As Malta's entry for the Eurovision Song Contest, Sarah Bonnici, prepares to take to the stage on Thursday, she is well aware she faces a challenge to qualify for the final.

While the bookmakers say the chances of the 25-year-old securing a spot in Saturday's showpiece are low, the singer is ready for battle. 

"I am doing all I can to deliver a great performance, one I can look back on and feel proud of and be satisfied," she said. 

"Despite it being very challenging and the reality of the odds, I am very happy to face this with great courage, as I have been working so hard. We (the team) have prepared for this for so long, and we are ready to give a great performance... the rest is not in our control."

With her energetic number, Loop, Bonnici aims to have viewers "on the edge of their seats with excitement" as she opens the second-semi final on Thursday night in Sweden's Malmö Arena.

She hopes to land one of the 10 spots in Saturday's final that are up for grabs among the 16 countries competing. Spain, France and Italy automatically qualify.

Sarah Bonnici's Eurovision journey. Video: Jonathan Borg and editing by Karl Andrew Micallef

The last time Malta made it to the Eurovision final was in 2021 when Destiny Chukunyere sailed through the semi-final with her song Je Me Casse. Since then, both Emma Muscat and The Busker failed to make it through. 

According to the odds aggregator eurovisionworld, Bonnici is at the very bottom of the list of 37 countries competing in Eurovision. Bonnici has less than 1% chance of winning the competition, bookmakers say.

The Gozitan singer is undaunted, however, and has been buoyed by meeting the other contestants since she arrived in Malmö last week and from taking part in two dress rehearsals.

"I have received a lot of positive feedback, especially after the rehearsals," she said.

"Following the second rehearsal, a 30-second snippet of my performance was aired and the reaction was amazing. I am looking forward and very prepared to hit the stage again on the night to open the show." 

Sarah Bonnici dazzled the stage during her second rehearsal in Malmö. Credit: Alma Bengtsson/EBUSarah Bonnici dazzled the stage during her second rehearsal in Malmö. Credit: Alma Bengtsson/EBU

From shy singer to performing to millions

It's hard to not be impressed watching Bonnici embody her song title by looping through the air blindfolded, as she is supported by her dancers, who are also blindfolded. It's also hard to believe that she is a shy character. 

“My parents used to call me the ‘singer of the fireplace or the mirror’ because I never wanted to sing in front of the public as I was so shy,” she said. “I was dancing by the age of three, but singing only at home, as I was too shy to be on stage or with a group of other singers or dancers.”

From the “mirror performer” to a natural performer on stage. Photo: Sarah BonniciFrom the “mirror performer” to a natural performer on stage. Photo: Sarah Bonnici

At the age of 10, she began to attend a choir group and the teacher, Miriam Christine Borg, encouraged her to start singing on an individual level. 

As she attended more solo singing lessons, her confidence grew, and by the age of nine she started to contest in small Gozitan singing festivals, often leaving as the winner. 

In 2009, at the age of 11, she competed in the Malta Junior Eurovision Song Contest for the first time with ‘The Mambo Song’. The following year, she had the opportunity to join Malta’s representative, Nicole Azzopardi, at the 2010 Junior Eurovision Song Contest, as a dancer. 

Social media ‘biggest struggle’

While Sarah is over 2,000km away from Malta, her fans are kept up-to-date through her social media channels.

But she doesn't find it easy. 

“To be quite honest, I always struggled with social media, and I still do,” she said. 

Describing it as her “biggest struggle” Sarah said she makes a great effort to have a strong online presence, and it shows. As the countdown to the semi-finals creeps up, Sarah posts videos and stories on her Instagram every day and opens up to her fans about how she feels about her performance. 

“It’s not easy, I have to always be online, always post and be present, which stresses me out sometimes. And at the same time, I try not to read too much of the comments, as I believe certain people just write comments without thinking and I do not want to get influenced by certain hate comments.

“Unless comments are constructive, and I can learn from them, those are important to me.”

Growing up Sarah would spend hours performing and singing with family. Credit: Sarah BonniciGrowing up Sarah would spend hours performing and singing with family. Credit: Sarah Bonnici

‘I was never one of the favourites’

Reflecting on her experience at the Malta Eurovision Song Contest, Sarah said it took her a while to accept that she won the national competition. 

“I was never one of the favourites, I knew that. I would say I was one of the top five, but not the favourite one to win. But when the music video came out, people started to message me," she recalls

She believes she and her team offer something different to what previous contestants offered in previous years, and that her performance, full of lifts, stunts and singing, caught the attention of the public.

Dedication to nanna

Growing up, Sarah recalls how she started to sing and dance from “day one”, and it’s easy to understand why once she began to describe her family. 

“My mum can sing and play the guitar, my dad plays the piano, my uncle plays the guitar and sings, and another uncle plays the bass,” she said. 

“We are a super musical family,” she says with a smile, recalling fond memories of her and her cousins putting together shows for the family to enjoy. 

Sarah dedicates her Eurovision performance to her nanna, Georgia Zammit. Credit: Sarah BonniciSarah dedicates her Eurovision performance to her nanna, Georgia Zammit. Credit: Sarah Bonnici

She recalls how all her family supported her journey to become a singer, even when she decided to quit her job as an accountant to take on singing full-time, but one person’s role stood out from the rest. 

“My grandma, she recently passed away, I think she was always my biggest inspiration, my number one fan and the person who pushed me the most,” she recalled of her grandmother, Georgia Zammit, who died in March.

“I grew up with her, she raised me. I used to do everything with her, from sundried tomatoes, cooking, and visiting the elderly,” she recalled. “She was such a positive person. She always pushed me to never give up on my dream.”

“I’m dedicating all this to her. The saddest thing about her passing is that she won’t see me in Malmö, but she saw me perform in Malta. She was the first person I called when I won, and she was so happy.”

First semi-final qualifiers

Ten countries qualified from the first semi-final on Tuesday. They are Serbia, Portugal, Slovenia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Finland, Cyprus, Croatia, Ireland and Luxembourg.

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