She became known to Eurovision fans by competing in the Finish national finals in 2011 and 2016, and later reached a wider audience as a contestant on The X Factor UK, where she placed second.
And while Saara Aalto might have not won The X Factor, she has definitely won a place in the music industry — as she proved again during her show-stopping performance at Manchester Pride on Saturday.
Speaking to wiwibloggs after her set, she said she feels like much more than a runner-up.
“Of course I felt like a winner, like, from the first live show on The X Factor because for me the step to really come here and try to achieve my dreams is such a big thing,” she said. “So I felt like a winner all the time.”
And everyone else thinks she is, too. Since the show the 30-year-old has signed to Sony Music and performed all over Europe. Her headline performance at Manchester Pride — affectionally known as the Big Weekend — is further proof of the UK’s enduring love for her.
Saara Aalto interview at the Big Weekend
Her success on The X Factor UK made Saara a logical choice to serve as a judge in the recently relaunched X Factor Finland, which will air in 2018. She has plenty of Finnish reality experience: Saara was the runner-up on Talent Suomi — the Finnish version of Got Talent — and The Voice of Finland.
“It’s really interesting to be on the other side because I’ve been into these talent shows quite a lot, so now I get to be the judge, which is really cool,” Saara said. “I have experience so I know how to help them.”
Asked if she felt more pressure as a contestant or as a judge, Saara laughed.
“I have now idea. This is my first judging role, so let’s see after a year how it goes.”
In spite of not winning UMK 2016, “No Fear” has remained a fan favourite. Is there any chance the song will be released internationally, now that Saara has broken out outside Finland?
“I really hope so — when I release my first international album,” she said, “I definitely hope I could include ‘No Fear’ in that album, because I think it deserves to be in that album.”
Saara could not tell us, though, when the album will be released. Instead, she teased: “Just wait! It’s gonna be a nice surprise.”
“I can’t tell you my plans yet. But you’re gonna love it when it comes out.”
The “No Fear” singer now splits her time between the UK and Finland, but does not spend much time in one place. “I’m travelling all the time, I basically live in hotels. I do have a house in London and in Finland. But for example, this week I’ve been to Scotland.”
Before arriving in Manchester, Saara performed at Glasgow Pride, which she singled out as one of her favourite Pride events.
“I was in Glasgow a week ago. It was amazing because it was a bit smaller, and I felt like people were really excited to see everybody on stage.”
Performing at Prides means a lot to Saara and her fiancée Meri Sopanen on a personal level. Wherever Saara travels and performs, Meri follows and supports her.
“Two years ago, we were thinking like, ‘Oh, we really want to go and see pride in different countries’, like London Pride or whatever. And now we are doing Prides all the time! So it’s basically our dream that came true.”
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