Russia Manizha First Rehearsal Eurovision 2021
Photo: EBU / Andres Putting

The road to Eurovision can be long and bumpy. But for a lot of acts, even the most difficult journeys arrive at beautiful destinations — even if a revamp is required along the way.

And this year, Russia’s Manizha delivered an unforgettable glow up. That’s why we’re pleased to announce Manizha as the recipient of wiwibloggs’ Vision Music Award 2021 for Most Improved.

Our readers voted Manizha their favourite out of six shortlisted nominees.

This is Manizha’s second VMA 2021 trophy after also winning the Dana International Award for LGBTQ+ Equality.

Manizha wins Most Improved at the Vision Music Awards 2021

This award highlights the artist who surprised us the most by demonstrating major improvements from their pre-Eurovision reveal to the contest itself. Former title holders include Ukraine’s Mariya Yaremchuk, the United Kingdom’s Lucie Jones and Czech Republic’s Lake Malawi.

We asked our readers to vote for the Eurovision 2021 act they think deserved to win the Most Improved award. And Manizha came out on top with a grand total of 1,536 votes — that’s 30.8% of all votes cast.

When Manizha debuted her Eurovision 2021 song at the hastily organised national final many were unconvinced by “Russian Woman”.

But with a few tweaks to the lyrics — “bounce against the wall” became “you’re gonna break the wall” — and some subtle adjustments to the staging execution, opinions started to change.

As wiwiblogger Oliver wrote in his review of Manizha’s first rehearsal:

“When Russia gets it right, they get it right. Manizha appears in a huge oversized traditional dress moving on wheels, which then reveals into a red jumpsuit similar to the one we saw at the national final. The team seems to be putting more emphasis on the traditional/modern fusion, and are also leaning into the parody aspect of the song. It makes the message of ‘Russian Woman’ much more clear, even for those who might not understand the language. At the end, we get a huge wall of singing selfies. It’s been done before at Eurovision, but this time it feels powerful. Manizha and her backing vocalists turn towards the Russian women, almost as if worshipping them. This is heading for a huge result.”

The Russian star went on to place ninth in the grand final with a grand total of 204 points. Manizha improved, delivered, and we couldn’t be more proud!

A close second place in our poll goes to Portugal’s The Black Mamba. Some counted them out after their Festival da Canção victory, but the comeback kings changed minds and captured hearts when they performed live in Rotterdam. The “Love Is On My Side” hitmakers picked up 1,255 votes in our poll — that’s 25.17% of all votes cast.

Rounding out the top three is Israel’s Eden Alene. Her track “Set Me Free” underwent a huge revamp on its way to the Eurovision stage, topped off with the instantly iconic whistle note in the final chorus. In our poll, Eden received 768 votes — that’s 15.4% of the total vote.

Poll results: Who should win the Vision Music Award for Most Improved at Eurovision 2021?

  1. Russia: Manizha — 30.8% (1,536 votes)
  2. Portugal: The Black Mamba — 25.17% (1,255 votes)
  3. Israel: Eden Alene — 15.4% (768 votes)
  4. Croatia: Albina — 12.57% (627 votes)
  5. Albania: Anxhela Peristeri — 11.19% (558 votes)
  6. Austria: Vincent Bueno — 4.87% (243 votes)

Total votes: 4,987


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Vision Music Awards 2021

This award is just one of 14 awards we have launched as part of the Vision Music Awards 2021 (VMAs).

Our 14 categories — from Best Dressed to Best Use of Social Media — identify the contestants who left the biggest impression on Eurovision fans, regardless of whether they won the contest or not.

Click here to see the remaining categories, and stay tuned to find out the Vision Music Award winners!

Do you agree that Manizha was most improved during the Eurovision 2021 season? Who else do you think went from zero to hero? Sound off in the comments below. 

Read more Vision Music Awards news here

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2 years ago

I think a lot of Russian nationalists in the diaspora didn’t want to vote for a Tajik and so gave their votes to other countries.

2 years ago

Portugal was in my bottom 5 until rehearsals, now I’d rank it between 20-25 out of all the songs & it definitely deserved its place in the Grand Final. The visuals is what improved for me with Russian Woman, I’ve always liked the song & MANIZHA but the staging in both the Live on Tape & what we saw in Rotterdam was Top 10 worthy instead of borderline qualifier.

2 years ago

Interesting choice. For me, Manizha is one of entries that got worse at ESC. The dress is cool but I didn’t like the rest. I feel like they tried way too hard to get the message across to non-Russian speaking folks and in the end the entry lost the energy it had in a national final.

The NF performance is among my all-time favourites and it’s what I show to my non-ESC-fan friends when we watch some videos. The ESC performance left me with meh and I think they could’ve done much better if they kept the original staging.

2 years ago

I’m so glad that shee did it. The best performance this year.

2 years ago

cause the Kirkorov votes went to Sugar instead

2 years ago

Ok, I agree that Manizha is a star and she deserved her 9th place in the contest and my personal 11th but literally no one expected Black Mamba to enter the top12 before the rehearsals. Jesus everyone thought they would NQ! I never loved them and they didn’t really climb many places in my personal ranking but from what I can see going on in the fandom they deserved the dub here…

Conan Lau
Conan Lau
2 years ago

I really like this Top 3 for most improved, when I first heard Set Me Free during the national final I felt so bad for Eden Alene that was the chosen song but now I can’t stop putting the revamped version on replay. Portugal was in my bottom 5 until rehearsals, now I’d rank it between 20-25 out of all the songs & it definitely deserved its place in the Grand Final. The visuals is what improved for me with Russian Woman, I’ve always liked the song & MANIZHA but the staging in both the Live on Tape & what… Read more »

Last edited 2 years ago by Conan Lau