Born in Kaliningrad, Russia, Tanja moved to Estonia with her family at the age of just two months. Today she’s a household name: a much loved entertainer and a role model in her home country – and tomorrow hopefully throughout Europe. This year she won the Estonian national selection, Eesti Laul 2014 and will thus represent Estonia at the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest in Copenhagen with her song Amazing.
Tanja is amazing – a true pearl in a sea of pre-fab pop stars. She was not born with a silver spoon in her mouth, but has achieved her success and popularity through sheer hard work. Today, her CV is about as thick as a telephone directory, featuring dozens of roles in major musicals, wins galore in singing contests and six albums' worth of music.
Every little girl in Estonia wants to be her
“Tanja is a world-class artist,” says Timo Vendt, who wrote Amazing with the singer. “I have been working with her for 11 years, but she still manages to surprise me!”
Tanja started dance lessons at the age of 4, soon convincing her trainer that this long-haired, green-eyed girl who hummed along to every song should also be included in the singing group.
Today every little girl in Estonia wants to be Tanja. Her performances on TV shows like Your Face Sounds Familiar have cemented her place as one of the most admired entertainers in the country.
“It is the combination of her amazing vocal and dance skills that makes Tanja so unique,” says TV producer Kaupo Karelson. “On top of that there is her personality, which is so warm and charming that it is no wonder she has won the audience’s heart on every show she has been on!”
Thousands of people have seen Tanja on stage in theatre and musical performances, with her boundless energy infusing such productions as Chicago, Fame, The Phantom Of The Opera, Snow White, Hair and Kiss of the Spider Woman. She is currently starring in Cabaret (in which she plays Sally), The Last Cowboy (in which she plays Lucy) and Thriller – Tribute to Michael Jackson.
Telling a story through dance
Tanja almost made it to the Eurovision Song Contest in 2002, as a member of Nightlight Duo, whose upbeat tune Another Country Song finished second in the national final before going on to become one of the biggest hits of the year in Estonia.
Tanja has been a fan of Europe's favourite TV show for as long as she can remember. Amazing was written with the contest in mind, and she knew from the start that the staging would involve contemporary dance, which she has been active in since 2001. She has also taught at a dance school.
“It took a lot of rehearsing to achieve the fluency I needed when singing and dancing at the same time,” Tanja reveals. “We want to show people that you can tell a story through dance, too.”
Almost everyone knows Tanja for her dancing and singing, but few know that she is also an enthusiastic cook – one with a penchant for salads… and cakes! “If she was not performing all the time, she would undoubtedly keep feeding me until I burst!” jokes her boyfriend, singer Mikk Saar.
Tanja never cooks when she is in a bad mood, because she knows nothing good will come of it. But there is one sure-fire way of turning her frown upside down: “The stage! An audience!” she says. “The moment I step out onto the stage, I always feel amazing!”