Manizha will represent Russia at Eurovision 2021 with her song “Russian Woman”.
For the first time since 2012, Russia opted for a national selection to determine their act for Eurovision. From a field of three, 29-year-old singer Manizha won the ticket to Rotterdam. She’s attracted a lot of controversy amongst conservatives, but she’s no stranger to fighting against the haters. Here are 10 facts about the Russian star.
Russia at Eurovision 2021: Facts about Manizha
1. She was born in Tajikistan
Manizha was born in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, two months before the country declared independence from the Soviet Union. Three years later, she left Tajikistan with her parents after a shell hit their house during the Tajik Civil War. They settled in Moscow, where the singer still resides, and she began her studies in music. Her Tajik origins have been a source of controversy. Some have deemed her song “not Russian enough”. However, she has remained fierce in the face of opposition, receiving support from many other Russian stars. After all, Russia is a massive country with people from many nationalities and communities.
2. She comes from an inspirational family
Manizha’s grandfather was Toji Usmon, a writer and journalist with a monument dedicated to him in Khujand. Her great-grandmother was one of the first women in Tajikistan to remove her hijab and make a living. The authorities responded by taking her children away, although they were later returned to her. Manizha’s father, who worked as a doctor, was reluctant for her to pursue a career in music. He deemed it an inappropriate pathway for a Muslim woman. However, she followed the lead of her ancestors and decided to defy expectations. She changed her surname from Khamrayeva to Sangin to honour her grandmother, who inspired her to pursue music.
3. She gained fame and success very quickly
It didn’t take long for Manizha’s talents to get noticed. She started as a child singer and won the Grand Prix of the Rainbow Stars in Jūrmala, Latvia. She then became a laureate of the Ray of Hope festival and the Kaunas Talent competition in Lithuania. After recording songs in Russian and Tajik, she joined the musical group Ru.Kola in 2007. Their song “I Neglect” featured a video with comic Semyon Slepakov and accrued over 300,000 views. Later in 2007, she was a finalist at Five Stars in Sochi.
4. She has been a part of many musical groups
She left Ru.Kola after four years and joined Assai in 2011. Their biggest hit was “Flower”, which has around 200,000 views on YouTube. Not long afterwards, she left Assai with some other members to join Krip De Shin. They performed at various music festivals throughout Russia and released an EP. Creative differences saw Manizha leave the band. She then moved to London, studied gospel music, and embarked on a solo career.
5. She created the first Instagram album
Her debut album Manuscript was released independently in February 2017. Her ability to innovate musically and her intelligent use of Instagram shined through and brought success. She released one song per week from her album accompanied by a low-budget music video. She told Afisha: “Instagram for me is the most important platform. But I want to make full-length, bigger statements that do not fit into the framework of Instagram. I think it’s cool when you first learn to do things within a very rigid framework, and then go outside of them”. Manuscript was the first-ever Instagram album and helped bring Manizha to stardom. To this date, Manizha is well-known for her large profile on Instagram, where she has since gained over 400,000 followers.
View this post on Instagram
6. She’s a women’s rights activist
In 2018, Manizha launched the “Beauty Trauma” flash mob where she campaigned against beauty ideals imposed by the media. At her concert on the roof of the Chateau de Fantomas in Moscow, the singer took off her stage makeup and distributed wet wipes to the crowd so they could join her. The next year, Manizha launched a campaign against domestic violence. She launched a free mobile app called “Silsila” (Persian for “thread”) which comes with an alarm button for use during a crisis. It also allows users to locate nearby shelters. Her video “Mama” highlighted the problem and its impact on women and children.
7. She’s an LGBTQ+ ally
Russia is well-known for being one of the least safe places in Europe to be LGBTQ+. Manizha knows this and fights hard against it. She starred in a video for the Russian online queer magazine Otkritiye during Pride Month. This caused her to lose around 10,000 subscribers from Instagram. Undeterred, she continues to advocate for queer rights on the platform. In 2020, she sang her version of Cher’s “Believe” during the Otkritiye Digital Pride, and later performed at Queerfest in St. Petersburg.
8. She’s a UN Goodwill Ambassador for refugees
Manizha fled from a civil war in her country of birth, so it’s no surprise that her activism also includes fighting for the rights of refugees. She’s supported the UN High Commission for Refugees since 2019, raising awareness for the most vulnerable people in Russia. She was announced as a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency in December 2020. This made her the First UN Goodwill Ambassador from Russia.
Congratulations to former refugee, Tajik-born singer and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Manizha who will represent Russia in this year's @Eurovision Song Contest. ?? #ESC2021 https://t.co/kR4E4b1CPN pic.twitter.com/jkdMLnBufq
— UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees) March 12, 2021
9. She considered pulling out of Eurovision
Despite her credentials and general awesomeness, her selection as Russia’s singer was not met with unanimous joy. She attracted hate for her Tajik roots and the female empowerment message of her song. The abuse reached the point where she considered pulling out, but the flow of support gave her the strength to keep going. The singer ultimately responded to the hate with her own mockumentary video hosted by herself in a blonde bob wig. The video jokes that she “bought” her victory as a way to escape Russia’s border closures. A doctor also tries to answer the question “What is Manizha?” by breaking into her house, stealing her skeleton, and conducting scientific tests. In collaboration with the VK social network, Manizha also took over electronic billboards in both St. Petersburg and Moscow. The message is very clear: “Listen to a Russian woman. Listen to a Tajik woman. Listen to a talented woman. Listen to the brave woman. Listen to every woman”.
10. She contributed to the Russian version of the Mulan soundtrack
Manizha recorded a song for the Russian dub of the 2020 live-action remake of the Disney classic Mulan. “Na put voina vstayu” was released on the Russian edition of the soundtrack album. The English version “Loyal Brave True” was performed by Christina Aguilera.
Do you think Manizha will bring success for Russia? Let us know below!