Israel’s 2016 Eurovision Song Contest delegate is Hovi Star, a flamboyant 29-year-old singer and reality idol. Star, whose real name is Hovev Sekulets, was voted to the top spot of the Rising Star television song contest, thereby winning the ticket to Eurovision.
“I’m wildly excited,” Star told local media after winning the final. “This is a childhood dream come true and I promise to represent Israel in the best way possible.”
Star first came to public attention when he took part in another televised song contest, Kochav Nolad (‘A Star is Born’), in 2009. He also does voice overs for cartoons. “Hovi star is a nickname I received from my friends, because I’m, like, a diva,” he told Israeli website NRG. “But I’m not really a diva, because there’s no such thing in Israel. There’s Shiri Maimon, and there’s Dana International, and that’s it. In Israel you don’t get to do things in a big way.”
Though Hovi never spoke directly about being gay, it’s always hovering around in his interviews. When he was directly asked if he was gay in 2012 he replied “I don’t think I have anywhere to come out of,” as if he was saying, ‘I’ve never been in the closet.’ The 29 year old was born to a religious family in the north of Israel. When he was a kid his parents got divorced and his mom remarried basketball player John McIntyre. “I studied in a religious school until the 10th grade,” Hovi told Israeli website Mako. “The boys beat me up on a regular basis, called me names, threw things at me. One day I arrived at school with bleached bangs. It was a disaster, but back then I thought it was fabulous. It also gave a very clear message and I was thrown out of there and never came back.”
Hovi started to build his genderqueer stage persona at the age of 14: the hair, the make up, the clothes. “You will never see me go out of the house in a T shirt,” he says. “I just can’t do it.” His religious family, including his rabbi grandmother, is used to it by now, he says. “It’s not a question of whether my grandmother accepts or doesn’t accept my stage persona,” he explains. “It’s like a grandmother’s way of thinking, ‘do you work? you have money? do you help your mother? OK. She blesses me all the time and worries about my well-being.”
Representing Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest was a big dream of Hovi since the first interview. He also has a plan for the day after, which is, “to release a single in Europe, which will cost a lot of money, but I’ll get that money somehow.” He intends to make the best of this opportunity. “If I was food in a microwave I’d shout from the inside ‘get me out! I’m done!'”