Showing Some Skin And Not Giving In – Destiny’s Rise To Maltese Pop-Culture Icon

Just shy of my 8th birthday, I witnessed a robbery at around midnight. I’m talking about Chiara placing third in the Eurovision Song Contest. The Eurovision is to the Maltese what the World Cup is to the English. “It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming!”. Unfortunately, up until now, it hasn’t. Ever.

Admittedly, we think every year is going to be THE year it does, but this year, it’s different. This year, we’re represented by a young lady with such star quality that the whole island is abuzz with a sense of pride and excitement. Malta’s been through testing times over the past four years especially. Politics, scandal, plague. Call me sentimental for thinking a song contest can lift the spirits of a disenchanted nation for the night, but I know I’m not alone on this one.

Destiny Chuckunyere sporting a natural hairstyle in this painting by Roberta Zammit Cutajar, 2021.

Sometimes, not very often, the planets align and a popstar is born. Blessed with beauty, sass and a voice to bring the house down, Birkirkara’s Destiny Chukunyere is one of them. In 2002, the nation’s sweetheart Ira Losco showed the world that “tiny Malta” had our very own Mediterranean Britney Spears. The glitter, the stage presence and the SONG! I bet there is not one person with a Maltese passport over the age of twenty-five who can’t chime out every single lyric.

Singer Ira Losco representing Malta in the Eurovision Song Contest, May 2002.

Plus one other thing. One major, major thing. The Lace Catsuit. Let us talk about the catsuit. A catsuit is the wardrobe staple of the superhero, the disco dancer and the dominatrix. Gaining popularity in the 1970s, a flared version like Ira’s is a favourite of Cher, Diana Ross and of course, 1974 Eurovision winners ABBA.

Cher and ABBA’s Agnetha Fältskog wearing versions of the flared catsuit, 1970s.

You cannot write an article about Eurovision Song Contest fashion without referencing the LGBTQIA community. To be loved by the LGBTQIA community is the ultimate of prizes. It is in the gay clubs where dance trends start, and the gay clubs where fashion designers get their inspiration from. It is the gay clubs where people can express themselves freely without judgement or fear. Eurovision is flash, unabashed and often bizarre. The stagewear is a huge contributing factor to the outcome of the televoting results. Which brings us back to Destiny.

How do you make a Maltese cross? Put their protégée in a pink tasseled bodysuit it would seem. The references were clear. Apart from the (pretty blatant) nod to American artist Lizzo, Malta’s song for Europe has a distinctive Electro Swing breakdown. Swing, of course, being the music favorable at bourgeois parties in the 1920s. What did the socialite flapper girls wear to get their groove on at the time? You guessed it! Tassels. Lots and lots of flicky fringing. Or so the Gatsby costume parties would have you believe. Unfortunately, this creation looked a lot more Karnival than couture, and the public kicked up a storm. Time to call in our number one couturier Mary Grace Pisani.

Exaggerated “Flapper Girl” modern-day costume & Jazz-Age American Blues singer Bessie Smith.

Say what you will, but Cessani has a time and a place, and The Eurovision Song Contest is one of those places. Openly retro, stagey and garish, the brand happens to be one of my favourites. This was the label who dressed Michelle Muscat back in her Jackie Onassis days, of course.

In true Cinderella “you WILL go to the ball” fashion, Destiny flaunted a whole new outfit a couple of days after the nationwide emergency appeal. At the semi finals, the show-stopping silver dress reappeared with some trusty tassels, and we were back on track. The public breathed a sigh of relief. Oh to be the junior stylist who was set out into the wild to hunt down a pair of silver knee-high boots with only hours to spare.

“These Boots Are Made for Walkin'” recorded by Nancy Sinatra. It reached No. 1 in the United States & UK Singles Chart.

Speaking of boots, incidentally, Nancy Sinatra’s 1966 girl-power hit ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’ has a very similar meaning to ‘Je Me Casse’, lyric wise- and the similarities don’t end there. Even the song’s composition, choreography and background dancers are alike, whether intentional or subliminal. Popular culture is made up of a million different factors from the past saved in the subconscious as references to create something new.

Acclaimed Maltese artist Debbie Caruana Dingli’s energetic impression of Destiny’s first dress rehearsal.

Destiny has inspired the nation. You can feel it in the air. This 18-year-old powerhouse who happens to be plus-size belting out a banger about showing some skin for HERSELF and not for the male gaze is bang on the money in 2021. Whatever the outcome, Destiny Chukunyere is an icon, and symbol of empowerment. Minority empowerment, body empowerment and Maltese empowerment. Her show-stopping silver mini is a reflection of that.

Destiny on her way to the Eurovision Song Contest finals in The Netherlands.

Sometimes you just want to dress up, for you. Lord knows I will be wearing something equally short and shiny this Saturday. At home. For myself.

Nicole Parnis

Nicole is a culture writer and lifestyle journalist with a passion for fashion, food, music and anything retro. She indulges by thrifting her Sundays away at flea markets, followed by a cappuccino or two in a pretty village square.

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