Pictures: Wikimedia Commons

In 1997, two Dutch Eurovision bloggers founded an online joke award for the “worst-dressed” Eurovision contestant on their web site The House of Eurovision. Belgian blog Songfestival.be — which took over the award in recent years — has now decided to suspend the Barbara Dex Award.

In 2019, the site changed the content of the award from “worst-dressed” to “most striking outfit”. Although it wasn’t meant to shine a bad light on contestants, the award remained a topic of fierce debate. The criticism accelerated even more when Norwegian singer TIX won the award in 2021. 

As a result of the ongoing debate, Songfestival.be has decided to put the award on ice. The Belgian blog remains in search of a replacement contest. In a statement on their site, the Songfestival.be editors write: 

“In 2017, we, Songfestival.be, took the award over with everything that came with it. From that moment, we had the full autonomy and we have tried — emphasising tried — to change the connotation of the award to “most striking outfit”. But, admittedly, we could not work away the negative side to it. Only one option remains: we are stopping the presentation of this award.”

“As stated earlier, the rebranding of an award that has been around for many years, has shown itself to be impossible. The last thing we want as a web site is to hurt people. In the past years, the negative comments have made us realise that it is the time to stop this award. The name of the award will forever be associated with something ‘ugly’.”

Barbara Dex Award: what was it? 

Belgium’s Eurovision 1993 singer Barbara Dex made quite the splash with her costume. It remained a discussion point in the Benelux fan community throughout the decade. The Flemish songstress had stitched her costume herself, and neither the press nor fans felt that it fit the occasion. 

The award grew during the 2000s, when the spirit of the Western European fan community changed. With the entrance of new countries, many Western European states started to struggle on the scoreboard. The award became used as a way to laugh at “strange” Eastern European kitsch.

Among the Barbara Dex Award winners were t.A.T.u., Verka Serduchka, Milan Stankovich, Rona Nishliu, Conan Osiris and TIX. An overwhelming majority of its winners came from Eastern Europe. 

Criticism on the Barbara Dex Award

The award has come under increased scrutiny from the Eurovision community in recent years. Some have said it’s culturally offensive, since it tended to mock Eastern European contestants, while others said it demeaned artists’ creative efforts more generally. Still others pointed out that the award inadvertently encouraged bullying, body shaming and racism.

The shortlist frequently included a disproportionate number of people from minority backgrounds. In 2021, Eden Alene, Senhit and Manizha were among the seven shortlisted acts to receive the prize. 

In the 2010s, cultural barriers faded away and the blog community changed rapidly, which prompted questions about the award’s credibility. The award, which was in its original form rooted in negativity, remained a byproduct of the 2000s fan community. 

What do you think about this decision? Are you happy that the Barbara Dex Award is now in the past? Let us know in the comments down below!

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Nooba
Nooba
2 months ago

It should go to Valadina or Marius

noahxna
noahxna
4 months ago

Too bad cause Chanel is so gonna win Barbara Dex this year.

Melon
Melon
2 months ago
Reply to  noahxna

It’s certainly striking and “hypnotic” ? My first thought was Sheldon for the award though ?

Milla
Milla
4 months ago

It don’t fit with the times we live in, does it?

Denis
Denis
4 months ago

I feel like if you are artist the last thing you need to be judged on is your looks.No one ,artist or not, wants to hear you are ugly and the only thing we remember from you is the ugly outfit you wore. I guess we expect celebrities and artists to just accept everything we throw at them. But why should they?

Ana
Ana
4 months ago
Reply to  Denis

It’s a TV show and your looks and styling are a big part of the performance. So… Don’t go to ESC if you don’t want to be judged in general. Go to some radio singing competition. I’m sorry but those claims are so absurd.
It’s the same reason why you expect the hosting country to build an elaborate, over the top set that cost millions, filmed from 20 different camera angles and not to have the artists singing on a plain black backdrop. Visuals matter a lot in ESC, nobody is forcing people to participate if they can’t stand judgement.

Last edited 4 months ago by Ana
Charles
Charles
4 months ago

One less piece of pointless shallow nonsense to cloud this pseudo-playground that rather focuses on “visuals” that putting emphasis on what we listen and how we listen… maybe just maybe we can teach ourselves on how to listen to music again without all this immature bs. If we wanna play those games we have RuPaul and every litle piece of reality TV to judge and throw shade. And all it took was a black top under a yellow dress during a boring 90s dutch sung ballad. Really? Nobody should have had time for this. Being 40 and pretending to be… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Charles
Eastman
Eastman
4 months ago

The Barbara Dex award isn’t offensive but it’s just become super cringe

Stan
Stan
4 months ago

I think an award for the most striking performance is certainly a good idea. I hope they try to put something like this together and also rename it. Maybe the ‘Sergey Lazarev award’?

Héctor
Héctor
4 months ago

Don’t get why this should be offensive to Eastern countries… The snowflakery is real. Also, why can’t it be branded as the most striking dressed? Do you really think those winners don’t know what they were wearing?

Florence
Florence
4 months ago

What could they possibly replace this award with that wouldn’t offend anyone? Song mostly likely to bring about world peace?

Polegend Godnova
4 months ago

i don’t care about this award but the snowflakery is getting out of hand

Ana
Ana
4 months ago

It’s also extremely offensive to rank songs from the best to worst, which what ESC was always doing. People pour their soul into those entries just to end up not qualifying or getting 0 points on live tv. So instead all this humiliation and negativity lets give everyone a participation medal made out of cheap chocolate that says “good job”.

NscoN
NscoN
4 months ago
Reply to  Ana

I agree that every participant deserve respect exactly because of what you said, all give their best. On the other hand this is a contest, so I think it is not avoidable that many fans share their personal ranking.

Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago
Reply to  Ana

Someone’s already made that joke.

Ana
Ana
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonas

Then I guess my life is now ruined and I shall sit in a dark corner weeping until the arrival of the sweet relief of death.

Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago
Reply to  Ana

Bye.

Lolek
Lolek
4 months ago

As an alternative, couldn’t they rebrand the award for it to be the most “over the top”, “fabulous”, “exuberant” or some similar expression to designate the outfit as being out of the norm so to speak? Surely folks won’t find that offensive? And perhaps I am wrong, but with some entries I almost get the impression that they are aiming for that kind of award anyway.

ESC Stan
ESC Stan
4 months ago
Reply to  Lolek

Sounds like they tried, but the award was too synonymous with “bad”. I would welcome another award though. Maybe a fresh start.

Timmy
Timmy
4 months ago

It was time. I know people will say “hey but everyone is so offended all the time, why?!” but the truth is people who participate on ESC give their best to make a flawless show. Of course, different views of what’s the best option to do so are around us all the time…

This was a cheap, silly thing that only made contestants feel uncomfortable. It’s old fashion. As a community it was time for us to move on from this stupid award.

Last edited 4 months ago by Timmy
Xxx
Xxx
4 months ago
Reply to  Timmy

Sir, it wasn’t that deep. Ugly clothes are ugly clothes.

AMAAN STORM
AMAAN STORM
4 months ago

Why not ask the artist for permission to use their name first, before dragging their name through the mud for your/thousands of others amusement…..

okanial
okanial
4 months ago

It was OK to call Hurricane cheap all year long, but god forbid someone say something mean about anybody from west.

Hendi
Hendi
4 months ago

I see how they wanted to get rid of negativity. But they didn’t do it well at all. The 2019 “Start voting now” article still talks about the worst-dressed participant, but the article about the voting results suddenly changed it into most notable outfit. No big announcement, just stating it as if it has always been like that. And then they had the audacity to claim that other media twisted their words, that they have been trying to rebrand it for years and that they have tried everything. Like no, you have not tried everything! You changed the topic of… Read more »

Oporcovo Førskoro
Oporcovo Førskoro
4 months ago

…they might as well rebrand it as PC-Awards. Vomit-inducing.

just an esc fan
just an esc fan
4 months ago

don’t comment in favor of the barbara dex award…

i can’t upvote every single one of them!

Patrick
Patrick
4 months ago

Everyone is offended by everything these days…..!

Séamus Mór
Séamus Mór
4 months ago
Reply to  Patrick

Soon we won’t be allowed to laugh at anything for fear of offending someone.

Izzy Lamb
4 months ago
Reply to  Séamus Mór

That’s a bit hyperbolic.

meri
meri
4 months ago

This is the most stupid decision ever. The Barbara Dex award is actually the funniest part of Eurovision!!
By the way, this award did NOT make me a bully!!

AMAAN STORM
AMAAN STORM
4 months ago
Reply to  meri

It’s only ‘funny’ because you’re not the butt of all the jokes and the sniping. I can guarantee if you were, you’d have a very different response altogether!

I have never been able to understand the mentality of people who think its okay to mock others until its them being moved, then it’s not acceptable. Unfortunately thats endemic of today’s world.

Pete
Pete
4 months ago
Reply to  AMAAN STORM

Those people chose by themself to stand in front of a million viewers and to be judged and the subject of discussion, they’re not forced to do that. If they can not stand the pressure of the showbiz, and not to be liked by everyone who is free to express their dislike, there’s always some back-office job to do…

aksel kankaanranta's husband
aksel kankaanranta's husband
4 months ago
Reply to  meri

well… if you thin the Barbara Dex award is THE FUNNIEST part of esc… girl… we have a problem

Chris Malta
Chris Malta
4 months ago

On a side note Emma Muscat just issued a statement that the new song I am what I am is confirmed as the song that she will be singing in May in the ESC in Turin. Out now on YouTube.

Efraim
Efraim
4 months ago
Reply to  Chris Malta

Honestly I don’t see that much of a difference between Out of Sight and I Am What I Am. What was the point of this change?

Jan Greeve
Jan Greeve
4 months ago

It’s time for a WOKE award

Erik
Erik
4 months ago

Normally when people sing they are a fallen angel – which they TOTALLY do – they don’t wear an angel costume. But maybe it’s just me

tylos
tylos
4 months ago

Good. I hope they get rid of the nul point next. It’s bullying and clearly racist against the Portuguese, Norwegians and British. Every act, except the winner, should finish equal second and get a ribbon for participation.

James
James
4 months ago
Reply to  tylos

The Barbara Dex Award is organized though by fans.

Nadia
Nadia
4 months ago

Giving the prize to TIX after renaming it “most striking outfit” when that’s literally the admitted point of his artist persona was the most inoffensive thing ever 😮 Maybe people complained not because it was offensive, but because it didn’t respect the old spirit of the award…

Alex
Alex
4 months ago

The same people who complain this is too rude are the same who posts extremely mean comments about people’s acts and stuff. It is a joke superlative, just get over it. Can some fan just start it up again?

Ben
Ben
4 months ago

Nooooo the Barbara Dex Award was an integral part of easing post-Eurovision depression. This is a very bad decision.

Pete
Pete
4 months ago

The funny thing is that people who complain about this award are the same guys who wait every Wednesday to watch Fashion Photo Toot and Boot (or whatever is called) , YouTube show with two drag queens telling someone’s dress is ugly, literally. Hypocrisy at it’s finest.

Last edited 4 months ago by Pete
AMAAN STORM
AMAAN STORM
4 months ago
Reply to  Pete

Where is your proof that they watch toot the boot? You’re just clutching here

Pete
Pete
4 months ago
Reply to  AMAAN STORM

Don’t be so literal, use your brain.

Jason
Jason
4 months ago
Reply to  Pete

I mean you did say “literally” so they took the comment literally like you wanted them to…

Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago
Reply to  Pete

I’ve never even heard of that. Sixteen people have just upvoted your imagination.

sandyp
sandyp
4 months ago

The award isnt real, people will always have their own “barbara dex award” no matter if a website makes it official or not.

Briekimchi
Briekimchi
4 months ago

It’s Eurovision ffs. When did everyone start taking themselves so seriously?
Eventually, the act of giving points to another country for their song and not giving points to another is going to be done away with. We won’t have a winner.

Aleks
Aleks
4 months ago

Excellent write-up Renske! Thank you for exposing the Slavophobic side of the award.

Essie
Essie
4 months ago

So I googled Barbara Dex’s dress, it’s alright, kinda reminds me of Susan Boyle at her first audition.

I’d like to see everyone who voted for those awards stand up on a stage in front of millions of viewers.

Jo.
Jo.
4 months ago

honestly I couldn’t care less about this award, but it seems like people love some unnecessary drama in their lives…

Adnama
Adnama
4 months ago

I cant with people taking offense at literally everything.
Yall are boring.

Last edited 4 months ago by Adnama
Joshua
4 months ago

“which prompted questions about the award’s credibility”…. Seriously ? Who writes this stuff?

A despicable award on every level… Won’t be missed

Nicolas
Nicolas
4 months ago

I liked Georgia 2011 outfit.

Im so fab
Im so fab
4 months ago

How is this insulting to Barbara? She probably loves that a whole award is dedicated to her.

People these days have become a pack of snowflakes. Getting offended in the name of others, while nobody cares but them. Grow up everyone!

Joshua
4 months ago
Reply to  Im so fab

When did Barbara tell you that and when did she nominate you as her spokesperson?

ete sech
ete sech
4 months ago
Reply to  Im so fab

I get your point and I kind of agree with it, but I doubt she loved a negative award that reminds her the fact that everyone thought the outfit she made for herself that night was ugly 🙁

Noel
Noel
4 months ago
Reply to  Im so fab

I totally agree with you

AMAAN STORM
AMAAN STORM
4 months ago
Reply to  Im so fab

“How is this award insulting to Barbara?”
“She PROBABLY loved that a whole award is dedicated to her”

Please stop clutching. The fact you’re second guessing and assuming that she loves that her name is dragged through the mud for the amusement of fans, year after year, is something she really enjoys.
What kind of warped person would enjoy that?

Finally she can rest up. Eurovision is a SONG contest, not a fashion contest.

willchrisiam
willchrisiam
4 months ago

I’ve stumbled upon ‘Lee Lin Chin Award for Fashion Excellence’ proposal on Twitter and I’m fully behind it!

ESC Stan
ESC Stan
4 months ago
Reply to  willchrisiam

She would be too!

L’oiseau
L’oiseau
4 months ago

Very good decision. It represented everything that is wrong with the ESC community.

AMAAN STORM
AMAAN STORM
4 months ago
Reply to  L’oiseau

The community is so toxic. Anything to do with competition, be it a singing competition, a drag competition or a makeup competition, it will always bring out the toxic side to the fandom who think lts okay to hurt someone just because they think it’s funny. It’s like the competitiveness gets to them.

The Barbra Dex award was a pile of crap anyway. Good riddance!

"Music first"
"Music first"
4 months ago

A good idea! It was never a good idea with such a prize anyway

Btw….if I should choose, Australia should get the prize this year

tomato
tomato
4 months ago

EBU should scrap the whole “Song contest” thing, and make Barbara Dex the main competition.
The rules would be: vote for worst clothes.

But I dont know if the artists will try to be 1st or last. Maybe its a relief to not qualify.

Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago

Is Wiwi’s next model contest still a thing?

Azuro
Azuro
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonas

Wouldn’t be surprised if some snowflake complained about “objectification” or some such and got the whole thing shut down

Anna Banana
Anna Banana
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonas

I think they called it the Ms.Congeniality last year and Albina won.

Roy Moreno
Roy Moreno
4 months ago

I really wonder now, has Barbara herself ever reacted to this prize being a thing? And if so, what was her reaction?
Anyway, I don’t quite feel like it was a bad thing and my general opinion on our generation is that people are getting offended too easily…
However, I do feel like there is a place for a change regarding this prize and what it resembles :\

Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago

I wasn’t offended, I just didn’t want to be a bully.

Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonas

Also, welcome back Mr Vanilla Bean.

Paul
Paul
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonas

Who was being bullied?!

Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago
Reply to  Paul

The people who never realised they were entering a fashion contest. Try going into your own workplace or school and doing the same. The winner would be filing a complaint against you.

#synthsareawesome
#synthsareawesome
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonas

A huge difference: jobs you mentioned aren’t performance-oriented, clothes isn’t a part of the show and they’re not broadcasted on a huge audience. Not the case for ESC, where clothes matters as a part of visual experience. Would you imply that “the worst staging” or “the worst vocals” are bullying too?

Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago

I wouldn’t want those to exist either, and I’m glad they don’t.

Pete
Pete
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonas

Are there any laughter and humor in your life?

Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago
Reply to  Pete

Not at other people’s expense. Thanks for asking.

Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago

The whole thing was horrible, but the biggest problem for me was the name. Nearly thirty years later and Barbara Dex was still being ridiculed. She’s the one owed the biggest apology. I hope she is well.

Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonas

I’m sure she’s devastated to see the end of it, and that a “worst fashion” prize was good for her fashion business.

Jonas
Jonas
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonas

I imagine anyone interested in her business has google, customers or investors.

AMAAN STORM
AMAAN STORM
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonas

You posted an article that states nowhere that she finds it funny. It doesn’t mention her opinion on the stupid award anywhere, just the fact she’s opening up a boutique because she has a fashion background. Nothing to do with having a sense of humour at all, just a working woman trying to move forward in life.

Seriously…..

Pandaman
Pandaman
4 months ago

The Wardrobe Disaster Award.

SassySmurf
SassySmurf
4 months ago

2021 was a particularly strong year for awful costuming.

SassySmurf
SassySmurf
4 months ago

Bad costume choices have always been part of ESC and it always will be. The part I objected to was naming it after a specific person. Yes, her stage costume was not great. Plain and pretty drab, but we have all seen many more that were much, much worse.

Paul
Paul
4 months ago
Reply to  SassySmurf

It was just a tradition. She’s gone down in history rather than fading into obscurity

Joshua
4 months ago
Reply to  Paul

Gone down in history? Oh sweet god… Nobody outside the tiny Eurovision bubble knows about it and you make it sound like she’s Joan of Arc

Ukraine stan
Ukraine stan
4 months ago

I’m thinking more of “The Serduchka award”. Verka is instantly recognizable, even by non-fans.

dygh
dygh
4 months ago

I think the only one really supporting this is Barbara.