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Saara Aalto: Gender doesn’t matter to me

The X Factor runner up tells Carrie Lyell about her time on the show and why gender isn’t important to her.

Carrie Lyell

Tue, 20 Dec 2016 10:48:41 GMT | Updated today

Saara Aalto might have narrowly missed out on being crowned the winner of  this year's X Factor, pipped to the post by Matt Terry, but she has definitely made a place for herself in the show's history books. 


Not only is Aalto the first contestant to make the final after being in the bottom two twice, she's also the most successful female LGBT contestant in the show's 13 years. "It feels incredible," the singing sensation tells DIVA when we chat to her just days before the final. "It's crazy that a girl like me can break records." 


Saara is not just a girl, though. The 29-year-old came to The X Factor as an established artist in her native Finland - check out her back catalogue on Spotify - and an impressive CV includes stage performances in High School Musical and Wicked, as well as voicing Anna in the Finnish dub of Disney smash hit Frozen. She also has experience with talent competitions, having been placed second in Finland's version of The Voice, and she came within touching distance of representing her country in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2011 and 2016. 


Despite all of the success, and a career many of us could only dream of, something was missing for Saara, and she was about to give it all up. Then came The X Factor. But Simon Cowell's dream factory hasn't been a fairytale for the "snow fairy from Finland", and as any fans of the show will know, it's not been an easy ride for Saara.

After several strong performances in the early rounds of the competition - Nicole Scherzinger said Aalto's version of Sia's Chandelier made her "ass want to clap" - she looked like a dead cert for the live shows, so was obviously upset when Sharon Osbourne said she "didn't feel a connection" and failed to give her a seat in the gladiatorial-style six-chair challenge. Saara initially had the support of the crowd, but things quickly turned sour when she sang a second song in French, eliciting boos and chants of "Off, off, off!" Even after she was brought back as a "wildcard" contestant, Saara struggled to connect with the viewers, and found herself singing for survival in the first two live shows. 


Many speculated that the singer's failure to ingratiate herself with the voting public, despite having one of the strongest voices in the competition, was a result of being a foreign contestant in "Brexit Britain" and Aalto herself told The Daily Star she had been subject to abuse on social media for being the only non-UK act to make it to the live shows. "I hoped people would take me as I am. It doesn't matter where I'm from," she said. 




Read more in the January issue of DIVA, on sale now at the links below. 




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Only reading DIVA online? You're missing out. For more news, reviews and commentary, check out the latest issue. It's pretty badass, if we do say so ourselves.  // //

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