Ayana: “Music is my ikigai”

Earlier today, Dutch head of delegation Tessa Winter and AVROTROS senior producer Anja Zegwaard ran a virtual press meet-and-greet with Dutch JESC 2021 Ayana, to discuss all things Junior Eurovision, Junior Songfestival…and Christmas!

Ayana will perform in 15th slot on Sunday 19th December live at La Seine Musicale with her song Mata Sugu Aō Ne, which means “When I See You Again” in Japanese. Ayana is half-Japanese, and wrote the song as a tribute to her family in Japan, who she has not been able to see for years due to Covid travel restrictions.

Her first rehearsal took place yesterday.

Here are some question and answer highlights (some of the answers have been paraphrased to make full sentences, and feature contributions from Ayana and Anja Zegwaard).

My extended thanks on behalf of the press go to the Dutch delegation, Tessa and Anja – it was lovely to hear from Ayana at what must be a very busy time! Best of luck to her on Sunday!


What have you done so far in Paris?

We came at the weekend by bus, where we watched some movies, which was fun. We stopped off at the Eiffel Tower to take some photos, and then we have not been allowed to leave the hotel since because of Covid. We were here two weeks earlier to do some TV shooting, so we saw a bit more then.

Who is your favourite artist?

Probably P!nk, because she can sing and dance at the same time. It makes me quite jealous!

Are you nervous before you go on stage?

Not at the moment, but I might be a bit nervous on Sunday. But it’s important to be a bit nervous.

What is the best thing you have learned during your time on JESC?

I’ve learned that it’s so important to have a good team, and to have friends my age. I would not be here without them. Especially Janonie and Rowenaly [her dancers], because we are the same age, we have the same mindset, and we really understand each other.

Your song is about the concept of ikigai. What is ikigai, and what does it mean to you?

Ikigai is a Japanese word that means your “reason for living”, or your “motivation to live”. Mine is having fun with my friends, and sharing things with my family. Also, music is my ikigai, because it always makes me happy when I listen to it. My song is dedicated to my family in Japan, who will be watching, probably in the middle of the night!

What Christmas presents have you asked for?

I have asked for a lot of clothes and shoes and accessories because I’m obsessed!

Who do you think is your biggest competition at JESC this year?

Probably France, because he [Enzo] has a happy song that everyone can sing, and his dancers are also very good.

How long before your performance do you do hair and make-up?

About an hour. I spend 2o minutes on make-up, 30 minutes on hair and 10 minutes on touch-ups at the end. I use a lot of curlers, because I have straight hair but I like curly hair on stage.

Do you have a special ritual before you go on stage?

Yes. I have a picture of my grandfather, and every day, I explain to him what’s going to happen that day, and he gives me good luck.

What does the “paper kite” you mention in your song mean to you?

It’s a symbolic connection to my family in Japan. When you see it on the screen, I’m using it to fly to Japan to see them.

How happy were you with your first rehearsal?

Very happy. We didn’t actually get to practice with the wall divider because we sent it to Paris a few weeks before, so this week was the first time we got to see what it would look like. I’m really happy with everything, my stage design, my costume, everything. Naomi Noor is my stylist, and she’s done this with some very famous people in the Netherlands. I’m very proud of her.

You still have time to let us know which of this year’s Junior Eurovision entries are YOUR personal favorites, by voting for up to five songs in our poll below:

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