The woman known to the world as Dana International was born in 1972 as Yaron Cohen, named after her uncle who was killed a year earlier in a terrorist attack on Israel. Leading an apparently normal childhood life, it became clear from a very early age that she loved to perform before an audience. Consequently, her mother and younger sister encouraged her to develop this talent through the school choir and later the Youth Music Company in Tel-Aviv. By the time she was 14, she had managed to secure a leading role in the Cameri Theater production of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Fast forward to the final year of high school and Yaron knew something wasn't quite right with her life. She knew that if biology had dealt her the right cards she should have been a woman from sqaure one, and her friends treated her as such. Despite the crushing personal problems that gender dysphoria can bring, she graduated with top grades and met Israel's then number one DJ and producer, Ofer Nisim, which led to her joining Nisim's drag queen show, imitating top Israeli female singers under the name of Sharon, the feminine form of Yaron.

Based on the outstanding audience reaction she received, Yaron recorded a song named 'Saida', an Arabic girl's name and a parody of Whitney Houston's 'My Name Is Not Susan' which immediately became a major hit in Israel.

In 1992, she went to London to undergo sex reassignment surgery and released her first album as Dana International a year later. It went gold. The second album followed in 1994, going platinum and earning her the award of Israel's Best Female Artist for that year.

Not one to rest on her laurels, a new year brought a third equally highly-acclaimed album, increasing her popularity even further while the Israeli religious and conservative authorities tried to silence her with claims that she was corrupting the youth. Egypt even went so far as to ban her music, making it illegal to buy or even so much as listen to her songs. Even MTV and VH1 kept her away from their playlists, and hence Dana became a symbol of power, freedom and individual expression to her fans.

Her song 'Diva' was entered into the Eurovision Song Contest held at Birmingham Arena in May 1998 and, despite being far from the bookies' favourite to win, she came first place, above the other twenty-four countries participating. Dana's victory was only certain from the final vote from the Macedonian jury after close competition from the Netherlands, Malta and British entries. For all the religious fundamentalists that tried to stop her in her own country, she suddenly became impossible to ignore and a flood of worldwide television and press interviews followed.

Her fourth album was released in 1999 and then re-released the following year with new cover artwork, additional tracks and a bonus CD-ROM section.

album discography

1993: Dana International
1994: Umpatampa
1995: Ep Tampa
1996: Maganona
1998: Diva-Ha-Osef
1998: Dana International: The Album
1999: Free
2000: Free (re-issue)
2001: Yotér we-yotér
2002: Ha-chalóm ha-'efsharí
2003: The CD's collection


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