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Ani Lorak, a pop singer, interviewed
“Shady Lady” is the song that Ukrainian pop star Ani Lorak will perform at the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest. In reality, this lady of Ukrainian show business turned out to be quite open as she revealed her secrets ahead of Eurovision.
Ani Lorak (real name Karolina Kuyek) was born in the town of Kitsman in Bukovyna Region, Western Ukraine, on September 27, 1978. In 1996 she appeared on the Utrennyaya zvezda (Morning Star) TV pop music show in Moscow and this appearance launched her career as a pop singer. It was then that she took the stage name of Ani Lorak (her first name, Karolina, read backwards).
The owner of four “golden” discs, Ani Lorak has since amassed an impressive array of domestic and international awards and prizes, including the Grand Prix at the Big Apple Music-96 Young Singers Contest, New York, best singer of 2002 and 2003 in ELLE magazine ratings, and the UBN Awards’ Singer of 2003, Great Britain.
In 2000, Ani Lorak was rated one of the top 100 sexiest women in the world. In 2005, readers of VIVA magazine voted her “Most Beautiful Woman of Ukraine.”
Ani Lorak was also a UN goodwill ambassador for HIV/AIDS issues. Currently, she is engaged in charity and educational work.
The singer was interviewed by Yevhen BUDKO, senior editor of Mizhnarodny Turyzm Magazine.
We met in Anhel (Angel), a small, cozy restaurant in Kyiv. It was only after the interview that I realized the name of the restaurant was symbolic and that everything here was not so simple. Not even the life-size photo of Ani Lorak at the entrance raised any suspicions.
“This is my favorite corner of the city,” she told me. “I come here for a delicious lunch and to simply get out of the bustle, while remaining in the center of Kyiv.”
On the glass table at which we sat, lyrics from her song, “Anhel mriy moyikh” (The Angel of My Dreams), were written in gold letters.
The lady is petite, and smiling, she is warm and soft in conversation. Ani Lorak was named the most beautiful woman in Ukraine, and this is not far from the truth. Her eyes, her lips, the breathtaking plunging neckline of her dress — everything is star quality. Her manner is movingly down to earth. Her speech is natural, full of girlish sincerity. Is this how she wins over hearts, and the world stage?
What were you doing before getting here?
I was talking with Filip Kirkorov (a Russian pop star). We were discussing our mutual victory — viewers chose the song (that I will sing at Eurovision), and Filip wrote the music for it. He and our team are constantly looking for ways to make the number better.
Why did Kirkorov write a song for you? After all, there will be a Russian contestant at Eurovision.
It came as a surprise for me too. I’ve known Filip for a number of years, and he was the one who found me and made the offer. He is fanatically devoted to this contest, and I can say that everything has been produced at the highest level. A player like him on our team is quite welcome. His connections, his experience, his view from the side are all very helpful.
They say the song, “Shady Lady,” found you in Thailand.
Yes, I was on vacation there! (laughs) when I received an SMS from Filip: “Karolina, give me a call.” I answered: “I can’t, I’m on vacation.” So he wrote again: “Immediately!” So I called, and as it turned out, he wrote a song for me. He sent me the music to the song by email. At first, I didn’t like it that much — it didn’t seem to be strong enough. Later, we met in Kyiv, and Filip proposed recording the song in Greece. As with every creative person, experiments always interest me. A lot was changed in the song and much was added to it during the recording process, and in no small part thanks to the Greek recording specialist Dimitris Konstapulos, who had recorded a bunch of “golden” albums. I began to love the song and now it’s truly mine. The vocal possibilities of my voice and my temperament can find their full expression in the song.
Why do you think this song will be a success?
Most of all, because of its mood, its energy. It is modern, full of life, and can be easily understood by anyone. Also, with this song I move in a way that isn’t typical of me. Up until now, I’ve acted relatively calm on stage, but this time, I take on the role of a dancer.
Judging by past Eurovisions, the public wants something unusual, surprising. How do you plan to win the audience over?
By myself! By my natural attributes, by my voice, beauty, energy, by my heart and soul. I won’t do anything that is unnatural for me. I don’t want to look at other performers and compare myself with them, or try to guess what they think of me. If people see that I am being sincere before them, then they will rate me accordingly.
You sing in Ukrainian, Russian and English. How do foreign audiences react to you?
I’ve gotten some good experience performing abroad — Poland, Turkey, Great Britain — and the reception has always been great. I’m confident that I would be a hit with any audience on any stage in the world. All people like good music, a good voice, and everyone likes to have a good time. “Shady Lady” is being actively discussed on the Eurovision website and has gotten positive remarks. We take critical comments into consideration too. In any case, people can say whatever they like, but in the end, I’m the one who has to say honestly to myself: Here, everything is good, but here, there’s some work left to be done.
Do you have any idols among the world’s famous stars? What kind of music do you listen to?
Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Anastacia. For me, Tina Turner is the ideal artist who manages to stay in shape, despite her age. Since my childhood I listened to Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday — classics of jazz. And I like our (Ukrainian) Nina Matviyenko. When she sings, it seems like everything around her shines, and birds take flight.
If God gives you a talent, then you are responsible for realizing it to the fullest. The road to perfection is endless, and Eurovision is just one of the steps along that road.
Have you met any world-famous superstars?
Yes, because I have recorded in the best studios in the world. For example, in the Metropolis studio in London, I met Mick Jagger.
And what did you talk about with the legendary rock-granddad?
His visit to the studio was a shock to everyone, they simply fell into a stupor. My reaction to this was simpler. Mick Jagger is not my legend, he’s from a completely different generation. I took my disc, went up to him and said, “Hi, Mick, my name is Ani Lorak, I’m from Ukraine. This is my CD. Can you make photo with me?” I asked him into the studio where I was recording. I went in and told the musicians that Mick Jagger is about to come in for a visit. Everyone was like, “ha-ha-ha, what a joker, what a fantasy.” And in walks Jagger. Everyone’s eyes popped out and their jaws dropped open! (laughs). He listened to my song, danced a bit, and said, “Very nice, great!” expressed interest in the album version, wished me luck, and to continue in the same spirit. It was a pop-rock song.
But things didn’t end there. When I got back to Kyiv, the Internet newsletter, the Daily Mail, was carrying a large photo of me with the headline: “The Ukrainian Britney Spears — Mick Jagger’s new passion” (laughs). How did they find out about this meeting?! Maybe someone from the studio made an effort. Later, I got calls from international newspapers in London asking if they could have more details. Another (female) singer would have immediately picked up the line: “Oh, yes, Mick and I are friends!” But in show business, I do only what I really feel, and I thank God that he gives me the strength for this.
Did you ever have an opportunity to acquaint any world-famous stars with Ukraine?
One time, musicians from David Gilmore’s (a member of Pink Floyd) Astoria studio, where I had also done some recording, came to Kyiv. Tim Renwick, George Philips, Mark Brzezinski are session musicians who play for world-famous performers. There was a jam session together with jazz great Nataliya Gura. There were also excursions (around Kyiv), souvenirs on Andriyivskiy uzviz (famous medieval street in Kyiv), Ukrainian beer. The boys were greatly impressed, especially with the girls in the street, saying: “Every other girl looks like a model!”
Who is helping you prepare for Eurovision?
Above all, of course, it’s Murat — my other half. He is at once my adviser and aide. Moreover, he has a good education as a manager. He looks for sponsors and does so many other important things.
With Olena Kolyadenko, we have been working on the choreography. I’m grateful to the dance ensemble “Freedom” for their support on stage. People are brought into the process as they become needed. Together with the public relations agency CNC Consulting, we are planning a strategy of conquering Europe, foreign tours and everything else.
One of your guardian angels should have become one of the former Ukrainian participants of Eurovision. Have you spoken with them?
Here’s what Andriy Danylko (better known as Verka Serdyuchka, who came in second in Eurovision 2007) said: “The devil is not as frightening as he is painted. The most important thing is to get satisfaction from the contest yourself. The attitude toward an artiste begins forming from the first performance on the Eurovision stage. A participant is judged constantly, even in the hotel. Don’t read anything, don’t listen to anyone, relax, and concentrate on the main thing only. The worst thing is surviving the flood of emotions. Heights attract lightning, so be ready to get hit. And take care of your health.” Thank you very much for advice, Andriy!
Are you apprehensive about going to Belgrade? After all, there’s a lot of political tension there following Kosovo’s independence.
I’m a brave little girl, and I don’t think political disorder will last. In the worst case scenario, the contest will be moved to Switzerland, the home of Eurovision. And the Serbs aren’t their own worst enemies. Such a large and profitable show should itself become a calming factor. In any case, these aren’t the issues I should be worrying about right now.
Trips are a regular thing for you. They are what brought you together with your “other half.” Your husband is a Turk. Turkey should give Ukraine the full 12 points at Eurovision!
It was Murat who kindled my desire to take part in the contest, since I have already become prepared to know the joys of family life. I am happy he is near. He left his country, language, job for me. He has begun developing his own restaurant business in Kyiv.
So that’s where the large photo of Ani Lorak at the entrance to this restaurant, lyrics from your song on this table, and name, Anhel, come from! Where do you plan to relax after the contest? Antalya, Turkey?
In Greece, I think. After recording the song there, I came to love that country. And not because I got to know it — not at all. It was its people that I liked. In the same way, I would like impressions in the world to form about Ukraine because of its people. This is precisely what I want to achieve at Eurovision. We are open, warmhearted, and we love everyone!
Photos from the singer’s archive
Filming of the video for the song, “Ya s toboy”
(I’m With You), 2007.
Taking part in the concert for Youth Day, June 2005
The festival Tavriyski Ihry 2004 (Tavria Games 2004)