Portugal 2024: Iolanda
Photo: Sebas Ferreira

Iolanda from Portugal: "I feel like Beyoncé whenever I perform my song"

INTERVIEW Taking part in Festival da Canção 2024 was a goal for Iolanda regardless of being invited by RTP to compete. The question was asked, she accepted it, and went on to win the whole thing. She sees her previous struggles as worth it and wouldn't change a thing. Iolanda is now ready for Eurovision, and hopes to continue Portugal's qualification streak with her song "Grito"

For the past few years, Portugal has always been the last country to decide on which artist and song they'll take to the Eurovision Song Contest. 2024 wasn't any different as the Festival da Canção 2024 officially ended the Eurovision national selection competition season.

Iolanda, stage name styled as iolanda, was the chosen one with her slow tempo "Grito."

The singer has already arrived in Malmö, this year's host city, and has rehearsed for the very first time. When we met via Zoom, she was a couple of weeks away from traveling to Sweden, but completely focused on what's been a dream of hers for a while.

In fact, Iolanda's participation at this year's Festival da Canção was a given. She ended up being invited by RTP to take part in the competition even if she had already planned to apply via the free submission of songs:

– I was actually going to submit "Grito" to the Festival da Canção if I hadn't been invited. I never thought they would directly invite me, so when I said yes and was directly in the Semi-finals it was easier to take on the challenge.

Throughout her journey Iolanda has had to face rejection, and that was the point that initiated her response to the invitation. The singer had attempted multiple talent shows but never got too far. In the Portuguese version of The Voice, for instance, Iolanda wasn't able to turn a single chair and left the stage crying.

– I was 19, if I am not mistaken, and I don't know why I went to The Voice thinking it would be my last chance. It was weird because I was just a kid, she recalls.

Iolanda's audition in The Voice Portugal

– I just felt suffocated, and because I saw it as my last chance I sort of built expectations that I'd make it until the next round and, of course, I felt defeated because it didn't happen. But three days after I was ready to try again.

Life moved on and Iolanda kept studying in order to complete her communications degree while working at a restaurant, singing in bars, and writing music up until she decided to move to London:

– That was the turning point when I decided to fully invest in my singing career, she says.

Her fascination with the city was also a plus. Ever since she visited the British capital at the age of 15 she had always imagined how it would be to live there. Once she had completed her degree it was the perfect time to give it a try:

– I moved when I was 24 to study music, but it was just an excuse because once I got there I did so many different things. I improved my English, I got to know the city better, I had new experiences. London is this mixed cultural center that allowed me to step out of my comfort zone.

Being rejected isn't fun, and when you hear a "no" you feel doubt and lost, but I wouldn't change a thing.Iolanda

Were the obstacles worth it, so you can be where you are now?

– I do think so because each of those helped me understand what I really wanted to do and what I didn't want to. It also helped build my identity as a singer and increased my confidence, especially when it comes to my music, she says.

– Obviously being rejected isn't fun, and when you hear a "no" you feel doubt and lost, but I wouldn't change a thing.

Festival da Canção 2024

Against her expectations, RTP invited her to take part in the Festival da Canção. She was more careful with her expectations this time:

– The Festival da Canção is still a TV show, so given my past experiences I did try to live it as lightly as I could but, of course, you see the odds, you see the polls, it's impossible to be completely out of it. I mean, even my mother was checking it, she laughs.

This begs the question: How did they react to her victory?

– They were so happy for me. My mother went crazy and my father was also extremely happy. My grandparents were there too, as well as my sister and Cláudia Pascoal (Portugal 2018), who is a friend of mine. It is so nice to witness people's love towards you and feeling secure amongst them since this is all so overwhelming, she says.

The dancers on stage are meant to represent my feelings, fears and traumasIolanda

Prior to our conversation, the Portuguese singer had confirmed that the Festival da Canção staging would be adapted to Malmö without massive changes. The pictures and videos from her first rehearsal prove it:

– There will be some changes but not many. The staging was already made with the Eurovision possibility in mind. I knew I wasn't going to have a lot of time to prepare a new thing if I won.

Right after she won Portugal's national selection contest, she was at the Portuguese broadcaster (RTP) for a few days in order to respect Eurovision's deadline and send the final product to EBU.

Tell us about the staging.

– I had some initial references. I knew I wanted to wear white, and I knew I didn't want to be alone. I also didn't want to wear high heels, not only because I don't wear those normally but also because it isn't comfortable. I kind of wanted it to represent my day-to-day life and how I am in a concert, she says.

– I also wanted to do something "Beyoncé style" in the sense of incorporating choreography into the song. I obviously can't dance like her, but whenever I perform "Grito" I feel like I am her and no one will tell me otherwise, she laughs.

Portugal 2024: Iolanda – "Grito"

All of that initial input was passed on to the team and that's how the performance came to life.

– We then have the meaning behind it. My dancers have their faces covered. Our goal with it is to hide any human aesthetic as they're meant to represent my feelings, fears and traumas...the different versions of me. In the performance I am trying to let go of all that which I manage in the end with "o grito" (the scream).

Besides wanting to feel like Beyoncé, Iolanda admits that the incorporation of choreography also helps to tell the story of the song to non-Portuguese speakers.


We go on to speak about the song itself. "Grito" wasn't written for Eurovision. The song was born a year-and-a-half ago in a retreat Iolanda took part in, and her plan was to include it in her upcoming album. But once the RTP invitation arrived she changed her mind and prepared the song for the contest.

– I wanted "Grito" to have its moment and there was no better place for it. In a way, it is the culmination of the music I've made because it features a contemporary Portuguese vibe, electronic sounds, and so on.

Iolanda performs "Grito" in Madrid

She goes on to tell the story of the song:

– Back to that retreat, I was very into exploring the sentimental side of my relationships with my family and friends...mostly because I was a bit lost. Ever since I started releasing music, my life changed a bit, she says.

– I started living more for my career and not so much for myself, but the reality is you still have a life. I was, in a way, searching for that flame inside of me and finding out if it was still alive, and I realized it was thanks to all of those people who kept me grounded.

I assume your life changed even more after winning the Festival da Canção...

– My agenda did at 100%. I do have less personal time, but because I know this is a bit temporary I want to soak it all in and live it intensely because it goes by so fast.

Ever since her victory, Iolanda's own show in Lisbon's Capitólio sold out and a second date was announced.

After Eurovision a new single will come, and besides these two important dates she'll tour her country. An album is scheduled to be released, but it may not be this year.

We finish with her goal for Eurovision:

– My goal is obviously to win. It may not be possible, I am aware of the odds, but I want to go as far as possible. The first step is making it into the Finals, she says.

– I know there are other songs that may be easier to get into, but I know Eurovision is more than a catchy song. I am proud to have a song in Portuguese that discusses mental health and the light everyone has inside of themselves.

Are you nervous?

– I'd love to make it into the Finals and to finish in a good place, but it's all about managing expectations. I'll focus on having fun and on spreading my message as far as I can, and hopefully the Portuguese around the world will spread the message and help me.

Iolanda will represent Portugal in Eurovision 2024 with her song "Grito." She will compete in the first Semi-final on 7 May.

About the author: Pedro Santos (Portugal)

authorPedro comes from Lisbon, Portugal. He's 30 years old and graduated in journalism. He has attended Eurovision Song Contest three times live - 2018, 2019 and 2022 - and covered the show twice more (2021, 2023) but his first Eurovision memory takes him back to 2007 when Sarbel delivered his catchy "Yassou Maria" performance. Pedro's favorite Eurovision song is Albania's 2015 "I'm Alive" by Elhaida Dani which is also his favorite Eurovision edition.

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