On December 27, shortly after Eneda Tarifa won Albania’s Festivali i Këngës 54, Eurovision fans went into overdrive on social media. They weren’t just assessing Eneda’s winning song “Përrallë” (Fairytale). They were shining a very bright light on controversial comments Eneda made in 2014 about Conchita Wurst. Those comments may be old, but they have offended a number of Eurofans and left some throwing accusations of homophobia. (Please note: we said accusations). As this old news recirculates on Twitter, in the comments section of YouTube, and in various Facebook groups devoted to Eurovision, we thought we’d review what actually went down.
Eneda on Conchita Wurst
On May 8, 2014 — the day of the second semi-final at Eurovision 2014 — Eneda posted these two images. You’ll recognise them from Conchita Wurst’s official music video for “Rise Like a Phoenix”.
Her caption read: “Is this really the Eurovision? Hahahah are you kidding? Where are we heading? Where is the music? Where is the music hidden?”
Journalists in Albania immediately seized on her comments. Kristi Pinderi, a journalist and leading gay activist, sent an open letter to Eneda. He had interviewed her several years earlier and wanted to apologise, in his words, for mistaking her for a singer with a brain.
Later that day, Eneda responded on Facebook with the following message. She wrote that she was “against any kind of sexual, political, religious, regional or racial exhibitionism at the expense of art”. She re-positioned her earlier comments as a criticism against so-called “lobbying groups” — across “sexual affiliation, religious affiliation, regional affiliation, etc.”, arguing that they damage art.
Fast-forward to December 2015 — just hours after FiK54 — and Albanian web site Historia-IME.com republishes Eneda’s 18-month old comments. Cue the euro-drama and chatter on social media.
So is Eneda homophobic?
Eneda’s comments were unfortunate and perhaps insensitive, but they don’t necessarily make her homophobic. Before Conchita won over Europe at Eurovision 2014, a number of people — gay and straight — questioned the drag queen’s bid to win Eurovision. They thought she was exploiting a gimmick and that she wasn’t the best representative — or any representative — of the LGBT community.
Thankfully Conchita silenced the majority of her critics with her killer voice, amazing song and prolonged commitment to LGBT causes even after her win. People saw that she was a proper artist with a sincere message. Now that she’s a global icon and the poster child of tolerance in Europe, many critics have seen the light — or at least moved on. The sight of a bearded lady isn’t that shocking any more, suggesting that it is Conchita who has had the last laugh. Perhaps Eneda has reached a similar conclusion.
In fact, subsequent interviews with Eneda suggest that she may be more open-minded than her comments in 2014 suggest. She has stated in interviews that her children are free to have their own view and take their own decisions about their sexuality.
Will this affect her at Eurovision 2016?
Probably not. Those of us who live inside the Eurovision bubble — my hand is up! — sometimes think the drama and scandal that we obsess over automatically translates to the broader television viewing audience. It doesn’t. Most people tune in for a single night and judge the songs based on the song — not the artist’s Facebook record or alleged beliefs. Few of us can forget the drama that surrounded Armenia’s Aram Mp3 back in 2014. The pre-contest favourite landed in hot water after making comments that many took as transphobic and homophobic. But he and Conchita eventually reconciled at Eurovision in Concert. He finished in fourth place — and the majority of voters didn’t have a clue about the drama in the run-up to Copenhagen.
We suspect Eneda will be more concerned about revamping her song and deciding how she’ll cope without an orchestra.