Dana International Wins Eurovision Dana International pictured in 2019. Photo: Finsent

May 9, 1998

Dana International wins the Eurovision Song Contest, becoming the third Israeli and the first since 1979 to do so, with her performance of the techno-pop song “Diva” in Birmingham, England.

Her victory earns Israel the right to host the 1999 Eurovision contest at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem on May 29. She performs Stevie Wonder’s “Free” during the show and presents the winner’s trophy to Sweden’s Charlotte Nilsson. Israel’s Eden finishes fifth in the 1999 competition.

Born as a boy in Tel Aviv in 1969, Dana International began identifying as female from a young age and came out as transgender to her family at age 13. She became Israel’s first drag queen at age 18. After winning recognition for her drag performances and being signed by a record label, she underwent male-to-female sex reassignment surgery and changed her legal name to Sharon Cohen. She kept Dana International as her stage name.

She released three successful albums in Israel before being chosen to represent the state at the 1998 Eurovision competition despite the opposition of some Orthodox Jews to being represented by a transgender person.

Her victory sets a precedent for transgender people to compete internationally and helps gain acceptance for the transgender community.

Other Israelis to win Eurovision are Izhar Cohen & the Alphabeta with “A-Ba-Ni-Bi” in 1978, Gali Atari and Milk & Honey with “Hallelujah” in 1979, and Netta with “Toy” in 2018.