To re-watch Korean-born Australian musician Dami Im perform at the 2016 Eurovision contest in Stockholm is somewhat surreal with a 2021 lens. For starters, there’s the 16,000 people packed inside the Ericsson Globe stadium in the Swedish capital – the sheer number of sweaty bodies standing shoulder-to-shoulder is almost unquantifiable to the post-pandemic viewer.
As Im belts out her megatrack “Sound Of Silence” with that near-disqualifiable lyric “trying to feel your love through face time” – a notion felt by many across the world these past 12 months – it’s the flags that take stage next to Im’s shiny cheekbones and blunt cut fringe. Bulgaria, Canada, Armenia, Croatia, Canada, France, Italy, Australia, the UK, Sweden… the list goes on. For the duration of the track, Im captures not only Australians cheering her on from home – but the world – simultaneously placing our great land on the Eurovision map as a serious front-runner. Looking back from a now-divided globe, the power the young musician held over the unification of people for three minutes and 22 seconds is a testament to her incredible stage presence and lilt.
“During those first few notes, I had to make eye contact with the camera, and it felt like I was looking at the all the people in Australia,” Im tells GRAZIA. “The weight of the nation was on me and I just wanted to show them, ‘I got this.’”
Im placed second – the highest Eurovision score of any Australian to ever compete.
Leading hair care brand Moroccanoil is the official sponsor of the 2021 Eurovision song contest which will be held in Rotterdam on May 18. The brand’s team of world-class professional hairstylists will travel to the Netherlands to lend expert hair care and innovative styling tips to participating artists at the dress rehearsals and the live television shows.
Ahead of the contest, we have enlisted one of Moroccanoil’s hairstylists Liz Tieu to style and prep three looks on Im as she speaks to GRAZIA about her Eurovision experience; the preparation, the pressure, her advice for this year’s contestant Montaigne, and what lays ahead for the superstar.
GRAZIA: Did you enjoy your shoot today?
DAMI IM: I love playing around with my hair. Naturally my hair is more straight and sleek, and I do enjoy wearing it like that, but it’s fun to change it up. When there’s a lot of volume in my hair, it just gives me this extra confidence. It makes me feel like another person. It boosts some different character inside of me!
GRAZIA: What feelings are conjured up when you watch footage of yourself performing at Eurovision?
DAMI IM: I honestly feel so proud of myself and the performance because I remember that there was so much pressure. It was such a huge opportunity. I was representing Australia, and I knew it was a game changer for my career. I didn’t want to leave anything behind and I wanted to do my absolute best, no mistakes whatsoever. There were so many people involved and helping and I’m really grateful. But also, nobody knows exactly the experiences I went through to get there. I think it’s really nice that I can just be like, ‘yeah, you did well’. I can sort of congratulate myself.
GRAZIA: When you think back to the first notes, were you nervous? How do you keep the nerves at bay beforehand?
DAMI IM: I knew that I had to practise so much for Eurovision that I was operating on autopilot. I really had to hype myself up and work on feeling my best before I even began the first notes. I made sure I got enough sleep, even though it was hard for me to sleep with all the adrenaline and rehearsals. It was really hard to do all the right things in order to give a perfect performance.
I imagine the experience is similar to that of an athlete competing at the Olympics.
GRAZIA: What was the preparation like?
DAMI IM: It was very intense. It was months of preparing in Australia and then I travelled to Stockholm two weeks before the contest. Everyday there was a rehearsal or a media thing. There were honestly a million rehearsals just like the performance, and with the audience and everything! Every rehearsal was important because it was being watched and it influenced the points and votes as well. It was physically gruelling and very intense.
LIZ TIEU’S NOTES ON LOOK 1:
THE SOFT CURLS
Quickly dry the hair with the Moroccanoil 55mm Ceramic Barrel Brush. I’ve finished by tonging Dami’s hair all the way from root to ends.
Next, I brushed the curl out with a wide tooth-comb, and added in texture by spraying Moroccanoil Dry Shampoo in Dark on the roots (yes I know, dry shampoo on clean hair gives it a second hair day’s feel, but that’s the goal here!). Then I added the Moroccanoil Dry Texture Spray everywhere, and I mean everywhere because why not, it smells so good!
Finally, I used the Moroccanoil Smoothing Lotion, working it in my palm and massaged it through the ends to give that piece-y, not-a-care-in-the-world look!
GRAZIA: Do you have any advice for the young hopefuls competing this year?
DAMI IM: I think it’s important to know your limits and your strengths really well and try to maximise and emphasise them. I feel like I’ve seen younger, more inexperienced people going in and not knowing how to look after themselves and losing focus. For something like that, you do need a lot of self-control and strategy. I feel like if you just went there like, ‘eh, whatever’ it could go really wrong and that would be hard.
GRAZIA: One of the most beautiful parts to you is when you win big, you always seem so humbled and shocked. Do you remember how you felt when you placed second at Eurovision in 2016?
DAMI IM: It was a big shock for everyone, I think. The whole of the Australian delegation were standing together. We didn’t really know where we were going to finish until that night. There was this buzz about, ‘Oh my gosh Australia’s going to finish in the top somewhere. Top five, top three’. We were like, ‘Oh wow, really?’ So we just kept climbing up until that point.
When the results came in, it was just exciting and unbelievable. It was better than I imagined it.
GRAZIA: Your single “Alive” is about not waiting for a second chance and grasping the opportunities in front of you. You were saying that when you were really young you weren’t as comfortable doing this. Do you feel like you’ve really grasped things now?
DAMI IM: It’s funny because “Alive” was my very first single I got to release after winning X Factor. It was my first song to go number one platinum. It was really amazing but at the time I didn’t really love the song. It was like an arranged marriage; it was just given to me. But I still sing it at my shows because it is really positive and it allows me to speak to myself and say nice words. It feels really encouraging. I think it’s really fitting. Whatever song a singer gets to sing, people say it becomes a prophecy – and it’s nice to have a positive message.
GRAZIA: Tell me about your latest single “Lonely Cactus”. I feel like it’s very relevant to these times in isolation.
DAMI IM: When we were all at home last year, I became obsessed with cacti. I received a cactus as a gift, Mr Pickles I called him. I was staring at Mr Pickles and was like, ‘I want to write a song with the word cactus in it, I just want to do it, I want that to be my single’. I didn’t know if it was going to work. So I started writing and I finished it with my co-writers over Zoom. I felt like I was lonely and craving connection and relationships and more friendships, but then at the same time when I got to see my friends or hang out with someone, I felt prickly, and I felt like I just wanted to be alone.
We need human connection. We’re wired to have communities and it’s good for us, but that doesn’t mean it’s comfortable.
For me, it’s been so comfortable not having to deal with that. I ended up changing the lyrics from I’m a lonely cactus to you’re a lonely cactus and I describe people in my life who are real prickly like, ‘Oh we never catch up’ and then when you’re like, ‘Are you free?’ they’re like, ‘Oh I’m busy’. I didn’t want to be that person, so I made it out to be about another person!
LIZ TIEU’S NOTES ON LOOK 2:
TIPS: Moroccanoil’s new All In One Leave-In-Conditioner can be used for so many purposes. One of them is to restyle and refresh a style (like waking up with yesterday’s curls). All you have to do is lightly spray it all over and you can get your brush in there to create a whole new style!
HOW TO: I sprayed the All In One Leave-In-Conditioner all over Dami’s hair and brush out all the curls, leaving some movements in there (don’t over brush)
Apply the Moroccanoil Original Treatment to the mid length and ends, followed by blow drying the hair into the desired shape using mini hair clips to keep hair in place before I spray the Moroccanoil Luminous Hairspray in Strong to set the look.
Reapply the Moroccanoil Original Treatment on the ends for healthy, smooth finish.
GRAZIA: When you look back at your audition or time on X Factor Australia, how confident were you as a 24-year-old woman?
DAMI IM: Musically I was pretty confident. But in terms of just getting into society and making something of my music, that part was where I felt really nervous. I was really scared of the unknown. I think I’m still a little bit like that. Naturally, I like being in my cocoon knowing that it’s safe and I don’t want to hear anything else, I just want to protect my mental comfort zone. I think I’m still really like that and when there’s new information coming or a new challenge coming on, a big part of me is so terrified that I don’t even want to know about it. But at the same time, I know I need to do it. My first instinct is to avoid the challenge, but then a better part of me is like, ‘You should do it, just jump into it anyway’.
GRAZIA: Tell me about your song, “Paper Dragon”. Is it about resilience?
DAMI IM: It is. It’s really about telling people who doubt you that ‘I’m a dragon and I’ve got this fire inside of me’. I’ve felt that way throughout my career. Even since X Factor and Eurovision there have always been people who think that I’m tiny, that I’m a little girl who just smiles and nods and has no say in anything and has no opinions. Sometimes I make myself feel like that and I go, ‘No I actually have this fire and this dragon inside of me’.
Eurovision was a milestone not only for my career but for myself, to realise that I actually do have something burning inside of me. “Paper Dragon” is basically reinforcing that.
GRAZIA: What do you love most about the piano and what got you interested in learning to play?
DAMI IM: My mum tells me that when I was a toddler I liked sitting at the piano. She was a classically-trained opera singer, so she saw me as a kid pretending to play the piano and she was like, ‘Ok, let’s get lessons’. But everyone got lessons back then in Korea. All the kids, it was like a trend, all my friends played piano. Then when I came to Australia and I was sent to a really small school where there was only one class per year level. I was the best piano player in the whole school including all of the high school kids. For me, that was my moment to shine and it became my thing and my identity.
While I couldn’t speak English or was nervous about everything else, I felt very confident with the piano, and I liked the attention and being able to show off with something I was good at and something that I knew.
LIZ TIEU’S NOTES ON LOOK 3:
CURLS GET THE… VOTES
HOW TO: I began by spraying the Moroccanoil Protect and Prevent Spray all over Dami’s hair before curling all her hair with small curling tongs.
Once the curls cool down and set, I warm up the Moroccanoil Texture Clay with my fingers and massage it through her hair. The Moroccanoil Texture Clay makes the root area gritty, and I used this base to create amazing, long lasting volume.
After I dressed Dami’s curls out, I used the Moroccanoil Intense Curl Cream to give the ends a more polished look, but not too much so that it looks weighed down.
I finished by using the Moroccanoil Dry Texture Spray throughout this look instead of hairspray so I can keep moving and changing the hair.
GRAZIA: What did you find most challenging part about being in lockdown?
DAMI IM: I was in Queensland, so it was pretty good. But it was hard because it did cancel all of my plans. I did have a big two-year plan for Eurovision and international tours so that was heartbreaking. And just trying to let go of the past plans and rebuild from what felt like scratch. Restarting was a bit hard and it gave me so much time and space to really think about what I wanted to do, how I wanted to write my songs, and think about really important and deep questions.
GRAZIA: The sixth studio album. When might it be released and what can the Dami Army expect?
DAMI IM: It’ll come out this year. It will be the most authentic album that I’ve made so far. Sonically, musically, and thematically, it will reflect who I am and what I believe in. I want the sound to be exactly how I want it to be and what I want to listen to. In the past, there was a lot of outside influence; different people and labels pressuring me into certain directions. But with this album I feel a lot more in control. To me that’s exciting and freeing.
To be continued…
Fashion Direction: Kim Payne
Videography: Harry Glassborow
Hair: Liz Tieu
Makeup: Nicola Burford
FASHION, IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE:
Look 1: SHRIMPS FAUX FUR JACKET, THE OUTNET, SHOP SIMILAR. SHIRT, SHOP NOW, JEANS, SHOP NOW, SANDRO.
LOOK 2: DRIES VAN NOTEN SILK TOP, NET-A-PORTER, SHOP SIMILAR
LOOK 3: WHITE HOODIE, SHOP NOW, WHITE SKIRT, SHOP NOW, PRADA SS21
LOOK 4: JUMPSUIT, MAGALI PASCAL, SHOP NOW