Israeli pop star Noa Kirel brought chatter to the MTV EMAs on Sunday night, showing up in a midriff-baring outfit adorned with photos of Kanye West — who now goes by Ye — and bejeweled with the Jewish Star of David. Kirel, a household name in her native country who will represent Israel in the forthcoming Eurovision Song Contest, was named best Israeli act for the sixth year running. She says her look was all about making a statement.
“I had this idea that came to my head: after all the anti-Semitic things that Kanye said about Jewish people — and I’m Jewish — I knew I had to have something that will be powerful on the red carpet,” Kirel tells Variety. “I really wanted it to be a message and not just a regular outfit. And it takes some nerves, but I think the message was received.”
The look, a cross-section of leather and gold with Ye’s face appearing on the pant legs and sleeves, was a collaboration with Kirel’s stylist, Itai Bezaleli. “He was like, ‘OK, crazy woman,’” says Kirel with a laugh, adding that Taylor Swift also “liked the outfit.” (Kirel, still a little starstruck from having met Swift in person, says, “When I saw her, she was just sitting there, and you know, I’ve got the Israeli chutzpah, so I was, like, I’m going to introduce myself.”)
But the contrasting iconography was no joke, and that the EMAs were held in Dusseldorf, Germany was not lost on Kirel, either. Says the 21-year-old: “After the Holocaust and all that history, it was very important to me to make a statement [there] and to bring my culture and represent Israel.”
Is that statement a big fuck you to Ye? “Um, I can say that, yeah,” adds Kirel, who is signed to Atlantic Records and released her debut single, “Please Don’t Suck,” in July 2021. “I mean, he said some bad stuff, and as a woman, as a young artist and as a Jew, I just had to react.”