'I didn’t want to be an inspiration but I guess it needed to happen': Netta Barzilai on being a reluctant role model

Netta Barzilai, the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest winner, didn’t want to be a role model — but thanks to her hit song “Toy,” which references themes such as bullying, the #MeToo movement, and female empowerment, she’s become just that.

“I didn’t want to be an inspiration but I guess it needed to happen. I realized when I won, this is bigger than me and I have to serve the cause,” the singer told BUILD in an interview Monday.

“I know when I was a kid I saw only one color of beauty, I saw only one kind in all the billboards and all magazines and the video clips. One kind and it was so frustrating,” she recalled of growing up looking different, unable to identify with the women in media.

The singer has been very outspoken about her experiences with bullying. When she won the contest,  said, according to CNN, “Thank you for choosing me. Thank you for choosing different. Thank you for choosing daring. I love you, keep that going. Do good to others, be good to yourselves.”

The bullying took a toll on the performer, she admitted. “I believed what people said, that I don’t deserve to be a leader because of the way I look. That I don’t deserve to be popular, that I don’t deserve to be loved. I’m not intelligent.” Barzilai revealed. “If I choose to look like I look, it’s weak. It shows weakness.” Barzilai thinks weakness is where it’s at, however. “And I think vulnerability is power.”

Everything Barzilai says is like an inspirational quote. “I tell the truth, I tell my version of the truth I guess. And that’s why I love “Toy” so much.”

And believe it or not, “Toy” is not about anyone in particular, even though she does seem to call out one “boy,” in her lyrics, “I’m not your toy, you stupid boy.” Barzilai insisted she’s referring to the “world” in the anthem. “It’s not one person,” she said in the interview. It’s really all the haters. “You all think that I should do something, and you all think you know better than me, you know better than anybody else what they should do with their life. But it’s their choice,” she proclaimed. “When I’m saying, I’m not your toy, it’s saying to the world, I’m gonna do what I want to do. That’s it.”

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