Celine Dion Earned a Eurovision Win for Switzerland in 1988, but She's French-Canadian

Celine Dion represented Switzerland in Eurovision back in 1988, even though she's French-Canadian. Is that allowed?

Callie (Carlos) Cadorniga - Author

May 13 2024, Published 10:49 a.m. ET

Celine Dion at the 66th Grammy Awards
Source: Getty Images

In early May 2024, the annual Eurovision Contest was held amid a historic string of controversies. The event was placed under much scrutiny due to several problematic factors. These include but aren't limited to, Israel's participation during the Israel-Gaza war; allegations of sexual harassment; and a ban over the appearance of a non-binary flag used by this year's winner. Nevertheless, the contest moved forward without much incident and a winner was eventually declared.

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After several rounds of voting, Swiss rapper Nemo (they/them) earned the win with their song, "The Code." Nemo's win was historic for several reasons. For one, they are the first non-binary winner of Eurovision, which subsequently led to the aforementioned controversy over the non-binary flag. Nemo also earned Switzerland's third-ever Eurovision win. The country had previously won back in 1988 and was represented by... Celine Dion. Her past victory has some fans wondering why she represented a country she wasn't born in. Here's what we know.

Celine Dion wins Eurovision in 1988
Source: Getty Images
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Celine Dion, a French-Canadian singer, won Eurovision for Switzerland back in 1988.

As the "Queen of the Power Ballads," Celine hardly needs an introduction. Born in Canada, the long-time singer has won so many awards and shattered so many records in the music industry that her list of awards and her achievements in music both have their own separate entries on Wikipedia. Several outlets and industry professionals have named her one of the most successful musicians of all time and she has countless accomplishments under her belt as her career continues to this day.

One of those accomplishments includes winning Eurovision back in 1988. Celine's song, "Ne partez pas sans moi" (Don't Leave Without Me), won by a single vote over the United Kingdom at the time for her to take home the win for Switzerland. But because she was born in Canada, many are now wondering why she even represented Switzerland in the first place, especially after a Swiss musician won for Switzerland more recently in 2024.

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You might be surprised to know that at the time, Celine wondered the same thing. In a 2013 interview on The Jonathan Ross Show, Celine revealed that she had been approached by the country of Switzerland for her to represent them in 1988. Celine had no idea why she, as a relatively unknown French-Canadian singer at the time, was being asked to represent a country she wasn't born in. She was even sure that actual Swiss citizens would have taken offense to an outsider singing for them at Eurovision.

Celine Dion attends Haute Couture Fashion Week in 2019.
Source: Getty Images

As it turns out, there have never been any rules indicating that a singer had to be born in or have citizenship in the country that they're representing in Eurovision. At the time time, Switzerland simply found a singer they liked and gave her an opportunity.

Celine's win in 1988 made her a beloved Swiss icon, propelled her to international recognition, and helped her become the world-renowned music sensation whom we know today.

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