Latvia's Eurovision winner sets her sights on pop fame


ESTONIA: Latvia's Latin-inspired Marie N yesterday set her sights on conquering Europe's pop scene after winning the 47th annual Eurovision song contest.

Marie N, the 21-year-old jazz singer and law graduate Marija Naumova, secured her Baltic country's first Eurovision victory on Saturday with her Latinesque I Wanna, whose pulsating beat had the 6,000-strong live audience dancing and clapping.

She narrowly beat second place Malta and gave the Baltic states their second Eurovision victory in two years.

Host nation Estonia - Latvia's northern neighbour and last year's winner - came third. Britain, which tied with Estonia on 111 points, was fourth for receiving fewer first-place votes. The vivacious Naumova, a member of Latvia's large Russian minority, credited flamboyant choreography, a small-country work ethic and inspiration drawn from wine for her victory.

"I like to make a show and I like people who want [to put on a show]," she told reporters after what she said was a sleepless and celebratory Saturday night and Sunday morning. Fluent in five languages, Naumova said she will try to break into the big-time European music scene, as ABBA did when they won with Waterloo in 1974, though her surprise victory has left her short on immediate plans.

She said the Latvian President, Ms Vaira Vike-Freiberga, called her after the event to congratulate her and the government said it will consider a financial reward for Naumova today. Fans got to meet Naumova in Latvia's capital Riga yesterday. Naumova's win was a surprise to most industry experts.

The Estonia-based English-language City Paper magazine was the only media outlet that had tipped I Wanna as this year's winner which means Latvia will host next year's contest.

Many deride Eurovision as a kitsch-and-glitz television extravaganza - Slovenia's entry was a trio of transvestites and Russia's boy-band entry offered lyrics including, "Northern girl lady ice. How can I melt you baby?"

However, the event still draws a huge television audience every year - with 160 million people expected to have tuned in this year.