Adult Fandom of KEiiNO – Diana Oakes

Hi folks, my name is Diana, and whilst I was born and raised in the ‘80s in Bucharest, Romania, I have lived in England for 25 years, all of those in Leeds, one of Northern England’s biggest cities. I work in Internal Corporate Communications, as the Engagement and Communications Lead for a large department and when I am not snowed under with work, I do a lot of volunteering (most of it virtual now), and, as you may know already, I am one of the three admins on KEiiNO’s Facebook Fan Group.

I discovered KEiiNO on You Tube and the Spirit in the Sky video wasn’t actually the first thing I saw. I have family in Norway so have always been interested in Norway’s performances at the Eurovision. In 2019, I was searching online to see who would represent Norway and came across the name of KEiiNO. Then on YouTube the first thing I saw was their vlog from the Sámi kindergarten, which was, coincidentally, filmed on my birthday! The first thing that hit me was the mention of the Sámi – four years before I’d started writing a novel whose main male character was a young Sámi man, spurred on by a visit to the South Sámi Museum in Snåsa where my eyes had been opened to the discrimination the indigenous Sámi people still suffer today in Scandinavia. I was also pleasantly surprised by how down-to-earth and nice Tom, Alexandra and Fred seemed. After hearing the fragments of Spirit in the Sky (SitS) in that vlog, I went to watch the video. For a proper description of what I felt as I listened and what happened afterwards, read my paragraphs on SitS in my review of OKTA, KEiiNO’s debut album.

Like so many others, Diana also discovered KEiiNO in relation to Eurovision 2019

As I said above, it was kind of… ‘love at first sight’. The more I read about them, the more I really identified with their values. I became very passionate about helping them publicise their message of diversity and inclusion, of tolerance and love, and their cultural journey into highlighting indigenous culture. As I said, I was already researching Sápmi for my book, and I found so many strange similarities between Romanian folk culture and the Sámi culture which intrigued me, so listening to Fred’s interviews taught me a bit and pointed me in the right direction for research and even inspired a desire to learn Sámi – I attended a 12-week virtual course last year and I continue to learn.

The more I read about Alexandra’s and Tom’s backstories, too, the more supportive I became. Not to mention absolutely loving their music! My mother is a huge fan herself and so is my husband, David, who is a digital artist. As a gift for Fred’s birthday this year, he spent hours painting a digital portrait of Fred!

Why is it that you spend so much time and energy on KEiiNO? Don’t you have other things to do?

Oh God, yes, I do! Too many. I work full time, long hours, but look at me – it’s almost midnight here in England, and I’m writing this! If you need proof of how dedicated I am to KEiiNO, get this: I postponed my Covid-19 vaccination by a week as there was no way I’d chance the vaccine making me a potentially unwell on the day of the big MGP Final when KEiiNO compete for the right to represent Norway in Rotterdam in May! And I got in quite a tight spot health-wise (I was travelling against doctor’s orders, having been quite ill only days before) and financially just to be able to see them in London, in Nov 2019 – all for the joy of a 45-minute concert and the chance to speak to them in person!

My loyalty, love and unwavering support comes from a few directions:

1. Throughout my entire life, I have often experienced discrimination, prejudice and even the occasional bullying. A woman. Not old enough. Not young enough. Too fat. Too skinny. Too clever. Too soft. Not giving in to peer pressure. Romanian. Although I’m a naturalised British citizen, and have lived here for over two decades, as soon as I open my mouth, people hear my accent and often stereotypes flood their minds and I get treated differently. I also live with some long-term health conditions, too, which even though not visible, are considered disabilities by the UK law. My husband is almost 8 years younger than me so I get a lot of hassle about that, too. Oh, yes, I know all about being different or not being good enough. So KEiiNO’s message resonated with me.

2. I am passionate about promoting artists like them, who are really talented but don’t have a huge PR machine around them or diva airs and graces. Down-to-earth, nice, generous, kind and genuinely caring and grateful to their fans. And who have integrity. That’s important to me. Integrity is my non-negotiable. They refuse to ‘sell out’ and for that I love them.

3. I love their music. There’s not one song I haven’t liked so far. Yes, there are a couple that maybe I like rather than love, but let’s just say that my KEiiNO playlists on Spotify and YouTube would be worn out if they were a physical record.

How do you feel you benefit, personally, from your efforts?    

 The benefit to my mental health is enormous. KEiiNO – whether it’s their music or simply watching an interview or speaking to them – always manage to give me strength when I am down or my physical health wobbles, when I’ve had a hard week at work, or simply when I need a smile.

I met a lot of wonderful people through KEiiNO, some having become very close friends now, and I learned such a great deal about other countries, cultures and even learning an endangered language (Sámi).

In my fan group admin role, I learned a lot of stuff that I can even apply at work in terms of certain technology and platforms, and I also get to keep my professional skills (PR, journalism, etc.) sharp somewhere else but work.

What are your hopes for the future of KEiiNO and how would you continue to contribute towards that?

Well, naturally, at the time of writing, it’s all about them winning MGP and therefore representing Norway for the second time at Eurovision.

Then it’s about winning Eurovision overall, not only the public votes , as they did in 2019.

And it’s about expanding their fan-base, getting amore people to hear their music and follow them, beyond their core fans or the Eurovision circles, while maintaining the integrity of their style, message and personalities.

I’ll continue to contribute in whatever way they need me to: as an admin of their fan group, a potential biographer, reviewer, helping them potentially concert in Leeds, you name it, if it’s within my power or skill, I will do it. And if it’s not, I’ll find someone in whose power it is!