of whether they won the contest or not.
Photo: Eurovision.tv (EBU)