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Moroccan-Swedish Eurovision Winner Loreen on Harnessing the Power of Her Arab Heritage

Mesmerizing energy and a voice that transports – history-making Moroccan-Swedish Eurovision winner Loreen is harnessing the power of her Arab heritage, one note at a time.

Photo: Simonas Berukstis

With transformative energy and verve on stage, in May the vocalist, dancer, and all-around force of nature Loreen became the first female artist to ever win Eurovision twice. It’s an honor the Moroccan-Swedish artist carries within her with both humility and power.

Loreen won the 2023 Eurovision contest with her song Tattoo

Before her winning performance, she was seen alone in her room, meditating. In her ears, Moroccan DJ Mister ID took her into a trance. Loreen is known for having a powerful and distinctive voice. Her vocal style is often described as soulful, emotive, and dynamic. She has a wide range and can hit both high and low notes with ease. Her voice is characterized by its richness, clarity, and controlled vibrato. “When I create, I am so focused on the performance, my only space is there. I blocked out the whole competition,” says the 39-year-old artist. “I didn’t want to have any ego. The moment there is ego and pressure, it kills the realness of the performance. I think it is a very healthy and spiritual way to do things. You can tell when I won, I was very surprised. I was at a level of spirituality that makes winning or losing not important to me. What matters is connecting with people, creating something.”

In 2012, she won the contest in Baku with Euphoria

For Loreen, there is no in-between: it’s either everything or nothing. Upon deciding to compete in Eurovision for the second time, the artist completely changed her life in terms of diet and exercise, aware that she needed to be in the best physical shape. “The training that I did these last months, I would never do again!” laughs the singer, hinting at her grueling regime while adding that she was in total control.

The artist carefully oversees her stage outfits, with a style that’s unique and avant-garde

The artist carefully oversees her stage outfits, too, with a style that’s unique and avant-garde. Her fashion choices often reflect a combination of edgy, futuristic, and artistic elements. Designs featuring asymmetrical cuts, intricate draping, and unconventional materials make appearances, along with a mix of textures combining leather, sheer fabrics, and metallic accents. Her stage outfits often have a futuristic or high-fashion aesthetic, with sharp lines and exaggerated silhouettes. Bold eye makeup is embraced, full of smoky or intense colors, such as dark shades of black, brown, or metallics. Her eyes are accentuated with thick eyeliner, defined brows, and sometimes even avant-garde geometric or graphic designs; her famous nails are encrusted with stones while her hands are decorated with henna.

Loreen was raised by her mom in a big family with six siblings. Photo: Simonas Berukstis

Loreen shares that her strength lies in her heritage and her roots. Born Lorine Zineb Nora Talhaoui in Stockholm, to first-generation Moroccan migrant parents, origins are everything to her. “People are longing for heritage, for roots. If I send a little bit of that root energy, that knowledge, it’s precious. Before, our people were ashamed. Why feel shame? What we have is beautiful. We must be proud,” affirms the singer. She explains that she “always felt different” but managed to transform these feelings “into a superpower.” “Because I am different. I must be more convincing; I must work harder. It’s true, things have changed but sometimes being a woman and a leader of your project – it’s still a very male-dominated industry – I can feel that I have to put more energy into it. It’s necessary for us to take this energy and make the change so that it’s better for our children. You must fight for your vision, as a woman, and as a Moroccan.”

Dress, Carolina Herrera; shoes, Nina Ricci. Photo: Simonas Berukstis

At the start of her career, Loreen did not consider her differences or the power of her heritage. “My roots were calling for me,” confesses the singer. Raised by a single mom in a religious home, the two women often talked about God, as well as the purpose and tests of life. As a child, Loreen was shy and far from the image of the superstar she is today. She used to hide in her room, singing to herself. “I didn’t think I would become an artist. I was raised by my mom in a big family with six siblings. It was a very busy house. My own space was important for me. I didn’t want to become an artist because that meant sharing with people. I wanted this for myself. I was already sharing too much. I was 18 when I decided it was what I wanted to do, but I wasn’t ready, I needed to practice, and I was so shy. It was a painful process but step by step, with work, I reached something. It took a lifetime maybe.” Loreen is the first to acknowledge that when life puts her in uncomfortable situations, she has had to adapt. When she first auditioned for Swedish Idol in 2004, she didn’t know that her inexperience would serve as one of her most painful and important life lessons. The singer and songwriter remembers not knowing how a microphone worked. “Once I decided that I would learn everything, ‘school’ started,” she affirms. Achieving success, her debut album Heal, released in 2012, reached high chart positions in several countries. It was certified platinum in Sweden, with sales of over 40 000 records.

Shirt, skirt, earrings, necklace, rings, Dior; shoes, Jimmy Choo. Photo: Simonas Berukstis

The young Loreen remembers listening to all genres of music. One of her most special memories as a child is her mother playing songs at home. “Music at home was a mishmash of everything but my mother listened to a lot of Arabic songs. She loved music very, very much; she used to turn the volume up while cleaning and – let’s go! One artist she would play all the time was Warda. We had very little money and we couldn’t buy the albums we wanted. There was a lot of Whitney Houston, Enya… That’s how I learned music; I used to listen and then do the same. I never went to school to learn music,” she says.

Top, skirt, heels, Nina Ricci. Photo: Simonas Berukstis

To Loreen, song is an intuitive process. For both the Euphoria and Tattoo singles, everything started from a demo. “When you put your energy there, the song becomes something else. When I go to the studio, I say to my people, ‘Don’t give me any advice; don’t tell me what to do.’ I don’t know what I am going to do but I know it’s already in me. They put the song on and all the things that come naturally are the most welcomed. There is no judgment. I sing the song from the beginning to the end and all the changes come naturally. And it’s a lot of heritage coming through here.” The songwriter’s music covers a range of topics, often exploring personal and emotional themes such as empowerment, strength, love, relationships, self-reflection, and identity. The tunes can be classified as pop, but incorporate elements of various genres, including electronic, dance, and alternative pop. Her sound is characterized by a combination of powerful vocals, catchy melodies, and electronic production. She is famous for pushing boundaries and incorporating diverse influences into her music, resulting in a genre-bending approach that sets her apart as an artist.

Cape, dress, Sara Chraibi; earrings, Saad Collection. Photo: Simonas Berukstis

Even with her recent success, Loreen believes that she still has much to learn. “However, I can say that the space that I’m in right now is much closer to what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be,” she comments. To her, people are creators, and everyone can make something. This is the mindset she carries to navigate through the music industry. “I believe that if you want real success today, you must be authentic. You can’t be a product of somebody else. If you look at the most successful artists we have now, they’re very authentic in their creativity.”

Dress, Balenciaga; earrings, rings, vintage Cartier at Susannah Lovis. Photo: Simonas Berukstis

Loreen confesses that she didn’t always think this way. “I used to believe I had to be with certain people who didn’t have the same energy. It was painful because I started to do things I was not proud of.” One day, she decided to find “her people. I said, ‘Allah will send me my people even in the industry. And it happened. So, it takes a lot of work. You should never compromise.” She says she understands how the industry works and respects it. Fame is about sending a message and connecting with others. “This was my foundation. When I knew I was an engaged artist, each time I had to compromise, I felt a physical pain in my body. That’s how connected I am with whatever I am doing. I need to have a purpose, otherwise I am confused. I started to respect what I was feeling and listened to myself and to my body,” she shares. “If I wasn’t doing music, I would probably be working in something that has to do with spirituality, as a personal development coach or a philosopher. I like to discuss huge questions as to why we’re here. I am a people person. I like to be helped, and I like to help.”

Top, skirt, heels, Nina Ricci. Photo: Simonas Berukstis

Originally published in the July/August 2023 issue of Vogue Arabia

Bralette, dress, gloves, Moschino. Photo: Simonas Berukstis

 

Style: Natalie Westernoff
Hair: Dora Roberti
Makeup: Andrew Gallimore
Nails: Nichole Williams
Photography assistant: Sophia Webster
First assistant: Azazel
Second assistant: Ady Huq
Producer: Rokas Kam
Studio: Sibling Studio
Loreen’s agent: Alex at Efent 

Read Next: 7 Emerging Creatives from the Arab World to Have on Your Radar

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