• Ruby Daly

International Youth Day - Eurovision's youngest contestants

Today the world celebrates International Youth Day, and at Aussievision we have decided to pull out the history books and have a look at some of the youngest contestants to ever grace the Eurovision Stage.

Commencing in time for the 1990 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest came the age rule: which denoted that contestants be 16-years-old on the day of the contest.

This change, which in part led to the creation of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in 2003, was due to the controversy created by the entrance of the two youngest performers to grace the Eurovision Stage in the previous year, 1989: Nathalie Pâque and Gili Natanael.

Nathalie Pâque was 11-years-old and Gili Natanael 12-years-old when they performed on the Eurovision Stage for their respective nations France (though Nathalie was from Belgium) and Israel.

The selection of such young performers caused quite a controversy, due to the amount of pressure they were placed under, being children.

The selection of such young entrants, particularly with France as they chose Nathalie internally, was perhaps inspired by the success three years prior by the Belgian delegation, who won the 1986 contest with 13-year-old Sandra Kim and her entry, ‘J'aime la vie’.

Sandra remains the youngest ever Eurovision winner, and unless the current age restriction is changed, will continue to remain the youngest ever victor, despite lying about her age (she claimed she was 15-years-old) in her winning song.

Although not official contestants a number of children also performed as back up singers before the rule change.

In 1979 Betty Missigeo sang 'Su Cancion' (Your Song) for Spain finishing runner-up. Betty was joined by four children on stage through the performance that included 157 "lahs".

In 1985 the Danish duo Hot Eyes were joined by singer Søren Bundgaard's 9-year-old daughter Lea when performing 'Sku' du spørg' fra no'en?' (What business is it of yours?). They finished 11th on the night.

Following the rule change, the current youngest participant is ZENA, who performed ‘Like It’ in 2019 for Belarus when she was 16-years-old.

As today is International Youth Day, it would be remiss to not celebrate this years theme of ‘Youth Engagement for Global Action’, which seeks to highlight the various modes of the engagement of young people at the local, national and global levels, in terms of enriching national and multilateral institutions and processes.

As some of the Eurovision family’s youngest contestants, the 2019 batch of contestants from the Junior Eurovision Song Contest sought to highlight their voice in initiating change to achieve global action.

Several acts, such as Melani from Spain, Joana from Portugal, Darija from Serbia and Marta from Italy, choose to use their three minute performance to highlight their concerns regarding the environment in addition to stirring movement, and as members of the youth, embody this year’s theme of engagement for action.

With this years Junior Eurovision Song Contest rapidly approaching, it remains to be seen how the 2020 batch will utilise their opportunity for participation, but come November, we may yet have some even younger contestants to add to the history books.