Paenda will represent Austria at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv with her song “Limits”. It’s an atmospheric indie-pop track about life’s struggles.
Austrian broadcaster ORF selected Paenda internally, in a similar method to what it has used since 2017. It also went internal in 2014 when Conchita Wurst won the contest outright with “Rise Like A Phoenix”. Austria has appeared in the final every year since. Paenda aims to maintain this streak, especially after Cesár Sampson came third in Lisbon.
As Tel Aviv draws near, we have compiled 10 facts about Paenda. Let’s do this!
1. Why is she called Paenda?
As you might expect, Paenda — often stylised as PÆNDA — is not her real name. When she was born on 25 January 1989, she was actually called Gabriela Horn. She adopted the moniker upon starting her solo career. But where did it come from? Despite the spelling, it is actually pronounced “panda”, like the bear. She explains to our William and Deban: “There were a lot of other people telling me you look like a panda in the morning. Look at your eye rings and stuff… But I thought that was actually a cool and sweet name”. But why the spelling? That’s purely for practical reasons. Type “Panda” into a search engine and you’re only going to get results relating to the endangered bear. On the other hand, if you search for “Paenda”, you’ll be presented with info on the blue-haired songstress.
2. Why is her hair blue?
Speaking of her hair colour, there’s no specific reason for the blue hue. It has no symbolic meaning. In a 2018 interview, Paenda says it as it is: “I like colourful hair… I used to have many other colours, but blue was extremely good, unlike the others. I stayed with it and now, in a funny way, it’s almost a trademark”.
3. She has lots of tattoos
It’s not just her hair that’s colourful. Paenda’s body is effectively a living work of art, and over the years she has amassed quite a collection of tattoos. In the picture below, you can see a tiny microphone on her right index finger. Her other tats include a compass-like symbol on her upper right arm, three stars on her right shoulder, the inscription “I ❤ myself” on her lower right arm, “22” on her right wrist, a sitting woman on her upper left arm, a flower on her right foot, “PÆNDA:STIC” on her upper left arm, and some Asian logograms on her back. You can view most of them here and on her Instagram.
4. She’s a VMI graduate
Paenda started singing in a choir at the age of six, and began songwriting and singing with pop-rock groups at fourteen. At the age of twenty, she took up jazz and pop music studies at the Vienna Music Institute. A few years later, she graduated with honours.
5. She entered Popstars
In 2015, before she was Paenda but after she’d discovered blue hair dye, Gabriela Horn auditioned for the eleventh season of German Popstars. The series’ aim was to create the next big girlband. After auditioning with a cover of Ella Henderson’s “Ghost”, Gabriela made it all the way to the quarter final. The show concluded in October with the winners forming Leandah. However, their debut single failed to chart and the group disbanded in February 2016.
6. She does everything herself
Paenda is a true all rounder. She sings, she writes and she produces. She elaborates in an interview with Der Standard: “I’m not just a singer, I’m a songwriter and produce all my music myself. That’s totally under-represented. I want to show there that women can do it all: that’s my intention”. She has created much of her work in her home studio in Vienna.
7. She’s a vocal coach
Eurovision isn’t make or break for Paenda. She’s not dependent on a good result. That’s partly because she also works as a vocal coach at the Leobersdorf music school. The institute’s director Gerald Mittermüller confirmed to meinbezirk.at that she is equally popular with both students and colleagues.
8. She supported Jessie J on tour
Throughout the summer of 2018, Paenda supported Jessie J on the Austrian leg of her tour. Perhaps the biggest date was on 13 July, when she opened for a packed Arena Wien. However, despite weeks on the road, she never actually got to chat with the British star. Speaking to William and Deban in London, Paenda explains: “I didn’t meet her once. She wasn’t even at the venue at the time”. Based on this experience, she’s not hopeful about crossing paths with Madonna in Tel Aviv — “You have to be aware that all these big acts when they are coming, it means that they are going to be backstage until they have to come on. And afterwards they will not talk to anyone, mostly”.
9. Her musical idol is Lady Gaga
Paenda doesn’t have a specific role model, but Lady Gaga is definitely up there. “Since there are so many great musicians, I can not possibly limit myself to one role model, but Lady Gaga is definitely at the top of my list. You can keep what you want from your marketing strategy, but she is undoubtedly an incredible musician and a strong woman”, she told Red Bull. On the possibility of becoming a role model herself at Eurovision, she says “Where else do you have such a large audience, and if I can be an example to younger people of being able to do it when you stand by yourself, then it’s worth a try”.
10. She has one album and her next is on the way
Over two years of nightly sessions in her home studio, Paenda worked on her debut album Evolution I. Released on the Viennese label Wohnzimmer Records, it spawned three singles — “Waves”, “Good Girl” and “Paper-thin”. A sequel LP, entitled Evolution II, will drop just before Eurovision on 26 April. The 11-track record will, of course, feature “Limits”.
Can Paenda continue Austria’s qualifying streak? Sound off in the comments below.
Read more Eurovision 2019 artist facts here.