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Sharon Cohen, professionally known as Dana International (born Yaron Cohen on February 2, 1972) is an Israeli pop singer. She is most famous for having won the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest with her song "Diva." She is arguably one of the most famous transsexual celebrities in the world. Her career began in 1992 and since then she has released eight albums and three additional compilation albums, positioning herself as one of Israel's most successful musical acts ever.
Sharon Cohen was born Yaron Cohen on 2 February 1972 to Yemenite parents as the youngest of three children after sister Limor and brother Nimrod. Cohen was named after an uncle who had been killed during a terrorist attack. Though born genetically male, Cohen identified as a female from a very young age. Cohen wanted to become a singer ever since she was eight-years-old and saw legendary Israeli singer Ofra Haza performing her song "Chai" in the 1983 Eurovision Song Contest. Although the family was quite poor, Cohen's mother worked to pay for Cohen's music lessons, and she has explained that her childhood was rather happy.
Cohen came out as transsexual at the age of thirteen. The first tragedy in Cohen's life was the death of her best friend Daniel, who died in an automobile accident. Cohen asserts that Daniel had prophesied that she would someday have a successful singing career and claims that Daniel's prediction is what pushed her to become the singer she wanted to be.
1992–1993: Dana InternationalEdit
At eighteen-years-old, Cohen (still legally male) earned a living as Israel's first drag queen parodying many famous singers and women. During one of her performances, she was discovered by Offer Nissim, one of Israel's most famous DJs, who produced her debut single "Saida Suldana" ("My Name is Not Saida"), a satirical version of Whitney Houston's song "My Name Is Not Susan". The song received considerable airplay and launched her career as a professional singer.
In 1993, International flew to London for (male-to-female) sex reassignment surgery and was thus legally able to change her name to Sharon Cohen. Returning home with her new name, that same year Cohen released her first album entitled Danna International in Israel. Soon after, the album was also released in several other countries like Greece, Jordan, and Egypt. Sharon's stage name Dana International comes from the title track of the album, and was originally spelt with two n:s. Danna International soon became a gold record in Israel.
1994: Umpatampa and Best Female ArtistEdit
In 1994 Dana released her second album Umpatampa, which was even more successful and provided further hit singles. The album went platinum in Israel and has sold more than 50,000 copies to date. Because of her popularity and the success of this album, she won the award for Best Female Artist of the year in Israel.
1995: Eurovision song contestEdit
In 1995, Dana attempted to fulfill her childhood dream of performing in the Eurovision Song Contest. She entered the Eurovision qualifying contest K'dam in Israel with a song entitled "Layla Tov, Eropa" ("Good Night Europe") which finished second in the pre-selections but became another hit single.
In late 1995, Dana released an E.P. called E.P. Tampa with three new songs and four remixes and special versions of her earlier songs.
1996–1997: Consolidating popularityEdit
In 1996, Dana released her third album, Maganuna. Although this album was less successful than her previous efforts, it still reached gold record sales in Israel and included the hits "Don Quixote", "Waving" and the club smash "Cinque Milla." In 1997, Dana collaborated with the Israeli artist Eran Zur on his album Ata Havera Sheli and together they sang the duet "Shir Kdam-Shnati (Sex Acher)" ("Pre-Bed Song (A Different Kind of Sex)") which became a huge hit.
1998: Diva and mainstream spotlightEdit
Dana was chosen to represent Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest with her song "Diva." Orthodox and conservative people were opposed to her appointment and attempted to void her participation in the contest. However, in May 1998, Dana performed "Diva" at the Eurovision Song Contest in Birmingham and took Europe by storm, winning the contest with 174 points. She thus became an international superstar, being interviewed by CNN, BBC, Sky News and MTV among others.
Dana's own words "the message of reconciliation" which changed Israel's and the outlook of some religious people were; "My victory proves God is on my side. I want to send my critics a message of forgiveness and say to them: try to accept me and the kind of life I lead. I am what I am and this does not mean I don't believe in God, and I am part of the Jewish Nation.".
Dana released "Diva" as a single in Europe and it became a hit, reaching number 11 in the UK charts and the top ten in Sweden, Belgium, Finland, Ireland and the Netherlands, selling more than 400,000 copies worldwide.
1999–2001: Stage falling, Streisand cover and new albumsEdit
In 1999, International released Woman In Love, a Barbra Streisand cover, but it was not the hit that "Diva" had been. In May 1999, Cohen again participated in the Eurovision Song Contest held in Jerusalem. Dana was a part of the interval act and sang the Stevie Wonder song "Free". She also presented the award to the winners of the contest but accidentally managed to steal their thunder. Whilst she was carrying the heavy trophy, one of the composers of the winning Swedish entry by mistake stepped on the long train of her dress and she fell over on stage - in front of a television audience estimated to one billion or more, making it one of the most memorable moments in the fifty year long history of the contest.
She released her next album Free in Europe in 1999, which enjoyed moderate success. A few months later Cohen moved back to Israel and started to work on different projects. Israeli and Japanese editions of Free were released in 2000. That same year, an Israeli documentary film was made about Cohen called Lady D.
In 2001, after a break, Cohen released her seventh album Yoter Ve Yoter (More and More). The album put her career in Israel back on track and provided two hits called "I Won" and "After All", which eventually both went gold.
2002–2006: Fading from the scenes and Sony incidentEdit
Dana was about to sign with major Sony/BMG for an international recording contract, but something went wrong in negotiations. There were disagreements that lead to Sony cancelling the deal before it was completed. In 2002, she released another album, Ha-Chalóm Ha-'Efsharí (The Possible Dream), which was a minor chart success. In 2003, she released an exclusive 8-CD box set, containing all singles from The Possible Dream and also a new house version of the hit single "Cinque Milla", titled A.lo.ra.lo.la. A few years later, in 2005, Dana participated in the 50th anniversary of the Eurovision song contest, held in Copenhagen, after "Diva" was selected as one of fourteen songs considered to be the best Eurovision songs. The song did however not make it into the final top five, but Dana got the chance to perform both "Diva" and an old Eurovision favourite of hers; Baccara's 1978 entry "Parlez-Vous Francais?". She also recorded the song "Lola" (sung in French), to which she released a video. This video can be found on the CD Hakol Ze Letova, released in 2007 as a bonus CD-rom video.
2007–today: Return to musicEdit
After a few years away from show business, together with the relaunch of her official website, a first single of the upcoming album was released in March 2007: "Hakol Ze Letova" ("It's All For the Best"). The second single to be released from the album, "Love Boy", became the most played song on Israeli radio in a decade.  It also gained a respectable place on the airplay of the Greek radio station FLY FM 89,7. The following album, also titled Hakol Ze Letova, was released on August 15 2007. "At Muhana" was the third single and "Seret Hodi" ("Indian Movie", feat. Idan Yaniv)  the fourth to be released from the album, which became a bestseller in many online stores. The next single released from the album was "Yom Huledet".
On February 26, 2008 Dana gained an additional achievement when the song "Keilu Kan" written and composed by her and performed by Boaz Mauda, was chosen on Kdam Eurovision to represent Israel at Eurovision Song Contest 2008 in Belgrade, Serbia. Though a favourite, the song missed the first place and gained 9th place in the final rank.
- Dana International Official Website
- All Music Guide biography
- All Music Guide discography
- Unofficial Dana International fansite
- Dana International - A Star Online; Website & Forum
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