For my freshman year of high school, I was going to be attending a new school. I was so scared. Middle School wasn’t the best experience. I was constantly in the principal’s office for every little thing— and even things I didn’t do. I had one friend and we ended up becoming more like frenemies so I was alone.
Gearing up to go to a whole new place for high school I wasn’t starting off in the best way. Would I be able to make friends? Would people even like me? Would I even like them?
I remember crying to my father 2 weeks before school started.
“Alicia [my Dad never pronounces my name correctly] you really sat up here crying because you think you won’t have friends? Girl you better hush that noise up. Who cares if you don’t have friends. Life isn’t about friends it’s about being yourself. Not everyone is going to like you.”
Those words have stuck with me my whole life. When my father said this to me I didn’t really get it. I thought he didn’t get it. He was old. He was a guy. He didn’t understand the horror that lies in a high school hallway or worse the lunchroom.
Everyone knows that feeling, walking into the lunchroom and having no clue where to sit. Would you even be welcome at the table of your choice? If you sit down, would you be asked to leave?
You might be wondering what this has to do with the Eurovision Song Contest. Don’t worry I am getting there.
I discovered the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006 after Lordi had won in Athens, Greece. The rock and roll monsters from Finland were a VERY interesting first impression. I was a musical theater kid. I did at least 3 musicals a year, sang at local festivals, and regularly appeared in my local newspaper and television news from time to time. Look, by the time I discovered Eurovision I had performed at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York and my love of performing gave me the friends I feared I’d never have.
To a slightly awkward musical theater fanatic— The Eurovision Song Contest was like a gift. How did it take this long for me to discover it? At the time, it wasn’t exactly easy to watch the show in America and YouTube was in its infancy.
Streaming media is so ubiquitous at this point many young Eurovision fans couldn’t imagine the lengths one would have to go to to find performances and the live feed. My first challenge of being a Eurovision fan: figuring out how to watch it. From pixilated streams to streams with Turkish commentary — it wasn’t easy to watch or follow along. But I worked my way through the pixelated performances and started listening to the CDs on repeat. I even found a book about the contest at my local library detailing the history. I was in my own Eurovision Song Contest bubble—alone.
ENTER: The second challenge. I was in love with something none of my friends knew about, nor did they care to learn. So who would I talk about the Contest with? Look, Eurovision can be a hard concept to explain to folks, but surely the music would hook them? No such luck. My pitch sessions to hook them left me rabbling on like a jail-house snitch. I wasn’t effective.
Playing the music in the car was my most successful trick of getting folks interested, but then they were only focused on the song and artist— not the show. My fandom loneliness persisted. I had no way of having conversations with people about the Eurovision Song Contest.
So I took to Twitter and posted things on my blog… Crickets. Time difference paired with an all-around confusion on how to make virtual friends I was lost.
Where was my community?
Then the jackpot hit! I found a Facebook group for fans— I made it! All of the posts and conversations, the news surrounding the national — I was in heaven. One day a Eurovision fan site posted that they were looking for writers. I joined a team and could post articles on #ESC news and MORE. I was able to work on a team with other folks who loved the Song Contest as much as I did. I was able to deepen my knowledge of the contest and by this time technology had finally caught up and watching the show was a reality.
- Able to watch the contest ✅
- Able to connect with other Eurvision fans ✅
2 challenges removed just like that. The 3rd challenge is a challenge that remains, and will never go away.
As an American Eurovision fan, you will always be a guest in the room. Eurovision isn’t made for you. You aren’t the target audience, you can’t vote, and you might not be able to watch it (easily) live, and guess what?
Sure the constant jabs of, “what do you know?” AND “who cares what you think?” don’t get easier to swallow, but the root of them isn’t incorrect. The Eurovision Song Contest isn’t a space for Americans— it is a space centering Europeans. It is a celebration of European culture, music, and its people. This is why we love it.
At the end of the day, we are guests in this Eurovision space, but that doesn’t mean our love is any less or our knowledge any smaller. The initial assumption is that we don’t really know about the contest or we just recently discovered it. No matter the assumption, there is an inevitable posture many Eurovision fans from America and other non-participating countries may take. It’s a posture where one may have to overcompensate on their knowledge and love of the Contest. The overcompensation may seem “extra” to many a European fan of the Contest. It could even come off as disingenuous, but as a crazy American Eurovision fan, I know my love is deep.
As much as the underlying Eurovision Song Contest is about unity, it is unity being driven in a vehicle of competition. The Eurovision community a subset of this larger “world” the Song Contest has created will no doubt reflect that spirit of competition— it’s inevitable. And the very thing the Song Contest is rewarding is subjective.
The internet is a space where being misinterpreted is easy. There isn’t a lot one can convey with the written word alone but add in a language barrier you’re bound to find yourself in a back and forth arguing over something you might not have even said. Add in the intense nationalistic pride many Europeans have for their competing country— you’ve got an environment where disagreement can be the norm.
Here’s the thing… We don’t have to agree. Being a Eurovision fan isn’t about agreeing it is the opposite. It is about celebrating the differences we do have. That’s why there is so much variety on stage, from the styling to the musical genres we are getting some of the best from multiple countries and crowning a champ.
So sure it can be hard to be an American Eurovision fan, sometimes, but there’s nothing else I’d rather be.