Hanna Pakarinen, who celebrated her twenty-sixth birthday last week, will fly the Finnish flag on home ground this May 12th. On stage she is a dramatic rock diva, but off stage she is a very down-to-earth girl nextdoor. Since winning the Finnish national selection earlier this year, she has been giving countless interviews, and here, we take a look at the girl behind the flag.
Hanna is used to being in the public eye after winning the first ever Finnish Pop Idol in 2004, but life after winning Euroviisut is something even she has not been used to. After her victory in Turku in February she has given over one hundred full face-to-face interviews with various newspapers and magazines. Add to that the numerous TV appearances, being on tour promoting her new album, radio shows, video shoots, getting ready for the main event in May… She has been one busy girl. “I had one day off last week. I just stayed at home, read Donald Duck in pyjamas and watched TV. It was marvellous!” she laughs.
The amount of publicity and exposure Hanna is experiencing in Finland right now is the maximum one can experience in post-Lordi Finland. Her face has been on most weekly magazines covers for the past two months but this hasn’t changed her. “I think I have managed quite well maintaining some sanity in all this. I am still me and have not changed. Of course one must learn how to react to all sort of things. If I am having a private dinner somewhere and all of sudden someone comes to tell how wonderful I am and how much they love me I must behave nicely. I love and respect my fans as without them I wouldn’t be the Hanna Pakarinen, but I must keep some distance. I can’t speak to them like they were my best friends but I am never fake. I am me, very open and very talkative. Some interview described me as machine gun after listening to me for 5 minutes!” she roars with laughter. “I’m not into any celebrity parties. I'd rather stay home with my friends and family, and have a good long dinner and red wine.”
Top ten hopes
A good example of Hanna’s down to earth character is that she was really very surprised to win Euroviisut. She believed until the end that Lovex would win. “But I don’t get stressed by being the follow-up to Lordi. I am the kind of person that refuses to think certain things beforehand. Lordi proved Finland can win, and I am the last one to believe Finland would now win second year in a row. Therefore I don’t stress about it and it is easy to take the stage. Also I am in the same record company as Lordi, and the same team is working for me this year. They know what to do. I don’t know anything yet, they will take care of everything. All I know is the final week will be very busy, but until then I just think about my performance and leave all the rest to them. I don’t think home ground will give me any advantage either. Everyone is writing about their own singer. How much did the Finnish media write about the Greek entrant last year? Not much, I think. I hope to be in Top Ten, but as I said, I don’t stress about it. There are millions of voters, they like you or they don’t and there isn’t so much you can do about it. When Lordi won I was alone at home watching it on TV, exchanging SMS messages with my cousin. I firmly believed in Lordi from the beginning.”
She is very happy she can sleep in her own bed and at home during the Eurovision week. “I have been so busy the past weeks. I check the calendar in the evening to see what there is to do tomorrow. There is so much to do and remember it sometimes freaks me out.” Her days are mainly filled with everything Eurovision related: planning, interviews, photo shoots. “The hardest part has been waking up early in the mornings! I absolutely hate them!” she laughs.
From truck driver to rock diva
Hanna has been faithful to her own style since those early steps after Idols. Who can forget the truck driver walking in wearing boots and tie? During and after Idols they tried to dress her up and change her style and she wasn’t always strong enough to say 'no', but now she is very secure about her own style. Her style is more rock, yet feminine and sensual these days. “I was rather manly in the beginning and tried to hide myself under my clothing. Then when I was invited to the President’s Independence Day reception and had to dress up in a long dress something happened. I liked the way I looked and ever since I have been wearing a lot of dresses and love them! And I have even learned to walk on high heels!”
“I designed the dresses I wore in Euroviisut myself, as well as the one I will be wearing in Helsinki. It is not ready yet and I am toying with some ideas. There won’t be any wardrobe gimmicks this time. I was so nervous in Tampere for the trick I could hardly sing. In Helsinki I just want to concentrate on singing so the dress will stay on!” she laughs. She refuses to give any more information on the dress but before it has been said it will be red with silver and black. “It is a little like a wedding dress: everybody wants to know about it but no one will see it before the time comes!”
The real me
"For the hair and make-up I will trust my faithful team that has worked with me since Idols: Renè, Martti and Ida. They know how I want to look: like in real life. I have never Photoshopped my promo pics, made myself look thinner or anything. For me it is important that people see the real me in photos, not some perfect me. I don’t stress about my looks so much.”
“My band will be with me on stage in Helsinki, Hanna Pakarinen is actually five people, I am just the singer. We will create a good show around the song. The atmosphere of the song is rather heavy and dark, it’s very visual. The guitar riffs and chorus will carry the song.” Hanna will do the choreography herself with the help of her team: record company, stylists and pyrotechnic experts. “Yes, there should be some pyros as well, but we will see. The wind machine should be there, too, as we were not able to change it into a snow machine! The following artist would not be very happy, I think” she jokes.
The song Leave Me Alone and especially its lyrics caused quite a media fuss in Finland for its supposed love triangle drama. Hanna just laughs about it. “I have never talked publicly about my love affairs and life, and will not do so now. If I am one of the writers it doesn’t mean it tells about my life. And even if it did, it doesn’t have to be anything recent! It could as well be some friend’s life, or even pure fiction.”
Can I have your autograph, please?
Hanna has seen the videos of all other artists and believes Sweden’s The Ark will do well. “I also love DJ Bobo!! I was a fan and probably will shyly ask for his autograph when I meet him, like a teenage fan! And I may even try to sneak into his dressing room!” she tells, excited about the possibility.
Doing Idols three years ago gave Hanna a lot of experience in front of the cameras and it shows. She truly enjoys flirting with the cameras and being on stage. She doesn’t get nervous easily and can handle big crowds. “It is easy to avoid being too nervous by thinking that in five minutes it is all over. I also don’t think how many people there are behind the cameras, I sing to the camera and think there is only one person."
Hanna has already conquered the Finnish music scene. He first album sold platinum, second gold and a third has just been released. All of them are Top Three albums and Hanna is the best selling Finnish female artist in English ever. “Eurovision is a good opportunity to show music people in other countries what I can do. Breaking into the market abroad isn’t my major target but it would be great to experience that, too." Waiting for that moment she takes care of Helsinki first, goes on touring Finland, making records and transforming into a rock diva on stage night after night. A long step from being a truck driver in a wood warehouse!
1981 She was born in Lappeenranta, Eastern Finland on April 17.
1996 Her cousin heard her sing and said she was good. She sings publicly for the first time in1997 and forms her first band Rained
2003 After various studies and odd jobs she saw an ad for Idols after a 12-hour day at work and applied without telling anyone
2004 She was the first ever Finnish Pop Idols winner. She releases her first album When I Become Me (No 2 and certified platinum) and moves to Helsinki
2005 Second album Stronger (No 2 and certified gold)
2007 Hanna wins Euroviisut, releases her third album Lovers (No 3) and will represent Finland in the Eurovision song contest in Helsinki