Expose: Her Name is not Sa'ida
It's not a miss, it's a mister!!!
A few months ago a new singer broke into the Israeli world of music with her hit 'Sa'ida Sultana'. Since then, we have a local musical-sexual phenomenon. Dana is more provocative than Madonna, and more beautiful than Divine. Except that - she is a man. The first expose of who Dana really is - by Shai Kerem.
A month ago Dana showed up for the first time. It was in the Impulse club. Lots of teenagers filled the club and waited in front of the stage. They were all waiting out of bare curiosity to see for the first time the mysterious singer whose two songs are played incessantly on the radio stations. It's dark in the hall, a small light beam is set on the stage, the rhythmical music is deafening and then it's happening. An exotic gorgeous girl is coming on stage. Tight pants on well shaped legs, high leather boots and a gleaming blouse, and then she starts to sing.
The audience is hysterical. The teenagers scream how beautiful she is, asking for her telephone number, sending kisses. She goes offstage with two guards and disappears. In seconds almost all the teenagers are around the dressing room. They are waiting to see her up close, maybe to touch her too. They are waiting and waiting. Half an hour has passed, another, and there is no Dana. When one of the teenagers dares to peep into the dressing room he sees that it's empty.
Half an hour earlier, a dark and thin guy came out from the dressing room, Yaron Cohen was his name. He looked at all the teenagers with a satisfied smile, and went home. If the connection between Dana and Yaron is still not clear, maybe a line from the song 'Dana International' will clarify everything. In an almost full translation it goes like this: "Do you think I have a Zoom-Zoom, come see my Soom-Soom". The words Soom-Soom and Zoom-Zoom were not translated. For those of you who still do not understand, here is the explanation. Dana is actually Yaron Cohen, in other words: Yaron Cohen is actually Dana.
It started a few months ago. Dana's song 'Sa'ida' became a huge hit. It was released in the collection 'Super Mix 13' by IMP Dance. The success went on. The second song, 'Dana International', became a hit too - and there is even interest abroad. Dana is a superstar, if not right now, then very soon... She, or actually he, was born 22 years ago in Tel-Aviv.
- What do you want me to call you, Dana or Yaron?
- "Whatever you like."
- Tell me about your childhood.
- "I was a very talented boy. I was always very special and outgoing. I liked to play girls' games with the other girls. I also liked to dance, paint and listen to music. I was a very good student, but if the teachers annoyed me, I beat them. School was a memorable experience for me. Everyone liked me although I was a little bit problematic, I mean different. But I was always proud of my difference".
- Can you explain 'difference'?
- "The frame bored me. Routine is not interesting. I was very beautiful and feminine. All the girls adored me. My childhood dream was to become an actress".
- An actor or an actress?
- "What's the difference? I don't believe in the sharp distinction between men and women. Everything should be more flexible".
He admits that if he was born in a small town he might have become different. Tel-Aviv gave him the courage. When he was 16, he started going to clubs, and there he stood out too because of his special beauty. "Before the nightlife, I was an excellent student. But when I discovered the mysterious nightlife, I stopped studying. I met some good friends - the Sa'adia brothers - and together we made the city go crazy. My parents tried to resist, but I was never easy to stop. When I want something, no one can stop me. I'm a wild beast. All my life I dreamt about popularity, stages, audience, becoming a star".
- Did you have a girlfriend?
- "Of course. I had lots of girlfriends. We exchanged nail polish, we talked about haircuts, about clothes. I had a very special relationship with girls".
At 18, Yaron Cohen was called to the army. He had no special difficulties until he decided that the army uniform was not for him. "It does not match the color of my eyes either." So he decided that the army would not see him between its rows. "But it was very hard to get out from the army. They made me a lot of problems until they released me."
- If the army uniform had suited you, would you have joined the army?
- "No. I'm sorry, but I am not someone to be told what to do. When to get up, when to dance, when to eat. Can you really imagine me attack the enemy with a rifle in my hand, What would happen if my one of my nails broke?"
- But it's very important to join the army.
- "I'm not against it. But it's not less important to entertain the country, and this is my role. Everyone gives according to his abilities, and I have mine. I would be very happy to amuse and please soldiers. My role is art."
- What about your political opinions.
- "I do not want to talk about them. I'm a public personality and I want to be OK with everyone. I can only tell you that I do not think we should give land for peace."
- What do you think about the orthodox in the government?
- "Out with them, and fast!!! I personally have no problems with them right now, but the majority should rule, the government should represent the majority and it should not surrender to their pressure."
- How are you with the religion personally?
- "I respect the religion very strongly. I fast on Yom Kippur, I kiss the Mezuzah and do not smoke on Shabbat."
- But you are going to clubs on Shabbat?
- "Yes, of course. I believe that God wants us to be happy and have fun on Shabbat. It's my way to tell Him thank You for everything He has given me. I have the faith of a very simple person. I believe in the relations between people. When I see hungry people in the street I give them a shekel here, a shekel there."
When Yaron became Dana? It's began 3 years ago. Ofer Nisim, a solo artist and founder of the group Drama, formed a group of entertainers that had shows in clubs. Dana, because of her feminine look, imitated famous singers: Rita, Dafna Dekel, Ofra Haza. The excitement of the audience made Nisim go further with the character and they recorded Sa'ida.
"We didn't think about releasing it because this country is very small and closed, but it seems that the openness here is bigger than we might think."
- Your voice is very feminine.
- "Yes. It's my natural voice. My ordinary look is also very feminine. People see me in the street and do not understand what is this thing? A mister, or a miss?"
- When you look in the mirror what do you see?
- "I see a feminine boy. It's the perfect look for me."
- And your chest, is it real?
- "No. It's not real. I use sponges."
- Do you want to raise a family?
- "Yes. One day, when I calm down."
- How are you going to look at 40?
- "I live for the moment. I never think about it!"
[A note: This is the only interview where Dana speaks in the masculine as it was made before her gender reassignment surgery in May 1993. Shai Kerem is Dana's artistic advisor these days.]
"Rosh I" - 02.1993
Translation from Hebrew: Ziv Geri.