• On Saturday, at the Eurovision final in Liverpool (United Kingdom), La Zarra, who represented the France, outlined a controversial gesture.
  • This "controversy" is only one of the many hazards that have punctuated this French candidacy for the competition.
  • 20 Minutes retraces these last months that were not a walk in the park. Everything was being written before our eyes. It was enough to observe and listen.

"For me, La Zarra won today by making the France proud, with its performance of a chic and a French identity of which we can be very proud," said Alexandra Redde-Amiel, the head of delegation, just after the final of the Eurovision contest, on the night of Saturday to Sunday. Ironically, as she utters her words, Tattoo, the song of the real winner, Loreen, is being played in the Liverpool press centre (United Kingdom).

In any case, it is no longer time to comment on the sixteenth place of La Zarra with his song Obviously. Everything is swept away by the gesture sketched by the artist when she heard the number of points that the audience awarded her.

The singer assures him, it was "absolutely not" a middle finger, but "a cultural, generational gesture", to express "disappointment". "I apologize if this was misinterpreted," she later wrote in a story on Instagram. No doubt she does not measure the effect produced by this stealth movement in front of 160 million viewers (including 3.5 million on France 2), nor that everyone perceives it in their own way, as a sign of contempt, spite, as an insult or a hilarious bravado.

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"It was time for her to answer that it was not a middle finger. Now that all this will be put back in its place, there will be no event, "hopes Alexandra Redde-Amiel. In vain, this case has been feeding the media headlines for two days now, sometimes for the worse. This finger story is the end point (or suspension, as it seems that the epilogue remains to be written) of a chaotic Eurovision adventure. But it all seemed to have started well.

Unfortunate affair

Let's rewind. At the beginning of January, the head of delegation says she had a "crush" on La Zarra. "She has all the qualities I'm looking for: she's a complete artist, with charisma, voice and song," she argues. Such evidence that the titles submitted by Anne Sila, according to our information, and Slimane, according to Le Parisien, have been rebuffed. It was thus decided to assume this choice taken internally by doing without a national television selection where the public would have its say.

On February 17, two weeks behind schedule, the song was revealed to a handful of journalists and fans. "My heart, my hands, my eyes, my loins," La Zarra sings at the very beginning of Obviously. Not many people notice the resemblance to the overture of The Woman, a piece by Barbara Pravi - who preceded her two years ago on the Eurovision stage: "My body, my legs, my back, my arms, my hands, my bones"... What jumps out at the ears of many, on the other hand, is the error of linking "de vouz'a moi de moi z'a vous". The Zarra, who will later be found reluctant to question, is ready to assume what is poetically called velvet, but not delegation. As a result, on the final version of the song made official two days later, the unfortunate "z" disappeared.

The reception of the song by Eurovision aficionados in France and abroad is very warm. Obviously it doesn't take long to be the favorite. A good result is in orbit. However, the road ahead will not be a walk in the park.

A mysterious intolerance to "gluten"

On March 8, in an Instagram story, La Zarra wrote: "I made a decision, it is about my mental and physical well-being because lately I felt heavy and numb, very confused. I can't do my job anymore and I've lost my creativity. So I stop. This strange message more or less coincides with the deadline to send the final application file to the contest organizers. Does Zarra give up participating in Eurovision? If that were the case, it would be too late to come up with a plan B.

20 Minutes tries, in vain, to contact Capitol, the record company of La Zarra, and the French delegation. Then, an hour after her post, the singer publishes a video in which she specifies that she stops... gluten. A good joke? Not really. When we meet her in Amsterdam (Netherlands) a month later, the artist informs that she had not kept anyone informed of her publication and specifies that she has no problem with gluten. "I can consume it, it doesn't balloon me. But there are some things that make me feel the same," she tells us. "That's a lot of things, these false promises... ", she limits herself to saying to explain her metaphor, without explaining whether she evokes her personal or professional life.

Rant removed

The Zarra prides itself on being "a free electron" and posting whatever it wants on social media, despite the delegation's warnings. She proves it during Eurovision week by publishing an Instagram story in which she responds to xenophobes who insult her and stigmatize her Moroccan origins. "I'm pissing in your mouth and I'm fucking you with a cucumber," she snaps, filming herself outside her hotel. The rant will finally be removed and the delegation will do its utmost to remove all traces.

On this April day when we meet her in Amsterdam, on the other hand, La Zarra maintains the story published in the morning in which she attacks the cleanliness of her hotel room that would smell of "mold" and whose pillows would be studded with "blood stains". This misadventure conditions her day, puts her mood in roller coaster arrangements, and it culminates, in the early evening, by her withdrawal from the concert at which she was to perform. The Dutch organizers still have it in their throats.

As La Zarra was "emotionally exhausted", according to the delegation, her participation in the London pre-Eurovision concert the following day was also cancelled. From now on, the France representative will be kept away from the media until she leaves for Liverpool. But the damage is already done, former collaborators spread in the press about the "unmanageable" character of La Zarra and its "diva" side. "She is very shy and lacks self-confidence. Often, people who have this character compensate by seeking to be noticed, "says to 20 Minutes an artist who has collaborated with her and supports her tooth and nail.

A vocal coach called in disaster

On April 26, to break the silence, through a video, the singer bets on simplicity, and leaves in the closet her sophisticated outfits. She thanked her supporters and said she was "more determined than ever to wear the colors of the France with pride and love". What to be reassured?

Not really. Behind the scenes, the final stretch is organized in urgency and stress. The Zarra is not at all confident in terms of singing. She said in a live on Instagram that she lost her voice late last year because of an ENT problem. It is not known whether the delegation was aware of these concerns. His performance in Madrid (Spain), at the beginning of April, is the only one where we hear him sing Obviously live and without editing. Even for the revelation of the song in 20:30 on Sunday, she did not perform it while the France 2 show usually ends with a live... Her time on stage in Madrid is far from perfect but, no matter, she packs the room that was conquered in advance. However, this half-hearted performance may have instilled doubt in La Zarra's mind, a week before the deadlines in Amsterdam and London.

The singer must therefore regain confidence. The problem is that the current does not pass between her and the vocal coach with whom she has to work. In disaster, the delegation is looking for a savior capable of restoring faith to the artist in record time (three weeks, therefore) and manages to convince one of the most famous. It is he who embarks for Liverpool. With some success: from rehearsal to rehearsal, we see by ear the effects of their collaboration.

Preferential treatment

Another pair of sleeves, same urgency: clothing issues. In a last-minute reversal of which she has the secret, La Zarra chooses Romain Thévenin. It was time: the Parisian designer had barely more than a week to design the stage outfit and cocktail dresses of the France representative.

Upon arrival in Liverpool on 3 May, the days of the French delegation followed one another and were not alike. The relatively good weather is followed by more tormented hours. The Zarra speaks of its "perfectionism" but others see it as only zealous nitpicking. The organization is going crazy. Example: after each rehearsal, the traditional photos are slow to arrive on the Eurovision website. The delay is counted in hours. The singer demands to validate them. A picture taken behind the scenes, on which it is not in value, even disappears from the image database a posteriori. The production accepts this while the other artists are not really entitled to this preferential treatment.

Missed act

On May 5, the day after its first rehearsal, La Zarra tells us that it is in an "electric" state of mind, and the word then has a positive connotation. When we find her the following Wednesday, she uses the same term, now loaded with tension. During the short interview she gives to 20 Minutes, the artist seems distant and upset. Between the lines, she prepares for a result less flashy than she hoped and claimed.

Then comes Saturday's final. The Zarra is at the rendezvous. She delivered her best performance of the week - her performance the day before, on which the international jurors evaluated her, was more fragile. She could have left Liverpool on this satisfaction, but her spontaneity decided otherwise.

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In hindsight, his rebellious gesture appears as a failed act. A way of saying that behind the polished façade of a candidacy committed to winning hid a much less glowing reality. Everything was told there, before our eyes, especially in the answers to journalists and cryptic posts on social networks. The explanation of his controversial gesture is even available on the official Eurovision YouTube channel (see video above)! Interviewed by British host Rylan, who tells her that in the United Kingdom, making the peace sign with your fingers, by turning your hand, is an insult, La Zarra demonstrates the gesture she will reproduce on Saturday night. "In Morocco, we do it with our fingers, it's very intense," she says with a laugh.

Within the delegation, many were waiting for this Sunday, May 14 to turn the page, stop saving the furniture and finally move on. Relief will have to wait. There is crisis communication to manage.

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