Interview with the hosts of JESC 2005
Here is an interview with the hosts of JESC 2005.
Lillehammer, November 18, 2004 (Thursday)
Nadia and Stian, the hosts of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2004, have been buzzing around Haakons Hall all week like two bundles of energy. junioreurovision.tv managed to interrupt their rehearsals to find out what exactly they’re doing in the days before the big show.
“We’ve been on the stage most of the day, practising our texts and costume changes,” says Stian, as he drinks what he says is his tenth coffee of the day. “We also have to be able to get from one side of the stage to the other between songs so we’ve been making sure we’re ready for that.”
“Things are going smoothly,” he adds. “Maybe a little too smoothly! So far nothing’s gone wrong. We had our final meeting last night to discuss the show so it’s past the time where things are open for discussion. That means we can just concentrate on rehearsing.”
“And of course there are lots of interviews to do,” adds Nadia with a smile. “We also spend quite a lot of time being around the kids and showing our support.”
And they have certainly been doing that. For the last two days, Nadia and Stain have been singing, dancing, clapping and congratulating the acts like two professional cheerleaders, and the children are clearly grateful.
Both Stian and Nadia admit that they have been working very long days but are really looking forward to the show. Presenting a show to 30 million people on live television doesn’t seem to scare them, although they admit it can be difficult.
“Maybe it’s a bigger challenge for Nadia than for me because she has to speak two other languages: English and French,” says Stian. “She is half-Moroccan, though, so she spoke French a lot as a kid. I don’t speak a single word of French so it’s hard to know where my cue to speak is! I just have to learn Nadia’s last word and wait to hear that. Hopefully, she’ll stick to the exact script!”
“And then there are the results. Some of the countries will be giving their results to us in French and Nadia will repeat them in French before I say them in English. But to me Romania and the United Kingdom sound the same in French – Romanie and Royaume-Uni! And with a loud audience in the hall, I’m really going to have to listen well. I’m sure it’ll be fine though.”
Nadia and Stian have spent two days listening to the Junior stars rehearsing. So, junioreurovision.tv asked, what do they think of the standard of the competition this year?
“I think the standard has been really good,” says Nadia. “Some of the junior contestants are better than the seniors. But you’d expect them to be very good, wouldn’t you? They have all won national competitions and are the best in their country.”
“And when you think that they’ve all written the songs themselves, it’s amazing,” adds Stian.
And it isn’t just the performances that have impressed the show’s hosts. Both Nadia and Stain have noticed the bond that exists between the contestants.
“What’s great is that they seem to get on so well,” says Nadia. “I know the motto is ‘Fun and Friendship’ but that really is what it’s about.”
“It’s like the biggest School Camp in the world!” adds Stian.
But back to the show itself. We asked Nadia and Stian to let us in on one the most closely guarded secrets in this years show… What will they be wearing?
“I’m going to be wearing three dresses,” says Nadia, but won’t say anymore. (junioreurovision.tv has seen two of them – and they’re both very funky.) “Oh, and they’re getting rid of my curls! I’ll be having my hair straightened.”
“I won’t be wearing a dress,” laughs Stian. “But I will be wearing a suit that’s very sparkly and bright. It’s very Eurovision.”
junioreurovision.tv: Welcome, Maureen and Marcel. When did you receive the phone call that told you you would be hosting this year’s Junior Eurovision Song Contest?
Maureen: Oh, well … [thinking]. That’s a good question.
Marcel: [helping her] Ten days ago!
Maureen: No, no – you must be mistaken. For me it was three weeks ago.
Marcel: Aaahhh! [He rolls his eyes] Then you’re the privileged one, aren’t you? They wanted you more than me [looking unhappy].
Maureen [flattered]: Yes, I’m the winner.
Marcel: But they chose me from 1,000 men including Brad Pitt [His eyes twinkle].
junioreurovision.tv: So, why do you think they chose you instead over Brad Pitt?
Marcel: Brad Pitt wasn’t available on the night of the final. But it’s a good question as to why they chose me. [Looking up] Perhaps because I am as tall as Maureen. Or because we like each other a lot. You see, last year they wanted to have Eminem. This year they finally have it – M&M – Maureen & Marcel!
junioreurovision.tv: How did you feel after you were offered the job as hosts?
Maureen: I was very proud. It’s a big challenge. I will try to do my best. It’s so exciting.
Marcel: I was disappointed at first.
Maureen: Ha? Disappointed?
Marcel [smiling]: Yeah, disappointed. Because I had to give up my job as Junior Eurovision commentator which I did last year. That was such a lot of fun to do the live commentary, sitting in a little booth. But you see, I can’t do both. So my first reaction was – “Oh, damn, I can’t do that anymore.”
junioreurovision.tv: You can always do it next year again…
Marcel: Yes, that’s right. But believe me, this year we will have fun on stage.
Maureen [nodding]: A lot of fun. I can assure you!
junioreurovision.tv: You both have a lot of experience of Eurovision. What does Eurovision mean to you?
Maureen: I am a fan but it’s also a challenge to do a good job. I like music contests so Eurovision is perfect for me.
Marcel: For me, it’s like Christmas has come early! Everyone together, the whole world in one place.
Maureen: But there are no gifts…
Marcel: Well, there is one – the Grand Prix. It’s like the World Cup. It’s an enthusiastic atmosphere, it’s very emotional and makes people feel good. For once in your life, you are the centre of attention [Marcel starts laughing].
junioreurovision.tv: Have you had the chance to listen to all 16 Junior Eurovision entries?
Maureen: No, actually, not yet. Some aren’t even finished yet. But of course, we will listen to them as soon as we can.
Marcel [with a face like a very strict teacher]: We know Lindsay, and we love Lindsay. [He starts humming Lindsay’s song].
junioreurovision.tv: Shouldn’t the hosts stay neutral?
Marcel: That’s right. But so far, I only know one song, and I like it. [He nods and holds his thumbs up].
Maureen: Of course, we are neutral. It’s just that we’ve started our preparations and so far we’ve only heard the Belgian entry. And we love it!
junioreurovision.tv: What can we expect from the show? The same atmosphere as in today’s press conference? [Maureen and Marcel were having a great lot of fun, always joking, and entertaining us brilliantly.]
Marcel: No, it will be completely boring. [By his face we see that he’s only kidding].
Maureen: It will be very strict, very boring. No fun at all. [She says this and almost immediately has to laugh]. It will be like: [with a face like a stone] “Good evening, Europe. We are happy to be here.”
Marcel [also with a face like a stone]: She will be happy to be there. I’ll just be there.
[They can’t keep a straight face any longer and burst out laughing – so much that we have to take a short break.]
Marcel: [wiping away tears of laughter] Oh, my God. Now seriously! You know, the show is a visual format. The songs are all very good and they’re the most important part of the show. Maureen and myself are only asides. At the end, we do have a serious and tough job – the voting. Everything has to be correct. But apart from this it will be a relaxed atmosphere, maybe a joke here and there – but not too much
[Again, we sense that he’s kidding].
Marcel: [interrupting] …maybe two…
Marcel: …maybe three…
Maureen: No, two is enough!
junioreurovision.tv: Marcel, we know you from the early days of MTV. What do you think? Would the winning Junior Eurovision entry have a chance on MTV?
Marcel: Yes, sure – why not?
Maureen: Yes, I think so.
Marcel: Last year’s song, ‘Antes muerta que sencilla’ was a very, very good one. And the UK and Romanian entries were among my favourites. Very professionally done. So, I think that this year’s quality will be as good as last year’s. [A little pause] Lindsay is as good! [Laughs]
junioreurovision.tv: Could we perhaps see the two of you performing on stage? Doing a duet maybe?
Maureen: Oh, no – I don’t sing [looking frightened]. I actually can’t sing.
Marcel: No, no, no. We won’t perform. But never say never actually. We don’t know yet.
junioeurovision.tv: [now we are kidding] Ok, guys, we do understand. It will be so boring!
Maureen: Right. Very boring.
junioreurovision.tv: So, let’s talk about your preparations for the show.
Maureen: We’ve just started. We will do our scripts shortly.
Marcel: Yes, there’s a lot of script that we have to learn. All the explanations during the show and the explaining of the voting procedure. This has to be done correctly.
Maureen: During the event week, we will be in the venue. Together with the artists.
Marcel: We will do a first run-through of our script on Monday [21 November]. Then we will go over it and do some filming with the kids.
Maureen: We will go for a trip to Brussels with them, too. And we will invite them for some real Belgian food!
Marcel: Oh, yeah – we will be busy. [Rolling his eyes again].
junioreurovision.tv: Last question for today – why should children come to Hasselt to see the show? Aside from your boring performance, of course…
[Gales of laughter]
Marcel: Kids, you won’t be able to even think. It will be fun from the first minute. Hasselt is a small, charming town and is pretty near to Brussels and Liège. The atmosphere with the crew is so relaxed.
Maureen: It will be fun, fun, and once again fun!
Hasselt, Friday 25 November
The hosts of the 2005 Junior Eurovision Song Contest have promised the public a great show and assured them that the rehearsals have been problem-free.
Speaking at a special press conference in the Ethias Arena in Hasselt, Marcel Vanthilt and Maureen Louys also spoke of Junior Eurovision’s growing status.
“I was once sent to cover the MTV Awards in Los Angeles in 1987,” said Marcel, who was one of MTV Europe’s first VJs in the 1980s. “That was big. This is bigger. It’s only the stars that are smaller – in height, I mean.”
The duo already have experience of Eurovision. Marcel Vanthilt has been a jury member of the Belgian national finals for both the Eurovision and Junior Eurovision Song Contests since 1999. He was also one of the Flemish commentators at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in Lillehammer. Maureen Louys was one of the hosts of the Belgian finals for the 2004 and 2005 Junior Eurovision Song Contests. This will be her first experience of international TV presenting.
Marcel reported that the voice problems that have plagued him all week are now over.
“My voice is okay,” he explained. “It’s the biggest TV show I’ve ever done. So what happens? I get the flu. On Monday, I felt like a roasted pig – my temperature was about 40 degrees. And my voice went. But I’ve been taking a homeopathy pill every hour and it works. And I will shut up for most of tomorrow to rest my voice.”
Naturally, the pair were asked to say which were their favourite songs in the contest:
“It’s hard to say which is the best,” said Maureen. “Some are ballads, some are pop songs. I think they’re all great.”
“I have one I like best,” insisted Marcel. “Belgium. It’s a really happy pop song, and Lindsay’s cute. To win the contest, you have to have a good song and a good performer. Belgium this year has both. But then, others have that too!”
Both were reluctant to reveal details of their costumes, although Maureen hinted that Marcel will be wearing a blue suit. Marcel revealed that Maureen will be wearing “a really nice dress”.
“Well, less a dress, more a napkin,” he joked. “It’s tiny. I’m lucky. I’m going to be closer to her than anyone in the building!”
“We’re actually going to be wearing two outfits,” continued Maureen. “The first ones are quite rock and roll. Then we change costumes into something smarter and more formal for the voting.”
With Belgian being a country of two languages, Marcel and Maureen were asked how the show would incorporate English, French and Flemish.
“Firstly, I think Belgium should be an example to the rest of the world,” Marcel said. “We speak French and Flemish, and French culture is totally different to Flemish culture. But we get along!”
“As for the show, I will be speaking mainly French,” said Maureen. “Marcel will be speaking mainly English. There is a little bit of Flemish in there as well, at the beginning”
“I think if I was speaking Flemish for two and a half hours, we’d lose a lot of viewers,” said Marcel.
As a judge in this year’s Belgian national finals, Marcel earned a reputation of being a harsh, intimidating character. But he assured everyone that he would show a softer side as host of the main event
“My role in the Belgian national contest was to be the naughty one,” he said. “But here I have a different role. People are coming from such a long way away – so I’m going to be warm and welcoming and friendly. It’s actually a relief not to have to give an opinion on every song!”