Joan Franka, the Netherlands’ representative of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest in Baku, has recently opened up about her horrible experiences leading up and at the year’s competition in the Dutch TV show Better Than Ever.
In Better Than Ever, Dutch TV presenter Martijn Krabbè and Eurovision alum Waylon (The Common Linnets, 2014) welcome back former talent show stars who have disappeared from the limelight after their participation to discuss their experiences and what they’re up to now and to breathe new life into their careers.
Dutch-Turkish singer Joan Franka originally rose to fame thanks to her participation in the first ever season of The Voice and later also for winning the Nationaal Songfestival, being the last Dutch entry ever to be picked through a national final.
In an emotional episode of Better Than Ever, Joan Franka opens up about her experience at The Voice and how it all turned sour fairly soon afterwards.
After her participation in The Voice, Joan had written You and Me with producers she had worked with on the show. After that, her manager had signed her up for the Nationaal Songfestival, the Dutch national final, without her knowledge. The lineup of the national final consisted of only other The Voice candidates. Soon Joan reached her first breaking point which led her to develop an eating disorder. Her manager said to her, pointing at the other women competing, “Look at yourself, you can’t present yourself like this. You need to lose weight. Look beside you, all these slim girls, don’t you want to be like them?”.
Despite coming in tenth with the televote, Joan Franka was painfully aware of the fact her Eurovision performance in Baku that year wasn’t what she needed and wanted to deliver. “A lot had happened leading up to that point, which is why it didn’t go as planned.”
Joan was in Baku for two weeks for the contest, but her team didn’t allow her family to come with her. The team kept denying her to see her sister and mom, without providing her with any reason why they weren’t allowed to join in. All the while, Joan was told she could bring a stylist, a hair stylist, a make-up artist and even a nail stylist, just not her family.
She also mentioned she was completely over having to wear the controversial native American headpiece, but was nonetheless forced to wear it for her performance. Being insecure at the time and only being in her early twenties, she felt like there was no room at all for her to say no to what her team wanted her to do.
Eventually, her sister and mother came to Baku in the second week, but Franka was barely able to see them due to all the obligations that come with the contest. She described her time there as very lonely. In the end, Joan was alone with her manager backstage before her performance. Her manager grabbed her by the hand at that point and said, “It’s you and me, we did this together.” This comment made her wake up from the nightmare she was living. “I thought to myself, I don’t even want this. I don’t want to be here, with you. I want to be here with my mom and sister. That’s the moment I thought, who am I? Where am I? What am I doing?”
After her less-than-perfect performance, she walked into her dressing room to only see her manager there, who told her: “You ruined everything, Joan. Everything is ruined.” She was left to her own devices and felt horrible and alone. When she got to her hotel room, she cried and threw up from exhaustion. She tried reaching everyone on her team but no one wanted to pick up.
Once Joan Franka returned from Eurovision, she no longer wanted to work with the team. She was however stuck in the contract with her team, who had no interest to put any effort into Joan Franka’s career anymore. After two years and with many people helping her, she eventually was able to buy out her contract for almost 30.000 euro.
At the time, the Netherlands was going through a ten-year non-qualification streak and Eurovision had a bad rep, being considered by many to be a “career killer”. Her performance at Eurovision in Baku had left Joan Franka’s name ‘tainted’ which caused her to miss out on many bookings. She eventually changed her stage name to Luba the Baroness and continued to make new music under this name. Now, eleven years later, she has decided to change her name back to Joan Franka and to finally open up about her experience at Eurovision to clear her name.
Joan Franka represented The Netherlands in 2012 at the Eurovision Song Contest in Baku with the song You and Me. She ended up 15th in the second semi-final.
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