Montenegro's Eurovision contestant ruffles feathers at home
The Montenegro contestant for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, Slavko Kalezic has ruffled a few feathers in his conservative home country.
On May 9, Kalezic is slated to perform Space, an uptempo pop-dance number, in the first semifinal of the glittery show best known for camp song-and-dance routines, which many countries see as a forum to promote their national identity and culture to the rest of the world.
Kalezic’s thinly veiled song about sex, his meter-long ponytail, shimmering clothing, and the 31-year-old's proclamation after winning the nomination that he is the country's "drag queen" have been applauded by some, abroad in particular, for challenging stereotypes.
But not so much at home, where more than 70 percent of people identify as Orthodox Christians. There, Kalezic’s entry has been met with as many, if not more, criticism than plaudits.
Kalezic is a well-known singer and actor in the tiny coastal nation of 622,000 people and he has regularly performed in the Montenegro National Theatre, as well as in the local X-Factor TV programme.
He makes no apologies for his artistic interpretations, onstage or off, and says he has no time for those who criticise his flamboyant costumes and style as symbols of Western decadence.
"I've been onstage for 10 years, with my style and direction. I'm very pleased that there are many people who like what I do," he told RFE/RL in an interview. "If we need to talk about polarisation, intelligent people really understand what I do as an artist."
Montenegro is under pressure to protect human rights in order to advance toward membership in the European Union. For example, there is no legal recognition of same-sex couples in the country, and the constitution bans same-sex marriage.