Meet the ESCXTRA team! Bente

Bente van Leijden

Hello everyone! My name is Bente, I am 21 years old. I am from Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I am currently pursuing a bachelor’s in International Studies at Leiden University, where I specialize in Russia/Eurasia as a region. In this major, I learn about the history, culture, politics and language of my chosen region. In September, I will minor in European Culture at the University of Amsterdam. ESCXTRA invited me to join them in June 2020!

Feel free to follow me on Instagram, my handle is @bente_vl.

Your first Eurovision memory?

I have a specific memory of watching Junior Eurovision in 2005 with my sister. The United Kingdom was our least favorite and we both liked Russia. The Netherlands’ song “Stupid” still gets played at parties sometimes, and every Dutch young adult will most likely recognize it and sing along if they hear it! I had the official CD of the year and would listen to it and rate all the songs on the official 1-12 Eurovision scale. Honestly, it is not a surprise that I ended up as a big Eurovision fan many years down the road. 

As for ‘adult’ Eurovision, which is not meant to sound like an innuendo, I recall watching Lordi win in 2006. My family and I happened to catch the semi-final live on tv at the time, and my mom allowed me to stay up until The Netherlands had performed. Conveniently for me, Treble’s “Amambanda” was set to perform 17th, giving 8 year old me a later bedtime than usual. Despite the failed Dutch attempt, we watched the final as well. Lordi was my favorite of all the entries, so I was very satisfied with the result!

Your Eurovision journey?

After 2006, it took a while before I started watching Eurovision again. Up until 2009, my family and I watched Eurovision sporadically, which is partly related to The Netherlands’ awful track record at the time. If it were up to me back then, I would have never missed out on it again. Especially now that I have rewatched the semi-finals and finals from the contests that I hadn’t seen before. From 2009 on, I have always watched Eurovision with my family, it is like a tradition for us at this point: we prepare food from all the participating countries and always give our 1-12 points. I specifically remember seeing Alexander Rybak perform in the final, and I knew in that moment: he is going to win. Unfortunately, my Eurovision predicting abilities have gone downhill since then. 

While always excited for Eurovision, it took a while for me to realize that there was more to it than just the semi-finals and the finals. In 2015, I listened to all the entries on YouTube before I saw them on TV and chose my favorites from there. In this case, those were Belgium’s Loïc Nottet and Sweden’s Måns Zelmerlöw. It was pretty much the same in 2016, where I was mostly just obsessing over Dutch singer Douwe Bob. He definitely increased my interest in the contest as a whole. 

The highlight of my Eurovision journey so far is seeing my country win in 2019. The complete euphoria (pun intended) I felt at that moment is almost impossible to compare to anything else. From being introduced to Arcade, to nervously watching the odds, to rehearsal videos, to the eventual win, the entire process was an amazing experience that I will remember forever.

Why is Eurovision special to you?

Firstly, I simply love music. I can listen and enjoy almost any type of genre, from metal to pop to opera. While pop is most predominant in Eurovision, there is so much to discover! It has opened up a whole new world of music to enjoy, which can range from Romanian yodel-rap to Portuguese ballads. What makes this music so special and different from others is that it is often influenced by a country’s culture. 15 years ago, I never expected to listen to Montenegrin ballads, and yet here we are. Europe consists of so many different countries with their own rich culture, history and language: it is astonishing how this all combined and celebrated in the world’s largest contest. Everyone who watches simultaneously feels pride for their country as well as the social cohesion of being a European citizen, together with 200 million other viewers.

As an international relations student, I am also interested in the political aspect that Eurovision provides. While not overtly political, the contest provides an interesting insight into the relations between certain countries, whether positive or negative. It shows an intriguing combination of both globalization and nationalism.

What attracted you to ESCXTRA?

As a long time follower and reader, I have always liked ESCXTRA and the way that they report on all the Eurovision news. Since my little yearly tradition turned into a full-time interest, ESCXTRA has been my go-to website for all Eurovision news. To travel around Europe is one amazing thing. To meet Eurovision and national final artists while doing so? It would be a dream come true for me. 

The previous time applications were open, I missed out on my chance because of insecurity; I was probably not a fan for as long as other applicants, and besides, I had no experience with journalism. However, as the applications opened again a while later, I realized that I will never know if they would accept me if I never apply in the first place. Furthermore, I am now more of a self-proclaimed Eurovision expert. Second, I have a whole lot of academic research about European culture and politics to my name. Going out of my comfort zone to apply for ESCXTRA was an amazing decision!

And finally, your top 5 Eurovision songs of all time?

What an impossible question! Thankfully, I recently spent 4 hours procrastinating by sorting all Eurovision songs from 2010-2019, creating a monstrous Top 411. My opinion tends to change, but this should pose an accurate representation of my current top 5 of all time.

5. Loïc Nottet – Rhythm Inside (Belgium 2015)

4. Måns Zelmerlöw – Heroes (Sweden 2015)

3. Eugent Bushpepa – Mall (Albania 2018)

2. Duncan Laurence – Arcade (The Netherlands 2019)

1. Nathan Trent – Running On Air (Austria 2017)

For the past year, I have lived on a cloud nine where Arcade plays on a loop, and yet I have to give the number one spot to Nathan Trent’s Running On Air. The song is simple but clever, with uplifting lyrics and a fun instrumental that must create a smile for everyone that listens to it. Furthermore, Nathan is an amazing guy. Because I started following Eurovision extensively in 2017, he is the first artist who I really fell in love with; always happy, making friends everywhere, and generally just an all-around great person. If Running On Air was a person, it would be Nathan Trent, which makes it so all-around perfect!


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