It's little more than a year since Saara Aalto soared into The X Factor final with her magnetic mixture of kookiness and killer vocals, but the Finnish singer has packed in plenty of milestones since.
As well as stepping into the judge's chair on The X Factor Finland, 30-year-old Saara has is set to represent her home country at the Eurovision Song Contest this year with her monster new track 'Monsters', which beat two other of Saara's tracks in a televised public vote last month.
Yep, while the UK was busy deciding who to send to Lisbon this May, the Finns were busy deciding exactly which song would give their girl the best shot at the title. Eek.
With Saara preparing to head back to the UK for a headline show in London next month and busy planning her wedding to girlfriend and (fomer fan) Meri, we thought we'd grab her for a catch up to see how she does it...
You had a tough time in Finland because people thought you were too kooky. Are people back home different now?
The X Factor kind of changed everything, Before, when I was on TV there they were like ‘you are too flamboyant’, ‘you are too much’, ‘who do you think you are?’ But when they heard that Simon Cowell thought I was good, then Finnish people suddenly liked me. Sometimes people are too scared to have an opinion of their own.
You’re engaged to marry Meri – tell us how you met.
I can second on The Voice of Finland and Meri liked my voice and sent a fan letter. She said she felt she had to write to me as we had a lot in common. I had had so many messages sent to me on Facebook that I never got around to seeing it. But then I saw her message and I replied and that was that and never heard back. Then a year later, Meri came to a gig, took a picture and tagged me. Then I remembered I her. Then I sent her message and said why didn’t you come and say hello. Meri couldn’t believe it.
How were you family about your being gay?
My family were fine, they kind of knew about it already. It took a year for me to come out publicly. I had been hiding Meri for one year. But then I realised I am an adult woman, I can do anything I want. And then on my 28th birthday I posted a picture of the two of us. No one made any nasty comments. In fact we have had amazing response and we couldn't be happier.
Is Finland an LGBT-friendly place?
It is okay. It is positive. We are the only lesbian couple in the public eye over in Finland so we are seen as the example. And I’m proud. It’s good that people take it very well. Of course there are some people out of cities and in the countryside can be a bit negative but last year we had the same-sex marriage laws passed in Finland so things are changing. I am proud to say that we get told that we are good role models. The Finnish public see me as a good girl because I behave well. Some gays go on shows like Big Brother over there and get drunk all the time and the public see them behaving bad and think the worst. But I am very sensible. Meri and I are very happy and people see us as a normal couple. It’s not like we have one night stands. We are a normal loving couple.
Do you and Meri have any wedding plans yet?
We're thinking about having a summer wedding. I will tell you a little secret, I have already been wedding dress shopping and it was so much fun. I love wedding dresses!! I would love Nicole Scherzinger to sing at the wedding and of course Sharon Osbourne has to attend. I saw them both at the Pride of Britain Awards and we all had such a great catch up, Sharon gave me judging tips as I’m now on a judge on The X Factor Finland. She said ‘Be you & be bold!’
Who else would be on the guest-list?
Matt Terry of course, he is my dear friend, and I hear him and Montana from Love Island are dating so maybe she will be his plus one. I will invite Simon Cowell as well as he has been so supportive of me since The X Factor, whch is nice because there was a whole lot of drama when I had left Sony to go to Warner. But now there is no bad blood between us at all – I’m a judge on the The X Factor Finland so we still have a great relationship. I think he actually respects me because I knew what I wanted to do with career. He even said to me at The X Factor final that we would end up working together and here we are... he was right!
Saara plays a headline show in London on April 25 at Under The Bridge in Chelsea. Get tickets here.