Interviewer: Daniel d’Amico
The festival was attended by young artists under the age of 16 who performed popular music to the accompaniment of the all-female Bon Art Pops Orchestra.
We met one of the participants of this musical event, the young Anastasia Valavanidi, a thirteen-year-old participant from Greece, who has already participated in international competitions before this festival and for her victories she was invited to the annual ceremony of the World Association of Festivals (WAF), which will be held in Skopje in January 2024.
Tell me about yourself. Is it the first festival that you have been in?
— No, it’s not the first. I have been to other popular festivals.
When was the last time you were at a festival?
— When was the last time I was at a festival? As a participant, I was in Israel in 2019.
There was another competition in 2020, but it was online, where I won in three categories: vocal, art, and conducting.
If we talk about the last time I sang as a non-participant, it was this year in May.
What event we’re talking about?
— We’re talking about a charity concert during the Festival of Cannes in May 2023. There I performed the song «Vivo per Lei» as a duet, so it was a good experience for me.
How did it go? Did you sing it well?
— Yeah, apparently yes.
Did you have an outfit at the Cannes festival as nice as today’s outfit?
— Yeah, I had two different outfits there. I had a dress by world famous Greek designer Vassilis Zoulias, who sewed the outfits in the Netflix series «Emily in Paris» and the other one was this beautiful dress, it was vintage pink and long from the back and a little bit shorter at the front.
Tell me about your emotions right now after the festival. What do you feel?
— I feel exhausted. But also I feel joy and sadness. Joy because I’m proud of myself, but also sad because I need to leave all my friends that I made at this festival.
Can you tell me what things exactly you’re proud of at the festival?
For example, I know that it was the first time you sang with Orchestra. Is this right?
— Yeah, it’s correct. That’s my first time.
How do you feel singing with the Orchestra? Was it different?
— I would say it’s better because, with the backing track, I don’t like how it sounds. It sounds robotic or something… AI. But when I’m with Orchestra, I can feel the music and just sing.
And also, I can hear myself… I can hear the music better because when it’s with the backing track, I can’t hear it and I’m really confused, so I sing quieter, but here I can sing as loud as I can.
Did you make any friends at the festival? Who was your favorite new friend/participant?
— My first friend, when I first came here and I saw the group, it was Victoria.
The one that sang Creep. That is with blonde hair.
And then it was Malayka, the Italian girl. Then it was Maxim from the Czech Republic. From Slovakia, I’ve met Nikolo and Matej. All the people that were competing against me were my friends.
Is it difficult for you to compete with your friends at the festival like that because there is an atmosphere of friendship between the participants and still you need to compete with each other?
— For me, I felt like it was just singing and not competing against them because I felt like we were all winners.
Tell me about your emotions before going on the stage. For example, while you watched all of your friends performing before you… What did you feel at the moment? Were you scared?
— Of course, yes. I was nervous, my stomach was hurting, and my voice was gone. The other participants were so good. Then, I don’t know why, but it just comes out when I’m on the stage I start singing freely.
Tell me about your feelings on the stage. What did you feel while singing?
— I felt scared a little bit because I was in front of the judges and they were so serious. I was like, oh, did I do something wrong? But then I remembered that I needed to be confident and not be scared, so I just faced them.
Did you remember that during your performance?
— Yeah, I need to be confident and believe in myself. But I forgot that the song was serious and I didn’t need to smile. But because I love singing, I can’t just not smile when I sing.
And how did go your performance today? Was it
the greatest performance of yours or did you make some mistakes? What did you think about it?
— Well, I think you pretty much know the mistake that I made. I think everything was going well, everything was correct. But then, in the end, I forgot to take a… okay, let me just explain how it works, so how I sing.
You need to take a deep breath and when you sing you need to press here… (she pointed to the diaphragm), and then it just comes out and you cannot just sing with your mouth closed, you need to be free and I forgot to take a deep breath because I have really high notes and they’re long so… I made a little mistake there.
And of course, when you’re nervous it affects your performance too.
What do you like the most about being on the stage and singing?
— I like participating in festivals and competitions. Because, first of all, it’s fun. Second of all, I meet new people and they know now that I sing and I exist.
Also, I like being on the stage and singing, because that’s how I express my feelings. It was my dream to sing. I’m just obsessed with singing, listening to music, or anything related to music.
What’s your biggest dream?
— To be the richest person in the world.
And in terms of singing?
— I wish every time I practice singing I will become better and better and achieve my dream of making my own music. And people around the world would know me.
My dream is to become a multifunctional, versatile person.
Multifunctional person? I know what it means but I don’t really understand how it connects.
— A multifunctional, versatile person is a person who is related to artistic stuff, like singing. I will be also doing acting, I will be also playing the piano, I will be also drawing.
Do you want to become famous?
— Of course.
There are some negative things about being famous, but it’s still not enough to not become.
Did you like Prague?
— Yes, I like Prague, it’s really unique because in Greece, where I live specifically, there’s not so much like those architectural and Historical buildings and it’s giving this fairy tale atmosphere from the movie that was made here called «Tři oříšky pro Popelku» (три орешка для золушки).
And it’s not cold, it’s really hot in Greece.
Did you like the audience of the Czech Republic? The people in the theatre, they all watching you singing.
— They’re pretty much the same as the other people that I’ve met, in a good way of course. They were supportive and warm.
So, I pretty much like them because they applaud when I sing.
Have you spoken with some of the jury members after or before your performance?
— Yes, I’ve spoken to the artistic director, I think. His name was Richard Liegert. He congratulated me and wished me luck. Also, he was teaching me the Czech language.
And do you know some words in Czech now?
— Yeah, I know how to say you’re pretty. And good.
And how would you say that?
— Jsi krásná is for girls, Jsi krásný I think it’s for boys, I don’t remember.
Would you like to participate in another festival like that in the future? Do you like to perform and compete?
— Yes, I do.
Who made your dress? You were dressing in some white outfit and how the idea did come to you?
— Okay, I looked like a businesswoman. Because I go to YouTube and I just watch some fashion shows.
And it was just a few weeks before the competition, I was scrolling down and watching some designer clothes and I was like, oh, this one is pretty nice.
And my mom recommended the tie. It was actually a suit. But then my mom proposed to me to make it a dress. We had a family friend helping us with the dress. She’s a designer. And then we added some details and it came out like this.
And because it was for the song «Shallow», I was looking for a white and black style to fit the song.
You said you like watching fashion shows. Have you ever participated before in model shows?
— Oh Yeah, It was when I went to Israel in the contest that I mentioned before. They gave me a crown and called me «Miss Mediterranean Sea in 2019».
I also participated in Crete for modeling and singing and I won first place in both.
How did you know about this competition?
— Our best helper: social media, Instagram.
My mom was scrolling down like famous kids and she found this festival.
So I was like, yeah, I would love to participate because I’m so tired with studies and I just want to relax and sing.
And basically, that’s how I came here.
You performed a song called «Shallow». Why did you choose that song and what do you feel while you sing this song?
— Because I listen to songs by Lady Gaga, only one to be honest.
It was more comfortable for me to perform «Shallow» because it’s the lyrics I knew and I just needed to work with the high notes.
But since I’m a quick learner, I learned it in a week.
Who is your favorite artist?
— Okay, I have many.
I like Adele, Lana Del Ray, The Weeknd, and kind of Ariana Grande.
We wish Anastasia success and creative realization in the international arena. Also, taking into account how well the Bon Art Junior Fest went, we’re sure that a bright future awaits this event and we will most likely return to Prague many times in the coming years.