Pictures: Ostorozhno: Sobchak

Twenty years after the release of their first album, former t.A.T.u. members Lena Katina and Julia Volkova are not in contact. Speaking in separate interviews with Ksenia Sobchak, Lena and Julia have shed light on the founding of the group and their solo careers since breaking up.

Back in 2003, t.A.T.u. finished third for Russia at Eurovision, with only a few points to spare between them and winner Sertab Erener from Turkey.

For the two Muscovites, the song contest was pretty much a negligible event in their career. The duo were already recognised as the most successful Russian act outside of Eastern Europe in the history of pop music. Their 2001 English-language single “All the Things She Said” climbed charts around the world and also reached the top 20 of the Billboard charts in the US.

The duo received a lot of media attention around the globe. This came down partly to the fact they included same-sex kisses in their music videos and performances at a time when the acceptation of the LGBT+ community was more muted.

Their anything-goes attitude unnerved Eurovision organisers. In 2003, producers reportedly threatened to broadcast the duo’s rehearsal footage of  “Ne ver’, ne boysia i ne prosi” rather than their actual performance if it became “too racy” — i.e., included a same-sex kiss.

t.A.T.u. discuss their stage image

However, in the Ksenia Sobchak interview, Lena and Julia both said they didn’t understand the sexual connotations of their performances at the start of their career, including those surrounding their first hit single.

In 1999 their producer asked them to watch the Swedish film Show Me Love, which featured two schoolgirls falling in love. Both girls were around the age of fifteen at the time.

Lena explained:

“[Our producer Ivan Shapolavov] never said that we would be lesbians. Such conversations, I don’t remember. I only remember that we first were searching for musical material for a long time. There were a few songs before “Ya Soshla S Uma” [the Russian version of “All The Things She Said”] appeared. There were several songs and Ivan just went on a search. He had this habit, there were no mobile phones back then, that he would call and say: “I will come by just now, you have to listen to this music”. I remember that he came and in the car, he put on the song “Ya Soshla S Uma”. A demo. I don’t remember who sang it, perhaps Elena Kiper, or someone else. And he said: ‘Don’t you hear how amazing!’, highly emotional. He was an emotional person.”

“Before the shooting, Ivan said that we had to kiss. With laughter. We also laughed. Julia and I thought that he was just joking.”

Julia explained in her part that she found the role a bit hard to play and that the two both found it rather funny to do. Later, she added that it was more of a provocation, which worked to get attention in the music industry.

Subsequently, Ksenia Sobchak asked Lena whether their producer had explained the meaning behind the song and whether they understood that the song had sexual undertones. Lena answered:

“Then no. I think that kind of conversation came later, when we couldn’t do it on stage. We were laughing terribly, and Ivan got terribly angry. Then Ivan started to explain that such love exists, and that not everybody accepts it.”

“You cannot imagine how many messages we received from different people, who told us, ‘You saved our life. Thank you.'”

t.A.T.u. are not on speaking terms

The interviews were filmed separately for good reason. For several years, the duo have acknowledged that they aren’t on speaking terms. The last time they appeared together publicly was during the Neposedy jubileum concert in 2016. Nevertheless, Julia stated that she wouldn’t mind reuniting with Lena.

Since their disbandment as a duo, each of them has launched a solo career. Lena told Sobchak that she fully lives off of performing and making music.

Julia, meanwhile, has had a bit of a rougher road since leaving t.A.T.u.. Volkova, who had already suffered vocal issues while part of the duo, revealed in 2016 that she had received treatment for thyroid cancer, which caused her to lose her speaking voice. She told Sobchak that she is planning to continue singing and touring. She earns most her money through real estate investments, design and advertising.

Did you watch t.A.T.u.’s Ksenia Sobchak interview? Are you surprised by these revelations? Let us know in the comments down below!

Read all our Eurovision Russia news here.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
44 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Alex
Alex
4 months ago

so a straight guy forces 2 teenage girls to kiss each other. Am i the only one who is SHOCKED by this? Disgusting. Imagine if it was a straight woman forcing 2 teenage guys kiss each other. The double standards of our society. A gay duo would have never made it so far, but since the girls were feminine, they made it worldwide despite the lack of LGBT roights back then (and even now in Russia). It was the straight guy’s fantasy that made them accepted.

Julia is a monster now who is against gay rights, the irony though!!!

Angie
Angie
3 months ago
Reply to  Alex

Julia isnt a homophobic. She supports LGBTQ community. She was misunderstood in the interview.

Sot
Sot
4 months ago

t.A.T.U. and their performance still give me goosebumps every time (not a Travis Scott reference, ew) and I hate to see them broken up (in both ways)

Mish
Mish
4 months ago

I’ve just finished watching and find it funny how their answers differ when asked about the same things. Also much to my surprise Julia made more positive impression on me than I’d imagine. Lena seemed very reserved. They’re a huge part of my teen years and I’ll have a soft spot for both of them forever

T.J.
T.J.
4 months ago

LMAO! I saw them on a german late night TV show at a time before Eurovision but when they started to be famous. They were specifically asked about their sexuality and they said explicitly that they were lesbians.

ESC fan
ESC fan
4 months ago

I’m a t.A.T.u. fan and although I wish they were on good terms, I do not want them to reunite as t.A.T.u. It’s better to leave the past behind.

Blackcat
Blackcat
4 months ago

I remember their Eurovision performance and they couldn’t sing. It was so much worse than their prerecorded edition.

Jackal
4 months ago

I tried to watch it but there are still no subtitles. Facebbok page said there would be last Thursday. We really need to see this 🙁 I check every day ..

Last edited 4 months ago by Jackal
Stephanie
4 months ago

On a similar topic, 2019 winner Duncan Laurence said during an interview in Belgium that he will not be performing any concerts in Hungary due to the country’s anti-LGBT laws

Alex
Alex
4 months ago
Reply to  Stephanie

Honestly i don’t think he had any invitations to perform there.

Ashton
Ashton
4 months ago

this is quite a timely article considering that anti-lgbtq law Hungary put in place like, yesterday

canada_piano
canada_piano
4 months ago
Reply to  Ashton

wait what?

Jackal
4 months ago
Reply to  canada_piano

Hungary leader Viktor Orban has started using the same agenda as Vladimir in Russia, bans lgbti, compares them to pedophiles, discripinates them and fules hate in the society. Really backwards thinking I really wouldnt want to live in Hungary they are so backwards in many aspects because of him.

raylee
raylee
4 months ago

Julia Volkova is such a disgusting homophobic person and it’s a shame that she took part in a contest like Eurovision. This year we had Manizha and she is a gem , she was announced as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNCHR , the UN Refugee Agency. She did a lot for victims of violence ( she released an application to help victims of domestic violence) , she worked so hard for refugees and LGBT community , despite all the horrible death threats. She is such a brave and wonderful person and couldn’t be more proud of a hero like her.… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by raylee
Milan
Milan
4 months ago
Reply to  raylee

This is a song contest, not a Nobel prize for peace contest…

Last edited 4 months ago by Milan
Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago
Reply to  Milan

Thirteen years ago, and Milan and his wife have still not recovered from all those scary gay people they saw in Belgrade. Sad.

Milan
Milan
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonas

I had no clue who either of the t.A.T.u. were until this article, and they interest me purely as a musical act. Which one of them is pro-something, and which is anti-something, I don’t care much. This hasn’t anything to do with gay or not, I just reacted to the statement that, briefly summarized, was “X is a bad person, Y is a good person, we want Y in Eurovision”. Is this the Jonas who kindly explained to me what “pride” in “gay pride” was about (which I remember well)? Bringing up gay pride in Belgrade – I really don’t… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Milan
Ashton
Ashton
4 months ago
Reply to  Milan

I feel like I’ve seen you say you aren’t homophobic before, and yet whenever the topic of being gay, homophobia, or anything involving gayness in general, you always jump in to defend the homophobic side. Just an interesting observation.

Milan
Milan
4 months ago
Reply to  Ashton

I defend a side here? I just find the extremism of “she’s a great person, we want her in Eurovision” laughable. I did not take any side here. As to my alleged attacking “gayness in general”, that too I don’t see. There’s nothing wrong with “gayness in general”, I have lots of gay friends. You may remember me supporting the view that “Eurovision has become a pride event” – well, it has, for some time now (I don’t see anything wrong or homophobic with stating that).

Meckie
Meckie
4 months ago
Reply to  Milan

The reason for this is that most of people involved behind the scenes are gay. Jon Ola Sand gay, Christer Björkman gay, Frank Freiling (EBU in charge) gay, many commentators, bloggers and hosts gay… That is why, ESC became gayer each year.

Milan
Milan
4 months ago
Reply to  Meckie

Oh, I see that, thanks. Obviously there has been a great interest – and increasing engagement – in ESC on the part of gay community (we don’t have to look far to see that). I just find it regrettable that some people won’t let you politely call a spade a spade. They say “I’ve seen you say you aren’t homophobic before“, which says it all – if communication here was more open-minded, I wouldn’t have to add such disclaimers at all.

Ashton
Ashton
4 months ago
Reply to  Milan

god, you’re infuriating. you defend a homophobe and then say ‘aww if only communication here was more open-minded’. cry more. you dont have to worry about being hatecrimed on the street. you don’t have to worry about being abandoned by your family. you don’t have to live life with people like you, who are so obviously homophobic but swear they aren’t. you live a life of privilege that you are so blissfully unaware of. so how about you cope.

Milan
Milan
4 months ago
Reply to  Ashton

I wasn’t trying to infuriate. Whether you believe it or not, I am aware that it is a privilege, but truly regret that it should be a privilege. To me it is criminal if gay people get harassed or shunned for their sexual orientation. I see no point in reiterating that. All I’ve meant to write is that to me it just doesn’t make sense that a country should choose their ESC representative based on their humanitarian work. Please do not read more into it.

Last edited 4 months ago by Milan
Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago
Reply to  Milan

I just don’t know why this spade should concern some people, or why it is even worth mentioning. It’s the “too gay” thing that bothers me, and the implication that hetero people are somehow becoming excluded. They’re not.

Milan
Milan
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonas

Now this is an interesting minefield of a subject you’ve opened, I’ll dare to walk right into it 🙂 I quite understand what you mean, and you may easily be right. I can only say that (from the averaged opinions of people around me) it has indeed been looking like hetero people were slowly “losing ground” in ESC, and that gay people were “taking over”. I think that this impression, however wrong it may be, should not be surprising. Gay people were disadvantaged for too long (and in many places they still are) – and things have suddenly started to… Read more »

Chris Malta
Chris Malta
4 months ago
Reply to  raylee

Why a shame? Is there a rule that you need to be gay or in favour of LGBTIQ rights to take part of enjoy Eurovision? This is a song contest not a gay contest.

Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago
Reply to  Chris Malta

Bigots are always a shame, in any circumstance.

Luc
Luc
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonas

Gays can be bigots too

raylee
raylee
4 months ago
Reply to  Chris Malta

I didn’t say you need to be gay to take part in Eurovision , can’t you read ? If a person is homophobic , or racist or something like that of course he/she shouldn’t take part in this contest. It’s about bringing people together with their differences and celebrate it. Not for spreading hate. If an Eurovision participant say horrible things about gays when there are millions of gay viewers and many gay participants in Eurovision , that’s disrespectful and shameful.
You don’t have to be LGBT defender or something , being respectful is enough.

Last edited 4 months ago by raylee
Roo
Roo
4 months ago
Reply to  raylee

What has Julia done to demonstrate homophobia? I don’t know what she has done since tATu

raylee
raylee
4 months ago
Reply to  Roo

she said many homophobic things and you can find one of them in this video
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpvNvTI2Stc (subtitles available)

ESC Stan
ESC Stan
4 months ago
Reply to  raylee

That’s the weirdest episode of who wants to be a millionaire I’ve ever seen.

ESC Stan
ESC Stan
4 months ago
Reply to  ESC Stan

Oh, and Karen called. She wants her hairstyle back.

esc_fl
esc_fl
4 months ago

On another note, I thought Manizha’s rendition of “Ne Ver Ne Boysia” at the Spanish PreParty was INSANELY good!!

esc_fl
esc_fl
4 months ago

I don’t think it’s fair how Shapolavov would get angry with Lena and Julia (fifteen at the time) about being uncomfortable with performing the same-sex kiss, which would be understandable given that Russia is one of the more controversial countries in terms of LGBT. If they’re not comfortable don’t force them to perform it, or give them time, as in the case of Lena who seems to support it now.

Blackcat
Blackcat
4 months ago
Reply to  esc_fl

Looks like he tried to brainwash the girls and impose his opinion on them.

Alex
Alex
4 months ago
Reply to  esc_fl

it was uncomfortable and he should have been prosecuted for forcing them do it. He was satisfying his straight guy fantasy and this is disgusting. Imagine if he had done it to 2 straight guys, he would’ve been probably behind jail.

Shuma
Shuma
4 months ago

Russia originally embraced LGBT culture, but were threatened by the west, so reversed course, now the west says it accepts LGBT culture and Russia is bad for not doing so.

I agree with the west today of course, but you can understand why Russia is confused.

CagardiB
CagardiB
4 months ago

Isn’t it funny how Russia while being very hard on LGTBQI+ Rights so much that they have an entire agenda on how to disenfranchise activists and movements in favor of “family values”, is the country that held the spotlight for a lesbian kiss that happen on the early 2000 when gay propaganda was virtually nonexistent? I mean their singers pretty much help make visible LGBTQI+ Rights long before the upswing of worldwide movements and events. I guess they can try to minimize the impact of “gay agenda” but they someone brought to light gay behaviour that nowadays is somewhat normal… Read more »

CagardiB
CagardiB
4 months ago
Reply to  CagardiB

They somehow* brought… My bad sorry

Nate
Nate
4 months ago

Well, Katina came out as an LGBT supporter while Volkova is homophobic and has constantly critizised Katina so I don’t see why they should make amends

Joe
Joe
4 months ago
Reply to  Nate

Kinda ironic, since Volkova was the one who looked like a stereotypical early-00s lesbian at the contest.

Aan Gomes Branco
Aan Gomes Branco
4 months ago
Reply to  Nate

Which is ironic bc Volkova self identifies as bi. But she’s so horrible to gay men 🙁

finnished
finnished
4 months ago

Can’t believe that 18 years ago Eurovision was afraid that Russia would be provocatively too gay?