Bilal Hassani will represent France at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv with his song “Roi”. It’s an empowerment anthem, all about overcoming the haters.
France Télévisions chose Bilal through the second series of its Destination Eurovision national selection process. Over its three week run — two semis and a final — the show saw saw 18 songs become eight and then one. “Roi” only placed fifth with the international jury, but it was by far and away the public favourite.
The talented singer has lived quite a life in his 19 years and has a story to tell.
As we draw closer to Tel Aviv, we have compiled a list of 10 facts you need to know about Bilal Hassani. Prepare to have your wigs snatched.
1. He’s the modern face of France’s cultural melting pot
Bilal is the child of French-Moroccan parents, a cultural group making up about 1.5% of the French population. Growing up in the suburbs of Paris, Bilal represents a new wave of French identity — not only as a child of immigrants, but also as a gay teenager who challenges gender stereotypes.
Understandably, Bilal does not see the big fuss about what his background or image represents in France’s political environment. He told The Washington Post earlier this year that he doesn’t consider himself a culture warrior. He’s here for the music:
“I was never really drawn to politics, and I never really paid attention to it.”
Throwback Thursday ! ?
2006, je suis obsssesed par High School Musical ???
et je chantes la version Française !!!! ?? ça fera plaisir à certain.e.s ???? pic.twitter.com/HGZKlOP2ie
— Bilal Hassani (@iambilalhassani) January 31, 2019
2. He competed in The Voice Kids in 2015, going viral
As a timid 15-year-old, Bilal auditioned on The Voice Kids in France — his TV debut. His shyness didn’t stop him from taking on a big ballad from his idol, Conchita Wurst. His audition not only turned all three mentors’ chairs, but also went viral worldwide — amassing over 1.7 million views on YouTube. While he didn’t make it past the battle rounds, his name was remembered well beyond his appearance on the show.
3. He is fluent in English thanks to his stepmother (and RuPaul’s Drag Race)
Bilal’s father remarried when he was just four. His stepmother only spoke English, while Bilal only spoke French. They taught each other small words in their mother-tongues, and soon both spoke both languages fluently. Bilal also learnt how to shantay and slay the English language by watching the US television series RuPaul’s Drag Race, and has even dabbled in drag himself.
4. His trips to Asia have inspired his look and music
In an interview with wiwibloggs, Bilal mentioned that he spent many of his school vacations visiting his father, who works overseas in Vietnam and Singapore. Growing in love with Asian music and culture, it was during these vacations that Bilal challenged his perceptions of the masculine “norm”. He saw what it means to be a ‘man’ in a different light:
“Something that I found really interesting (in Asia) is how masculinity in Asia is very different to how western countries show men. I got to discover new things, and see men with makeup without it being associated with sexuality directly. It was really fun, and it shaped me a bit.”
5. He’s one of the most followed Eurovision stars on Instagram
And it’s no surprise why. Bilal keeps his fans waiting with bated breath for new posts, with his Instagram serving as a pseudo modelling portfolio. Bilal experiments with different weaves, different looks and an evolution in identity. And he’s captured a strong and dedicated following in the process. His account @iambilalhassani has amassed over half a million followers. Only Russia’s Sergey Lazarev and Italy’s Mahmood have more.
6. And we can keep up with Bilal’s life on his YouTube channel
Bilal takes his millennial tag and runs with it — documenting his life in vlogs on his YouTube channel. With almost one million subscribers, he leaves no stone unturned — from revealing his nose job to even undertaking the odd mukbang. There’s no doubt that there’s something entirely entertaining and relatable about the French chanteur. We like and we subscribe!
7. He feels the “Fuego”
He’s never hidden his deep admiration for the “Fuego” hitmaker and 2018 Cyprus representative, Eleni Foureira. He performed his own rendition of the Eurovision track at Destination Eurovision, and previously stated that Eleni and winner Netta Barzilai were his favourite entries from 2018. Bilal has no doubt taken stylistic inspiration from Eleni, channeling some of her serious hairography and signature sunglasses during a photo shoot late last year. Yeah yeah, Bilal.
8. Bilal and Madame Monsieur are creative collaborators
Bilal’s Eurovision entry “Roi” marks a Eurovision return for last year’s French representatives Madame Monsieur, now as songwriters. The duo composed the song with Bilal and songwriter Medeline, with a message of self love and acceptance. Bilal and Madame Monsieur continue to collaborate heavily. Bilal’s upcoming album Kingdom is written in collaboration with the “Mercy” pair. No doubt the three share a strong creative bond.
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Bilal c’est une rencontre comme on en fait peu. On s’est connu il y a quelques mois par hasard sur un tournage et les jours passant, on a découvert un garçon aussi doux que fort, aussi humble que fier, fier d’être celui qu’il est depuis 19 ans, depuis toujours donc. Cette chanson qu’on a fait tous les trois s’est presque écrite toute seule, tant ce qu’elle raconte coule de source. Pas besoin de s’excuser d’être celui où celle qu’on est. Bilal est un Roi et il nous pousse tous à l’être aussi, pour nous-mêmes, pas pour les autres ? Go Papillon ? – I am me And I know I will always be Je suis free, oui j’invente ma vie Ne me demandez pas qui je suis Moi je suis Le même depuis tout petit Et malgré les regards, les avis Je pleure, je sors et je ris – Who are we When we hurt When we fight for free Only god can judge you and me Ce qu’on est, on ne l’a pas choisi On choisit Son travail, sa coiffure, ses amis Sa routine, parfois l’amour aussi Et ça passe ou ça casse Mais ça regarde qui ? ?? – @iambilalhassani #roi #bilalhassani Prod @_medeline_ Mix @_memmix_
9. His wig is taking on a ‘Pokemon-style’ evolution
In an interview with wiwibloggs, Bilal has stated that his signature golden locks will have evolved by the time it gets to Tel Aviv. His first hair-incarnation for Destination Eurovision was a platinum, straight shoulder-length bob, which accentuated Bilal’s angular facial features. On his trip to Israel to film his Eurovision postcard, his shoulder length bob started developing more curls, and most recently, he has experimented with much longer golden wavy locks. His change in hairography is, in his words, an evolution of sorts:
“The hair is going to be different (at Eurovision). It’s not the long hair that you have seen in Tel Aviv (during postcard filming). I really want to give it a full Pokemon evolution – there are three steps. The first one is Destination Eurovision, the second one is for the postcard and the pre-parties, and the last one is going to to be for the grand final in Tel Aviv. It’s going to be long and wavy. It’s going to be exciting.”
10. He’s here to spread love, not feed the haters
Since winning the right to represent France at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, Bilal has spread a message of love and acceptance through his song “Roi” — even doing so at 30,000 feet. The singer performed to travellers and crew on an EasyJet flight on the way to his postcard filming in Tel Aviv. And despite some trolls besieging his social media accounts, Bilal is not standing for it, threatening to take legal action against the haters. Our king doesn’t play around.
Do you think Bilal can make his way to the top of the leaderboard? Could “Roi” cement Bilal’s status as a king of Eurovision? Let us know in the comments.
Read more Eurovision 2019 artist facts here.