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Katrina Leskanich Katrina Leskanich, live in New York City. Photo: Sara L Petty

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Katrina Leskanich: the American who won Eurovision for the UK!
"With a great song and a strong performance on the night, there are no limits" says Katrina, at the start of Eurovision week 2019
Published on May 13, 2019

Katrina Leskanich, Eurovision All-American girl Katrina represents the United Kingdom in Eurovision, 1997

Where in the States are you from, and how did you find yourself becoming the UK's 1997 Eurovision entrant?

I was born in Topeka, Kansas. My Dad was a Colonel in the Air Force so we moved every couple years. We lived in 7 different States before moving to Germany in ‘72, Holland in ‘74 and England in ‘76. I put my first band together in ‘77 with some High School musicians and a G.I. We were called Mama’s Cookin’ and played around the US Airbases doing American songs. A couple of English musicians in Cambridge heard I was a good singer and asked me to join their band. They were called The Waves so we added on my name and Katrina and the Waves were born. We had a few hits, mainly 'Walking On Sunshine', a Grammy nomination and in 97 we were asked if we had a song for the Eurovision Song Contest. 'Love Shine A Light' was perfect and proved it by winning the competition for the UK.

How do you explain Eurovision to fellow Americans in the UK who may never have heard of it?

It’s like Miss World but with songs.

How has the competition changed since you competed for the UK in '97?

There are many more participants than the 24 we had in ‘97. It’s televised over 3 days instead of 1. It’s taken off in Australia and now America thanks to the Internet so there is a gigantic interest in it.

What did winning the competition do for you personally and professionally?

We had a big hit with 'Love Shine A Light'. We won the Eurovision Song Contest by the most points ever which put us in the Guinness Book of World Records. It was viewed by 600 million people so the exposure was phenomenal.

Can the UK ever win Eurovision again?

Of course. The year we won everyone said there is no way the UK could win because of political voting. If you have a great song and a strong performance on the night, there are no limits.

Australia are in Eurovision now, and American artists will have performed on the big final night (Madonna this year and Justin Timberlake in 2016). Can you see the US ever competing in Eurovision?

America have already shown an interest in coming in as a wild card. I’m the only American ever to win it. When you think of how it would open up the contest globally you have to believe it would be great if EVERY country could take part.

Do you still get asked to perform Eurovision hits when you're on tour these days?

I do 'Love Shine A Light' at my concerts. The audience used to hold up a flame from a lighter but now they all hold up their phone lights. It’s always a very cool moment when we all feel united and loved up.

Ever fancy representing the UK again?

Not personally but I have written a song I will submit for 2020 that I think will see me handing over my crown to the next UK winner! Watch this space.

What's next for you and your music?

I am recording my new album in NYC. I wanted an American sounding record with some of the original rock and pop values of my days in Katrina and the Waves. It’s sounding awesome and will be released in 2020.

I’m touring a lot in Europe and will be on the 80s Cruise (departing Miami 8th March) with other other artists from the 1980s.

I have 2 books available on Amazon about travels with my poodle, Metropoodle My London Guide and Metropoodle My Cornwall Guide. Cornwall is an incredibly beautiful part of the country and I would suggest your readers check it out...and my books!

Follow Katrina on Facebook www.facebook.com/katrinasweb; Twitter @katrinasweb; and Instagram Instagram.com/katrina_katrina_and_the_waves/ to see all the action. Listen to her music on Spotify.


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