Dalida, the Tragic Prima Donna
“When people say I love you, they mean love me”
I don’t know if there ever was a woman more hungering to share her emotions than Yolanda Gigliotti, better known as Dalida - one of the most profound, enigmatic and enchanting singers of all time; one who - in every show - gave herself completely; bringing to tears an entire audience already intoxicated by her dark and rich voice.
Born in Italy and raised in Egypt, Dalida grew up to own a life of endless heartbreaks and lonesomeness. She was never meant to be a singer but a secretary - however at the age of seventeen she secretly joined a beauty pageant and - almost without realising - became Miss Egypt.
The young beauty queen moved to Paris, where she - while struggling to find her way in a new culture - met Bruno Coquatrix, owner of a radio show dedicated to present raw, beautiful and unheard-of music. After hearing her singing, Bruno almost immediately asked her to perform live in his show
Yolanda’s live performance captured the ear of weighty record industry hunters who were stricken by her uncommon voice (one of those hunters was Lucien Morisse, who would later become Dalida’s first and only husband).
And this way, just within two years of her arrival in Paris, Dalida rocketed to the top of the French charts.
Beneath the surface of her femme fatale airs, Yolanda was an aching soul; a headstrong woman who loved too much and battled every second to become the most authentic version of herself in defiance of what others wanted from her.
Everything around her was scandalous and the press loved her for that - rumor has it that Dalida had a secret affair with François Mitterrand, man who would later become the French President. And it’s known that, just within weeks before her wedding with Lucien Morisse, Yolanda fell in love hard with another man. Later, on her early thirties, and after discovering she was pregnant her decision to have an abortion left her infertile.
Behind the tabloids, however, her life was nothing less than a modern tragedy. Her three biggest loves (including her husband) and her best friend, all committed violent suicides.
A month after finding her love in his hotel room with a bullet injury in his left temple, Dalida attempted to kill herself for the first time by overdose at the Prince of Wales hotel in Paris, falling into a coma for five days.
After recovery, she returned to the stages wearing a glorious long white gown - for which her fans began to call her “Saint Dalida”
In 1987, not long after her return, Dalida died of an intentional overdose of sedatives. Leaving behind a note that read, “La vie m’est insupportable… Pardonnez-moi.” (Life has become unbearable… Forgive me).
In her 30 year-long career she sold over 170 million albums worldwide and sang about 500 songs in French, above 200 in her native Italian, and nearly 200 songs in other languages, including Arabic, Italian, Greek, German, Japanese, Hebrew, Dutch and Spanish.
On the tenth anniversary of her death, a large corner of two Montmartre streets was named Place Dalida in her honor, where a bronze bust of the singer stands in the middle of three trees.