Eurovision Star Netta Talks ‘I Love My Nails,’ Rosalia’s Nail Game and More
In the United States — located outside the official Eurovision competition zone — some people first got to know the Israeli singer-songwriter Netta only from watching the Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams spoof movie Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. In the 2020 film, Netta — who won the famed international song contest in 2018 with her song “Toy” — cameos in a party scene at a castle with a host of other actual Eurovision winners. She steals the scene, emerging from a car singing “I Gotta Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas. It is a captivating combination of flirtiness and swagger.
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Known for her humorous lyrics, quirk-pop persona and over-the-top fashion, Netta, 29, has started 2022 by releasing a new single, “I Love My Nails” (S-Curve/Hollywood Records). Although the song may sound like a simple paean to nail art, the Tel Aviv-based singer calls the song a celebration of love.
“Something happened this year. My heart was broken in the usual way people reject others. I don’t have to hate him for not liking me. Not everyone has to love me. I was a confident girl who grew up to be so small. “I thought that ‘I Love My Nails’ was a nice way to say, ‘I Love Me,'” Netta, who was born Netta Barzilai in Nigeria.
” There is something very therapeutic about being yourself, even if it’s just in small things like doing your nails.”
And I love every second of it.”
Netta — who is known in her work for using a looping device (a portable machine that records her voice and allows her to loop it back) — spoke further with The Hollywood Reporter about how she got started in the music business, why she got put into “nail art jail,” and what it was like for her growing up for four years as a child in Nigeria and then moving back to Israel.
She can next be seen performing live at Chicago Pride (June 18) and New York Pride (June 25 and 26) and in Philadelphia on June 22 and Washington D.C. on June 23.
What kind of nail art are you wearing right now?
This is the terrible truth. This is the horrible truth. I’m currently in nail jail. It was too much.
Who are some celebrities whose nail game you admire or follow?
Rosalia always has the craziest pieces of art on her fingers. It looks like glass drips. And I loved an interview where somebody, I think Ellen [DeGeneres] asked Cardi B, ‘So your nails, how do you cope with them?’ And she said, ‘I know what you’re thinking. It’s amazing what her nails can do.
Do you have a go-to nail artist?
I love nail artists. I love the creation process. My nail artist is a very nice man called Ben Meir. He actually loved the song so much, he tattooed it on his arm.
You start off the music video for ‘I Love My Nails’ actually using your nails to make sounds. How did this happen?
I played my nails. They make a cool sound. I realized they make this sound as soon as I started and began jamming. And, uh, the minute I uploaded the video, people have swamped me with what Dolly Parton did 40 years ago. She was the one who put the sound in the song “Nine to Five”. No matter what you do, you will never be the first [to do something],.
How far back to you remember being into music?
I hate to say it, but it’s all I can remember. I was raised in Nigeria [for four years], which celebrated all the cultures of the students who attended. It was an international school. I was in a class with a girl of Japanese origin, two Nigerian boys, a girl of Australia, and a Mexican girl. All of them spoke English with accents. They taught us a lot about the culture and music of other people. My mother would take us to see African Gospel every Sunday. This became my musical bed from which I grew. And when I came back to Israel, I was seven years old and it was first grade and it was 40 white kids in a classroom telling me I’m the fat unibrow kid with the accent.
How hard was that for you?
When kids label you, it sticks. It’s hard to bounce back from. My mother was miserable watching her children cry after school. She was trying to find ways to make me happy. Parents can give their kids opportunities to feel empowered and happy. My mother also sent me to choir. It was the first smile my mother saw after I returned from there since we left Nigeria.
What happened as you grew older?
My brother used to drum and is one of the most popular drummers in Israel today. He taught me how to beatbox. After high school, I joined the military to serve my country in Israel. I was part of an army band, and we were singers on the battleships. It was the best school for performing because soldiers are usually told where to go. You have to fight for attention. It was both difficult, humiliating, and incredible. I then moved to Tel Aviv, where I started working in a bar selling tickets for shows. There was also an open-mic stand. Nobody was singing. Then I drank as many beer glasses as I could and went up to the top and sang for three minutes, with lots of improvisation. The crowd loved it. They asked me to return the following week. I began doing this thing, where I get drunk, go on stage, and perform a cabaret, but I didn’t understand what I was doing. I was 21. I was eating fries from people’s plates. I was singing to them. I would grab the snare drum, and I would go on to the bar. People could hear what was happening at this bar. The line grew from a mere half block to very long. Although I wasn’t earning a living, I was having the time and happiness of my life.
What happened next after working at that bar?
I was discovered by , my musical director . He was looking for singers to perform in a play he had written. A singer was needed for a part of the play. He searched and searched until he came across a video of me, drunk, yelling at a guy to leave the bar. I was screaming. He said, “Okay.” And he began to train me and work alongside me.
In 2017 then, you auditioned for the show HaKokhav HaBa, which chooses Israel’s entry in Eurovision. What was it like?
I was afraid because I was so different my whole life. I never thought people could understand what I do, especially with the looping [machine]. It’s almost like a toy. I brought six pairs of headphones to the audition because I wanted everyone to hear what I was doing. They were all very surprised that I brought my looper and sang the audition song. The director said, “Okay, you can win Eurovision.” You can win Eurovision. And I need to think about how to make this visual. ” And I learned how the looper works like a guitar. It was broadcast on television. It worked. It worked. I don’t usually believe or think that good things can happen to me. But it did, and it was one the most joyful moments of my life.
How did your Eurovision single ‘Toy’ come about?
I had a song written by someone who is a huge hitmaker in Israel. He and a talented producer wrote “Toy”. I was a songwriter and didn’t want the song written just for me. So I wrote Bassa Sababa’ which was my second single. Both songs were submitted to the [they chose] Toy’. When the song was released, I realized that I am part of something bigger than myself. It was shocking to realize that I am doing what is best for me. It’s not a song anymore. It was a campaign, a power campaign at that point. Although it wasn’t my ideal, I was so much more than I ever could have imagined.
What are some of the ways that you stayed creative during the pandemic?
I was creating through the screen. I was also performing through it. I was also meeting my fans through the display. It was very sad, but it was a lot. I started a YouTube series called Netta’s Office, which every week I would sit in my office with my looping devices and I would take suggestions from my fans to improvise and maybe [do] covers that they would like my take on. And it grew into a mini-cover album called Netta’s Office.
How would you categorize yourself as an artist?
Where would you place me? Which genre? What genre? I’m half drag queen and half Powerpuff girl.
This article originally appeared in THR.com.
I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.