One of Diljá’s favourite Eurovision Song Contest performances ever is fellow-Icelander Yohanna’s song, Is It True, from 2009. Yohanna’s performance, the furthest Iceland has ever made it in Eurovision alongside Selma’s 1999 performance, is still a major moment for Diljá. “I thought it was just so catchy,” Diljá says. “She was so pretty and she was wearing this blue dress with a blue dolphin in the background. I just loved the song and she sang so beautifully.” Ever since, Diljá’s dreamt of representing Iceland in the contest. This May, that dream is coming true as Iceland will be represented in the 67th annual Eurovision Song Contest by Diljá performing her energetic ballad, aptly named Power (co-written by Pálmi Ragnar Ásgeirsson).
Since those early days of watching Yohanna perform, Diljá has already participated in several major song competitions, including Ísland Got Talent and Idol in Sweden. “It was fun and I’m really happy that I did it, but it really didn’t go anywhere,” she says about her time in Sweden. “But I think I overdosed on anxiety in Sweden because I haven’t felt any since then!”
For someone who’s spent most of her life performing, Diljá has had her share of struggles with anxiety. “I always had huge anxiety problems related to school and competing in singing,” she explains. “I couldn’t handle taking tests. And it was the same with performing. I got so anxious. But I did it because I knew I have to be able to do something like this.” It may not come as a surprise, then, that Diljá’s Eurovision song concerns overcoming feelings like these. “You hold no p-p-p-power over me,” she belts in the chorus.
“I think before Idol I took everything a little too seriously,” Diljá says. “Like, I thought it was going to be the end of the world if I missed a single note! If I did something embarrassing, I thought it was just going to end me. But after Idol, it wouldn’t have mattered at all. It’s just supposed to be fun!”
These days, instead of worrying about her performance, Diljá likes to have some healthy rituals before she goes on stage. A former physiotherapy student at the University of Iceland and a self-professed crossfit addict, health is the guiding light in her life. Before singing, she likes to do some push-ups and stretches to warm up. As she puts it: “I’ve got an athlete’s mindset.” Viewers of this year’s song competition even got to see Diljá do some callisthenics on-air, and her stage presence is nothing if not athletic.
Diljá also says there are big things in store for her at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, which will be held in Liverpool. According to her, the expectations have gotten a lot higher since she watched Yohanna perform many years ago. In March, fans of Eurovision in Iceland tuned in to watch Söngvakeppnin, Iceland’s competition to select its Eurovision representative. It’s a sizeable TV event but decidedly more humble than in, say, Sweden.
“There’s such a huge gap,” Diljá says. “Some countries’ selection contests are almost as big as Eurovision itself, like Melody Festival in Sweden. Söngvakeppnin is always getting better and better, but still, some countries have a big advantage.” Icelanders should, however, rest assured. The details of Diljá’s Liverpool performance are still under wraps, but as she says, “We’ll all be on the same field once we’re in Liverpool. We’re going to use the opportunity to make the performance a lot bigger than we ever could in Iceland.”
Although Diljá’s got big plans for Liverpool, there’s a part of her that will miss experiencing Eurovision at home in Iceland. “I always watch it with my family,” Diljá tells me. “It’s a sacred holiday for me and my mom.” And Diljá is quite dedicated to this family tradition. “Two years ago, I was acting in a play, but it was going to be performed during Eurovision. And I just said, I’m sorry, I can’t do it! I have to watch Eurovision with my mom.” For Diljá, the ideal Eurovision experience includes getting cozy with her mom, some sparkling wine, and take-out pizza. “I never like going to these big Eurovision watch parties some people have,” she explains. “I’m here to listen to the songs! The show is on, we can always hang out after.”
Diljá isn’t going to jinx herself with any predictions, but she’s confident she’ll go far. “I know I’m not ranked super high internationally right now,” she admits. “But it’s all going to change when they see me in Liverpool. I think my chances are good. I know I’m headed to the finals, and that I’m going to shine there.”
And if Diljá does become the first-ever Icelander to win Eurovision?
“I would go for a very long walk,” she laughs. “I’d probably need to be alone and ground myself because it would just be too much. I think there’s a good chance I’d just lose my mind if that would happen!”
Icelanders are famous – perhaps infamous – for taking Eurovision rather seriously. What, ultimately, does Diljá think that Eurovision is really about? “At the end of the day, it’s the one week a year where everything is just supposed to be about music and it’s just supposed to be fun,” Diljá says. “It’s so excessive. And I love it!”