Dana International’s 1998 Eurovision victory was not just a win for Israel. It was a win for all women, past and present, as the song—“Diva”—was an ode to the powerful women of history; and it was a win for transgender people everywhere. Dana International, otherwise known as Sharon Cohen, was born Yaron Cohen in Tel Aviv to a family of Yemenite-Jewish and Romanian-Jewish descent.
Dana identified as female from a very young age, and expressed a wish to become a singer at the age of 8, when she watched Ofra Haza place second in the 1983 Eurovision with “Hai.” Though her family was of meager means, they sent her to music lessons. She came out as transgender at the age of 13—and in the late 80s, it was not to a friendly reception. Dana defied all the bigotry and prejudice to realize her childhood dream and become the first-ever transgender performer to win Eurovision.
While Dana’s DNA results reflect her Yemenite Jewish (82.7%) and Ashkenazi Jewish (2.1%) background, they are as colorful as the fabulous feathered dress she wore when she smashed the patriarchy: she is also 5.9% North African, 4.3% Italian, 4.1% West Asian, and even 0.9% Nigerian!