Last week, Manizha released the revamp of her Eurovision 2021 entry “Russian Woman”. The song, like Manizha herself, advocates for women empowerment, specifically women across Russia. As a result of both her visibility as a feminist and LGBTQIA rights advocate, her national final attracted abuse domestically in addition to international support.
Speaking to the BBC’s Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg, Manizha opened up about the barrage abuse from nationalist politicians and online commentators.
You can not like my voice. You can not like the song. But if you don’t like me because I was born in Tajikistan, that was hard. It was very hard to understand that someone can hate you so much, like one woman who has two children wrote me a message like ‘I will pray to God that your aircraft will crash when you go to Rotterdam.’ And we’re having some threats like ‘if you’re gonna sing like this about Russia, you’re not gonna live here anymore.’Manizha speaking to the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg
Last week, several news outlets including The Guardian, reported that the track was being investigated for “illegal lyrics”. However, as we reported last night, the outcome was released and “no illegal statements were found in the song”.
When asked what the message behind “Russian Woman” is, Manizha said the following:
We’re always hearing this advice from our childhood like ‘you need to be like this, you need to be like this. Your skirt should be longer or shorter.’ These stereotypes make our lives so bad and I’m tired of that.Manizha speaking to the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg
When Rosenberg asked whether she has considered withdrawing from Eurovision due to the abuse, she responded:
I’m a normal person, I’m a human, I have feelings and of course I’ve had these thoughts, but now I have a lot of support. I can see it, not only from the media and media people, but from people who think the same as me and this is supporting me and this makes me stronger and I’m like “I’ll go on stage, wherever it is, I’ll go on and say it and I’m going to do my job.”Manizha speaking to the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg
Manizha was born in 1991 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. She and her family fled the Tajikistani civil war in 1994 to settle in Moscow. She began her career as a child singer, eventually performing in the Ru.Kola project and as part of music groups Assai and Krip De Shin. Following these stints, she went on to study gospel music in both London and New York City.
She began her solo career in 2016 by releasing a string of singles as an independent artist. In addition, she has released two albums, Manuscript and ЯIAM in 2017 and 2018, respectively. In 2019, she released her EP Womanizha.
As reflected in the lyrics of “Russian Woman”, Manizha identifies as a feminist and is a supporter of LGBTQ+ rights. This, her Muslim background and Tajikistani heritage have attracted online abuse via her social media channels.
In a three-way 100% public voting format, Manizha won with 39.7% of the public vote. You can watch her national final performance below:
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