Protesters have been calling on the 41 artists competing at the world’s biggest singing competition to boycott this year’s event since Israel won the right to host the event after Netta Barzilai’s win last year in Lisbon.
Musicians including Miller-Heidke have been targeted by a social media campaign led by Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters in the months leading up to this week’s contests.
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Most of the artists have wrestled with the complexities of performing at an entertainment event initiated in 1956 to bring harmony to a divided Europe as the intractable tensions between Israel and Palestine continue to rage.
“It is difficult. I thought deeply about the decision to come here and I stand by that decision now,” Miller-Heidke said on the orange carpet at the opening ceremony in Tel Aviv this morning (AEST).
“I think Eurovision was created in a spirit of togetherness, the spirit of breaking down barriers between people and using the power of music and art to come together and be open to it and I’m glad I’m here.”
Iceland’s anti-capitalist, industrial techno contestants Hatari have been vocal about their support of the BDS movement which has urged artists to boycott Israel.
The group, who wear BDSM gear for their Eurovision performance, were diplomatic at the opening ceremony, with one member stating “if we don’t unite for peace, then hate will prevail.”
Another Hatari member wore a gimp mask which many commentators took to be a silent protest about the political issues shadowing this year’s competition.
But for the thousands of fans and delegations in Tel Aviv, a progressive city which embraces the LGBT community, the focus remains on Eurovision’s entertainment values.
And its unique mix of glamour, kitsch and social conscience.
Miller-Heidke dazzled at the opening ceremony in a sparkly, black Steven Khalil gown.
The Sydney designer also created her stunning competition costume.
Her recent bout with a serious bacterial infection caused by blisters from wearing high heels during a pre-competition goodwill visit to Israel in April dictated more sensible footwear for her stroll up the opening ceremony orange carpet.
“Much to my shock, I am wearing small heels but they are orthopaedic heels, amazingly comfortable from this incredible brand called Bared Shoes and they’re all designed by a podiatrist and I’ve got funky orthopaedic shoes now,” she said.
Several contestants remarked on the bravery of her performance of her song Zero Gravity aloft a bendy pole designed by Australian arts company Strange Fruit.
Her staging has captured the imagination of fans and pundits with Miller-Heidke now at much better odds to make the top 10 of her first semi-final on Wednesday morning (AEST) and progress to next weekend’s grand final.
“(I’m) brave slash terrified. No, I feel really good up there,” she said.
“I think, to be honest, all the contestants are really brave. It’s a scary thing to do, performing in front of 200 million people for your country.”
She said she had been buoyed by the goodwill messages from Australian fans and those from around the world who have embraced Zero Gravity, a song inspired by her recovery from a two-year battle with post-natal depression.
The Muriel’s Wedding composer has been waving the Australian flag in Tel Aviv with not only her prodigious popera vocal range.
Her various appearances at rehearsal press conferences, official events and tourist outings in Israel have showcased many Australian designers, possibly more than are showing at Mercedes Fashion Week in Sydney.
In addition to Steven Khalil, Miller-Heidke has been dressed by Frida Las Vegas, Macgraw, Lover, Ginger and Smart, Romance Was Born, Alice McCall, Zhivago and Ford Millinery.
“Everybody has been really generous, I’ve never got so many offers. I have spent a great deal of the past couple of months playing dress ups and I’m enjoying it while it lasts,” she said.
“We sought out great Australian designers because they are absolutely world class and I am happy to be flying the flag for them. And Australian native fauna.”
After a week of rehearsals, Miller-Heidke’s campaign kicks off with the first semi-final for the jury vote tomorrow ahead of the official television broadcast of the publicly voted semi on Wednesday from 5am on SBS.
Kathy McCabe is a guest of SBS at 2019 Eurovision Song Contest.