■ The Eurovision winner and Israeli singer, 25, on Will Ferrell, wanting to be like Beyoncé and clucking all over the world
You won Eurovision but you were already famous in Israel from an X Factor-type show, weren’t you?
Yeah, we have a TV show that chooses the Israeli representative for Eurovision. I was an indie performer in Tel Aviv and a wedding singer. I was relying on my mother for my finances and I was thinking a reality show could land me a couple of gigs. And then stuff exploded.
Were you always like this? Did they try and change you on the show?
As a girl I was very miserable about being different. My mother always tried to help me. I’ve been to loads and loads of diet places. I tried to change my look for a long time but nothing worked. I was told to sing Adele, I was told to sing Aretha Franklin, told to cover myself with black and show my soulful side and I followed that rule: that if I wanted to sing, I needed to be a big mamma. But as a girl I wanted to be Rihanna, I wanted to be Beyoncé, and life is short so I went after it.
What happened when you found TV fame?
I was four months on prime-time TV and I realised what it does to a lot of people, to a lot of little boys and girls, seeing a role model, seeing that you can be different, you can be true to yourself.
What’s the reaction been across Europe? Does anyone think your act is too weird?
No, no, people love it. The hug is amazing. People are clucking away in front of me. I love the attention. It [the fame] is a bit too much at times but I’ve been waiting for it my entire life. I think it will calm down in a bit.
What did the clucking in your Eurovision-winning song Toy refer to?
The song refers to the #MeToo movement. It’s an empowerment song for everybody: everybody who’s told they’re not good enough, they’re not smart enough, they’re not skinny enough to do what they want to do. And I was looking for a sound that sounds like fear, because bullying comes out of fear, so a chicken clucking was right on point. I hope you get it.
Is your other music like this?
I’m planning to change a lot through my whole life. I was a blues artist, I was a jazz artist, I did Israeli songs, slow ballads, I’ve transformed so much and my pop phase is now. I will get tired of it at some point and then I will change. I don’t like to limit myself or label myself. Beyoncé doesn’t sound now like she sounded two years ago, even.
How was Eurovision itself? Was it scary? Or were you used to those big crowds from your previous TV stuff?
That was my advantage. I came warmed up. The Israeli show started in September, so I was used to audiences and TV shows and videotaped performances and live shows. I knew what I was in for. Everything needs to feel like a small bar: you have to feel the energy, feel the audience, play with the audience, play with yourself…
You can’t say play with yourself! It sounds rude!
[Laughs] I’m so sorry. I’m standing there with my looper and I’m playing… with the crowd.
What are the Pokémon references in Toy? Are you a fan?
I’m a big fan. I grew up on Pokémon. I saw all the TV seasons, all the movies, I am obsessed. I think I dressed up like Misty for my entire childhood.
Will Ferrell has said he wants to make a film about Eurovision and was spotted in the audience. Did you meet him?
Will is a funny guy but I didn’t meet him, sadly. I hope he’s going to treat Eurovision with the respect it deserves!
Someone described you by saying it was as if Björk and Beth Ditto had a love child…
[Laughs] What, because Beth Ditto is fat and Björk looks like me? Come on! I don’t think I sound like either of them. That’s basically about appearances and it’s a bit unintelligent.
You said ‘thank you for choosing different’ at Eurovision when you beat someone who was conventionally sexy…
I said that because I don’t look or sound or create or send a message like any other thing on Eurovision so far. The thing that wins is usually something a bit more standard and for them to choose something they’d never heard before is major — and I’m grateful for people taking a step forward. As a society we won’t evolve if we don’t accept change, and it’s very moving to see what’s happening. If we are brave enough to change stuff and choose something fresh…
Everyone wants a bit of Netta at the moment, don’t they?
Yeah, but there’s enough Netta for everybody.
Netta’s single Toy is out now