Ukrainian Eurovision host Julia Sanina says contest is a ‘huge inspiration’ amid Russian invasion

Eurovision Song Contest 2023 co-host and Ukrainian singer Julia Sanina

The UK hosting Eurovision 2023 on behalf of last year’s winners Ukraine is set to give the competition a unique and unified atmosphere this year, with Ukrainian rock star Julia Sanina set to appear as one of the four main hosts.

Sanina, 32, will co-host both Eurovision Semi-Finals on Tuesday (9 May) and Thursday (11 May) alongside Britain’s Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon and Ted Lasso star Hannah Waddingham, with the trio set to be joined by Eurovision veteran Graham Norton for Saturday’s (13 May) Grand Final.

Together, the group will oversee proceedings in front of an audience of millions as Eurovision is broadcast live on BBC One in the UK, the official Eurovision YouTube channel and on Peacock in the US.

With every competing country’s entry now confirmed, as well as line-ups and running orders for the Semi-Finals, the UK will be crossing their fingers that rising pop starlet Mae Muller and her infectious entry “I Wrote A Song” can one-up last year’s British runner-up Sam Ryder.

From left to right: Eurovision 2023 hosts Graham Norton, Alesha Dixon, Julia Sanina and Hannah Waddingham
From left to right: Eurovision 2023 hosts Graham Norton, Alesha Dixon, Julia Sanina and Hannah Waddingham (BBC/Ray Burmiston)

Who is Julia Sanina and what is she famous for?

Born in Kyiv in 1990, Julia Sanina is a Ukrainian singer and the front woman of alternative rock band The Hardkiss.

The Hardkiss were formed in 2011 and have released four studio albums to date. In 2012, the group were were nominated for the MTV Europe Music Award for Best Ukrainian Act, and the following year they starred in a series of Pepsi commercials that were broadcast across Ukraine.

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Sanina boasted some Eurovision pedrigee long before she landed this year’s co-hosting gig, competing in the Ukrainian national selection for Eurovision with The Hardkiss in 2016.

The band finished in second place behind Jamala, who would go on to win the entire contest that year with her heartfelt anti-war entry “1944”.

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Eurovision 2023 host and Ukrainian singer and The Hardkiss front woman Julia Sanina
Julia Sanina is the lead singer of Ukrainian rock band The Hardkiss. (BBC/James Stack)

2016 was also the year that Sanina appeared as a judge on the seventh series of the Ukrainian version of The X Factor.

In 2020, she appeared on the Ukrainian edition of Dancing in the Stars, where she finished in second place with professional partner Dima Zhuk.

Sanina married her The Hardkiss bandmate Valeriy Bebko in 2011 and the couple welcomed their first child in 2015.

Julia Sanina says Ukraine has felt “enormous support” at Eurovision since Russia’s invasion

Appearing on The One Show on BBC One in February after she was announced as a host, Sanina shared her excitement at fronting this year’s Eurovision shows.

“I’m from a musician family and we were watching Eurovision since I was a child, and this stage, it was something that I was dreaming about for years”, she said.

Sanina added: “But who can imagine that I will stand there as a host. It’s crazy. It sounds like [a] dream come true.”

The singer also reflect on the importance of Eurovision to Ukrainians as her home country continues to grapple with Russia’s ongoing invasion.

“Last year and this year, Eurovision in Ukraine, it’s different for Ukraine. Eurovision was always huge for Ukraine, very serious, and these years we’ve felt enormous support of all the world,” Sanina explained.

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“Lots of people were watching Eurovision last year from the bomb shelters or the basements because of the war, but they were still watching it. And when Kalush Orchestra won, it was like “Wow”. We needed it so badly. It inspires us, it’s a huge inspiration for us.

“We feel that support and we need that attention for Ukraine.”

The Eurovision Song Contest Semi-Finals air on Tuesday, 9 May and Thursday, 11 May at 8pm BST on BBC One in the UK. The Eurovision Grand Final airs on Saturday, 13 May at 8pm BST on BBC One in the UK.

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