• Ruslana: from the ESC to the UN. (EBU)Source: EBU
Catch up with some former contestants whose lives have gone in unexpected directions.
Cameron Pegg

11 Apr 2017 - 2:50 PM  UPDATED 11 Apr 2017 - 2:50 PM

You compete in Eurovision… and then what? Many performers eke out an existence as an entertainer, reliving their glory on the annual circuit of parties and tribute concerts.

For others, their careers have a surprising coda...

Xena of the United Nations

Ruslana made history in 2004 as the first Ukrainian winner of the Eurovision Song Contest - in what was only the country’s second attempt. "Wild Dances" was a massive hit throughout Europe and regularly features among the best of lists compiled by fans and broadcasters.

The classically trained musician (and conductor!) released an album of the same name (Dyki Tantsi in Ukrainian) – an homage to the distinctive musical heritage of her father and the Hutsul people from the Carpathian Mountains. Utilising Hutsul instruments and rhythms, it remains the top-selling Ukrainian album of all time.

Not long after her Eurovision win, the United Nations appointed her as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador to help combat human trafficking. "Not For Sale" became the official song of the campaign. 

An outspoken activist, Ruslana is a prominent political figure in her homeland and was a vocal supporter of the pro-democratic Orange Revolution of 2004. From 2006-7 she served in the national parliament as an MP, becoming deputy of the Our Ukraine party. More recently, during the Euromaidan protests, Ruslana regularly took to the stage in Independence Square to sing the Ukrainian national anthem.

Night and day

Icelandic actress Ágústa Eva Erlendsdóttir is better known as foul-mouthed 2006 entrant Silvia Night, whose paean to the entitlement and hubris of the nouveau riche, "Congratulations", pre-dated the rise of the Kardashians. Here's a sample of the song's salty lyrics:

"Hey you, lookin' at me, I'm talkin' to you
I'm Silvia Night shinin' in the light, I know you want me too
Born in Reykjavík in a different league, no damn Eurotrash-freak
The vote is in, I'll f***ing win
Too bad for all the others"

Silvia didn’t win - in fact, she failed to make it past the semi-finals - which prompted a well-publicised spray at the press that quickly went viral.  

These days, Erlendsdóttir is better known as the Icelandic voice of Elsa in pre-teen favourite Frozen. Her rendition of "Let It Go" is a banger.

The call of God

Swedish brothers Richard, Louis and Per Herrey donned golden boots on the way to victory in 1984 with "Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley". Although famously derided by their countryman Tommy Körberg as “the dancing deodorants”, the Mormon siblings achieved huge fame at home and toured widely.

In 1987, at the height of their success, Louis decided to undertake a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the trio disbanded.

Jailhouse rock

You might think scoring zero points at Eurovision is rock bottom. You’d be wrong. Gemma Abbey can attest to that. She's one half of UK act Gemini, whose aural train wreck, "Cry Baby", is legendary for all of the wrong reasons.

Widely considered one of the worst entries of all time, the duo had disappeared from the headlines - or so we thought. Late last year, it was revealed Abbey had illegally claimed $85,000 in single parent benefits, even though she married in 2013. She was convicted on two counts of fraud and given a 30-week prison sentence, suspended for one year.

How did the singer come unstuck? That would be the wedding photos she posted on Facebook. A valuable lesson in social media management for us all.

The Eurovision Song Contest will be broadcast over SBS’s Eurovision weekend - Friday 12 May, Saturday 13 May, and Grand Final Sunday 14 May at 7.30pm on SBS with LIVE early morning broadcasts begin Wednesday 10 May at 5am on SBS.

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