On Saturday, Spain crowed its Benidorm Fest champion: 31-year-old stunner Chanel! A relative unknown, at least in the Spanish music scene, Chanel came into the contest as a bit of an underdog. That quickly changed after her semi-final performance of “Slo Mo”. Eurovision fans celebrated Chanel‘s vocal chops and choreography skills, and she quickly rose to the top of the betting odds.
So where did this acrobatic fresh face come from? Let’s find out:
She’s a Dancer, but You Knew that Already.
Born in Havana, Cuba, Chanel and her mother relocated to Barcelona when Chanel was just 3 years old, after her mother began a relationship with a man in Spain. Growing up surrounded by artists, her love of dance and performance was there from the very start.
“I remember that at home, when family and friends came to visit, my mother would place chairs in the dining room, arranged as if they were a small theater, and then I would sing, dance, act,” she said in a 2019 interview. “Let’s say that it is part of my DNA.”
Starting at age 7, Chanel studied at The Royal Academy of Dance, where she learned to dance, tap, and act from a number of renowned performers and coaches. By age 16, she had developed a love for musical theater, and decided to pursue it as a career, landing an agent shortly thereafter.
In 2010, she was a backing dancer for Shakira’s performance of “Waka Waka” at the European Music Awards. (Watch here.) In 2014, during Ruth Lorenzo‘s acrobatic appearance on the talk show Los viernes al show, Chanel danced right alongside the Spanish Eurovision legend. (Watch here.)
For many years, she performed as part of the in-house dance team for the let’s say … culturally misguided Spanish celebrity singing show Tu cara me suena, though something good did come out of it. In 2017, fellow in-house dancer Fran Coem directed a music video for a Spanish translation of “Another Day of Sun”, the best song (don’t @ me) from the 2016 movie La La Land. Shot in the busy streets of Madrid, the video allowed Chanel and Fran to show off their song and dance bonafides.
She’s a Star of Stage …
Chanel‘s first professional gig came in 2010, when she joined the ensemble of the Spanish “Mamma Mia!” tour. She would go on to star in numerous Spanish productions of internationally-known musicals like “The Lion King” and “Nine”, as well as children’s musical adaptations of “The Ugly Duckling” and “Hercules”.
In 2019, she landed her first leading role in a musical, touring the country in the musical adaptation of the 1983 movie Flashdance. Readers familiar with the movie (or even with Raylee’s tribute to it at Melodi Gran Prix 2021) will be aware of how much Chanel‘s dance training came in handy.
“I work hard,” she said in an interview at the time. “I give [of] myself a lot, and I wanted this role. I wanted to be in this musical, I am very constant in my work because I like what I do, and I am always training and developing myself.”
You can watch a highlight reel of the production below:
Weeks after finishing her fun in “Flashdance”, Chanel hit the road again as the lead of a touring production of “The Bodyguard”, a musical adaptation of the 1992 Whitney Houston film of the same name. That meant, with very little time in between, she had to prepare to sing some of Whitney Houston’s most iconic songs on a nightly basis.
You can watch Chanel‘s promo performance of “Queen of the Night” (which seems like it could have inspired parts of her “Slo Mo” staging) on a Spanish talk show below:
Keen eyes might take note of the date of the above appearance: February 22, 2020. Not long after, the tour was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Chanel has still been active in the theater scene over the last year and change. In December, she was one of the featured stars of “Fiebre Hamilton”, a tribute to the music songbook of Lin-Manuel Miranda. She has also been involved in the development of a high-profile Spanish musical, “Malinche”, scheduled to premiere in Madrid in September. The development process of the production is captured in a recent Netflix documentary titled Making Malniche, and an official music video, featuring Chanel front and center, was released in December.
… and Screen …
Chanel‘s first on-screen acting gig came in 2011, when she played the kidnapped daughter of an indigenous American chieftain in a (bleak) episode of the swashbuckling, 17th century-set series Águila Roja. The role required her to ride a horse and hurl spears at actors playing conquistadors and Spanish nobles.
After a couple of TV guest spots and an uncredited role in what appears to be Spain’s answer to the American Pie franchise, Chanel‘s first major film role came in 2015, with a key supporting turn in El rey de la Habana. The movie, a sexually provocative look at life in Cuba in the ’90s, was highly acclaimed, receiving several nominations and wins from Spanish film bodies.
She has been acting on-camera, mostly on television, ever since, booking series regular gigs on Spanish sitcoms like I, Family and Gym Tony.
Her acting career took a more dramatic turn in 2017 when she began appearing in Spain’s greatest cultural export: telenovelas. She guest starred on 11 episodes of the series El secreto de Puente Viejo, playing a temptress out to seduce her friend’s husband. (Below, see Chanel practicing the world’s greatest art form: telenovela ACTING.)
She has starred in numerous other television shows, but there’s one in particular worth getting into. In 2018, she starred in the YA webseries Cupido, about a group of hot brothers who just so happen to be cupids. Chanel played their mother, Venus, the literal goddess of love (see left).
Despite all of her on-camera experience, there’s one acting dream Chanel has yet accomplish.
“I keep thinking that the day will come when [Pedro Almodóvar] calls me to give me a role, I believe it, and I will always attend a call from him or a test from him,” she said in a 2019 interview. I am convinced that day will come.”
Hit our girl up, Pedro!
… and A cappella?
Though considered a newcomer to the Spanish music scene, Chanel has actually won a televised singing competition before. Sort of.
In 2016, she was a behind-the-scenes collaborator with SuperVoices, an a capella singing group made up primarily of musical theater performers. The band competed on Spain’s Got Talent and eventually won the show Acapela, facing off against seven other Spanish a cappella groups for bragging rights and a record contract. After SuperVoices’ victory, Chanel (or, as she was known in the group, ‘Cocó’) became more involved as a publicly front-facing member. See if you can spot her in SuperVoices’ uploaded cover of the 2015 Eurovision winning anthem, “Heroes”. (Hint: She’s the girl on the right wearing a head band.)
SuperVoices’ self-titled album was released shortly after their victory in 2016. You can watch the music video for the band’s lead single, “Eloise”, here.
She’s a Trendsetter. Literally.
Three days ago, Chanel put out a TikTok video, challenging fans to put their own spin on a specific, 15-second-long section of “Slo Mo”. Then one of her dancers did it. Then another. Then her choreographer, Kyle Hanagami. Then a South Korean pop star and dance influencer with over three million followers:
Wanna see a guy make his pecs dance to “Slo Mo”? Check. You wanna see a Barbie do it in stop motion? Check. Fancy some pole dancing? TikTok has you covered. You want to see a male presenting TikToker do a drag transformation in the middle of the clip? How about three of them? Whoops, I missed one.
A person could spend hours browsing TikTokers taking on the #SloMoChallenge, not that I’m speaking from experience… Perhaps less accessible than the “Think About Things”-memefication of 2020, the #SloMoChallenge still shows signs of potential virality, which can only help Chanel‘s chances in Turin.
If someone’s amazing, rockin’ granny can get into “Slo Mo”, perhaps the rest of Europe can, too:
Were #YOU rooting for Chanel to win at Benidorm? Do #YOU have high hopes for her at Eurovision? How much did #YOU love watching that clip of her on a telenovela? Telenovela acting is the best. (Imagine if Chanel was on ‘Rebelde’ back in the day …) Sound off in the comments below, in our forum, or on social media @ESCUnited.
P.S. There wasn’t great place to put this spread Chanel did for the magazine Runner’s World in 2012. So, if you made it this far, here she is teaching you how to stretch: