Despina Vandi (Greek: Δέσποινα Βανδή), born as Despina Malea (Greek: Δέσποινα Μαλέα); born 22 July 1969, is a Greek singer. Born in Tübingen near Stuttgart, West Germany, Vandi's family returned to Kavala, Greece when she was six years old. She enrolled at the University of Thessaloniki, but eventually dropped out to begin a career in music. After moving to Athens in the early 1990s, Vandi signed with Minos EMI and released two albums Gela Mou (1994) and Esena Perimeno (1996). She then began an exclusive collaboration with songwriter/producer Phoebus and struck commercial success with her third album, Deka Endoles (1997), followed by the multi-platinum Profities (1999), where she incorporated pop elements into her music, in addition to laïko, as well as a more pop stage performance style and image, becoming one of the most prominent portrayers of the laiko/pop genre.
Her single "Ipofero" (2000) became the best selling single of all-time in Greece. Following Phoebus' departure from Minos EMI, Vandi followed him to the newly formed independent label Heaven Music and released Gia (2001), which became and remains her biggest commercial success, as well as one of the best-selling albums of all time in Greece and Cyprus. Vandi also released the album abroad and the selftitled single "Gia" witnessed some success, topping the US Billboard Hot Dance Airplay and making her the first Greek artist to top a Billboard chart. She released her first live album in 2003 and later that year she gave birth to her first child, from her marriage with football player Demis Nikolaidis. She returned with Stin Avli Tou Paradeisou (2004), which was certified multi-platinum and became her fourth album to achieve six-figure sales. In 2007 Vandi gave birth to her second child, after a hiatus that ended with 10 Hronia Mazi (2007), a ten-year celebration of her collaboration with Pheobus. Vandi once again followed Phoebus' departure in favour of his new label The Spicy Effect. Her eighth studio album C'est La Vie was the label's first release. In 2012 she released a new album named Allaxa. The album managed to become two times platinum and it has been her first double platinum album since 2005.
Vandi has won three Arion Music Awards, ten MAD Video Music Awards, seven Pop Corn Music Awards, and a World Music Award, becoming the first Greek artist recording in Greece to ever win the award. On 14 March 2010, Alpha TV ranked Vandi the fourth top-certified Greek female artist in the nation's phonographic era (since 1960), with 11 records having been certified platinum or multi-platinum and three gold by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry of Greece. According to Heaven Music, as of 2007, Vandi has sold one million records in Greece.
Life and career:
Although born in Germany, Vandi's family was from Kavala, Greece, where she and her family moved when she was six years old. As a result, she did not learn German, unlike the rest of her family. She has one older brother and an older sister. Living in a lower-middle-class family, her dream was to become either an actress or a singer but she always knew that she should have something more solid as a background so she went on to study psychology, philosophy, and education at the University of Thessaloniki. When she first began singing, she used the stage name of "Elli Mara" before adopting the "Vandi" moniker, to hide that she was singing from her parents.
Despina Vandi is married to Demis Nikolaidis, ex-international soccer player and former president of AEK soccer club. She has a daughter named Melina who was born in February 2004 and a son named Giorgos who was born in August 2007.
A Discovery Channel documentary entitled Europe's Richest People estimated Vandi and Demis Nikolaidis's combined fortune to be in excess of 30 million euros in 2009.
On 18 August 2008, Vandi was in a car accident on Kifissias Avenue in Kifissia, Greece. The car she was in, driven by her chauffeur, slipped on an oil slick that leaked from a tanker truck causing the car to crash into the truck ahead of her. After drivers helped pull her out of the vehicle, she was transported by ambulance to the general hospital in Athens. Vandi only suffered a cut to her head and got stitches.
Early years (1994-96):
Vandi's first album was released in 1994 under the Minos EMI label, titled Gela Mou (Smile at Me). This album was distinguished by the self-titled song "Gela Mou", as long as by Vandi's duet To Adieksodo (No Way Out) with the popular and acclaimed singer Giannis Parios. Both songs were written by Vassilis Karras.
In 1996, Vandi released her next album, Esena Perimeno (You're The One I'm Waiting For). Singles on this album include Esena Perimeno, Den Pethainei I Agapi, and Efiges. Most of the songs were written by her friend and now musical director Tony Kontaxakis. Although a few of her first songs received some airplay, the first two albums themselves had low sales and did not manage to establish her career. Together the albums have sold under 30 thousand copies. A statement made by Vandi implied the combined album sales to be in the range of 10-27 thousand copies.
Beginning of Phoebus era and breakthrough (1997-99):
1997 would be the year Vandi would make her breakthrough in mainstream Greek music as she teamed up with popular songwriter Phoebus. Phoebus wrote the songs of Vandi's next album, Deka Entoles (Ten Commandments), which was certified double platinum and sold 100,000 thousand copies in Greece. Vandi's partnership with Phoebus would turn out to be one of the most notable in the Greek recording industry and they would continue to have commercial success for a decade and more (they celebrated their 10-year partnership with the release of 10 Hronia Mazi (10 Years Together)). With the success of Deka Entoles Vandi quickly became popular in the Greek music industry with a string of hits and popular appearances.
In 1998 Vandi released the platinum cd-single "Spania", while later that year, she experimented with acting. She was asked to play a guest star role in the hit television show "Dio Xeni" (Two Strangers). Vandi accepted the role and made her first appearance on television. She played a singer of a local small city, who was able to change the sexuality of the main gay character. She managed to gain good reviews for her acting talent.
Vandi's next album Profities (Prophecies) was released in 1999 and was certified gold the day of its release and platinum in 2 days. It eventually became triple platinum, selling 150 thousand copies. Big hits from the album were the songs: "Apapa", "To Giatriko", "To Koritsaki sou" and "Sta Dosa Ola". Later that year Vandi gave her first sold-out solo concert at the concert hall of Lycabettus with 7,000 people in attendance.
Move to Heaven and commercial peak (2000-01):
In 2000, Despina Vandi released the single Ipofero (I Suffer). The single was certified six times platinum and was awarded as being the most successful single of all time in Greece, based on sales at the Virgin Megastores, which reached 150 thousand copies. An honorary award was given to her by Richard Branson of Virgin in London, England.
In 2001 Despina Vandi and Phoebus signed in with Heaven Music, a new break-out record label, owned by the Athena Group. Despina's following album Gia (2001), meaning "Hi" was a double album including 21 new songs. The album was certified 4x platinum in only 11 days and became one of the best-selling albums of all time in Greece. . Many of the songs on the album became hits not only Greece, but also in neighboring countries such as Cyprus, Turkey and Lebanon. Shortly after, Vandi gave an open free concert in Thessaloniki singing in front of a crowd of more than 60,000 people.
At the 2002 World Music Awards, Vandi was awarded as the World's "Best Selling Greek Artist". It was the first time that this award was given to a Greek artist who actually lived and worked in Greece. For her acceptance speech, Vandi said "Above all though, I would like to thank my Greek fans around the world. I dedicate this award to all the Greeks who have supported me with their love all these years and it is because of them that I find myself here at this moment."
Following the success of Gia, Despina released a CD single titled "Ante Gia" (Goodbye) in 2002, with the title track being a remix of "Gia". The single achieved double platinum status. Gia and "Ante Gia" were then compiled and re-released as "Gia & Ante Gia: Collector's Edition", along with four previously unreleased remixes.
Live, International exposure and motherhood (2003-04):
In 2003 the double album "Despina Vandi Live" was released, containing performances from the singers' concerts around Greece. The album included the greatest personal hits of her 9-year career in the Greek music industry (1994-2003), as long as many songs by other artists, covering a wide variety of genres (from rock-entehno to laiko and traditional Greek music). The album featured also two new songs: "Fevgoume Kardia mou" and "O,ti Oneirevomoun". It was certified platinum, selling more than 60,000 copies.
On the meantime, with Gia having been certified multi-platinum in Greece and Cyprus, some of the songs broke out into the international market in neighboring countries. Seeing potential in an international career, she embarked on one in 2003.
Her first three international singles, "Gia" (2003), "Opa Opa" (2004) and "Come Along Now" (2005) entered the charts around the world. Her first internationally distributed albums are named after the songs "Gia" and "Come Along Now". "Gia" and "Opa Opa" have both charted on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play and Hot Dance Airplay charts, with Gia reaching number 1 for 2 weeks on the latter and "Opa Opa" reaching number 3 on the Hot Dance Radio Airplay of Billboard. Except for the Billboard Charts, Gia reaching number 1 at the biggest radio stations of USA, as WKTU, KKDL and WPYM. Also, Gia reached number 1 at the Club Charts of Music Week in Great Britain and became the number 1 dance song of the year in USA, Germany, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Italy, France, Spain, Turkey, Cyprus and Sweden. All three singles reached No. 1 on the Australian charts. The song Gia gave to her the award for the best dance artist for the year 2004 in Portugal and she makes a big concert for her European public. Except from "Gia", and the song "Opa Opa" reaching number 1 in Russia, Turkey and Australia. In the first days of October 2004 Despina Vandi makes four big concerts in New York, Atlantic City, Chicago and Toronto. All these concerts was sold out
The song "Come Along Now" became the second best selling single in Russia and the biggest to audience radio station of Russia, Hit FM, awarded to her an honorary award in a special concert for her. Vandi also made an appearance on the hit international show Top of the Pops where she performed her song "Gia" as she was included in some of that week's best-selling popular music artists.
Vandi's work has been remixed by celebrated global DJs and producers, such as Armand Van Helden, Milk & Sugar, Nick Skitz, Roger Sanchez, Junior Vasquez, Pete Tong, Bass Bumpers, DJ Gregory, Level K, XTM, Minimal Chic and Highpass amongst others. The albums Gia and Opa Opa have also been Records of The Week on BBC Radio 1's dance shows. At the end of August (2004) Despina performed live at the Beatstock Festival in New York.
Return to Greece (2004-06):
Despina's next studio album was released at the end of 2004, titled Stin Avli Tou Paradisou (In The Garden of Paradise). Although it sold significantly less than Gia, it reached double platinum status in 2005, becoming her fourth album to reach six figure sales The album was repackaged as a special edition and included 5 new songs, including the song "Amane", a duet with Giorgos Mazonakis. The actress Katiana Balanika guest stars in the song's music video along with Vandi and Mazonakis. The special edition of the album was released in Greece, Cyprus, Russia, Ukraine, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. In Turkey the album reached number 2 of the Turkish charts and the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News named Despina Vandi as the Queen of Greek Pop. For the winter season 2005-06 Vandi performed at Rex with Giorgos Mazonakis.
In July 2006, Despina gave a concert in the theater of Lycabettus in Athens singing many of her popular songs.
Despina Vandi released the CD single "Kalanta" (Carols) in Greece on 22 November 2006, which reached double platinum status after two weeks from the release of the CD single. The videoclip of "Kalanta" was released on 19 December, soon followed by the video of her next hit single, "Mehri Mai Mina" (Till The Month Of May).
Vandi and Mazonakis once again collaborated for the winter season 2006-07. She performed her last show at the Rex Music Theater on 18 February 2007 and it marked an end to her performances there for seven consecutive years. Due to her pregnancy, Vandi did not plan any summer concerts for 2007, and on 21 August 2007, she gave birth to her son, Giorgos.
10 Hronia Mazi and Iparhi Zoi (2007-09):
On 10 October 2007 (10/10) Vandi released her new single "Thelo" (I Want) simultaneously on all radio and TV stations across Greece at 10 am. It marked her 10-year anniversary of collaborating with Phoebus. The song reached the top of the Nielsen's Radio Airplay chart for Greece for six consecutive weeks. The second radio single from the album and the title track "10 Hronia Mazi" (10 Years Together) was released on 16 November 2007. The song is a rock ballad about the 10-year collaboration with Phoebus and charted on the airplay charts.
The album 10 Hronia Mazi was released 6 December 2007 on three discs featuring fifteen new songs. The first disc features eight new pop and rock songs and two remixes, while the second disc features seven new laika songs and three remixes. The third disc was a "bonus" featuring some of the greatest hits of Vandi and Phoebus with new mixes. The album achieved platinum certification in the first week. It sold 30 thousand copies, becoming Vandi's lowest selling album since the beginning of her collaboration with Phoebus. For the winter season 2007-08 she performed with Vasilis Karras at Diogenis Studio.
On 6 March 2008, Vandi released the third single from 10 Hronia Mazi, titled "Agapi" (Love), along with a video to promote it. The single was on the MAD TV Charts for six weeks with one week at number one. On 24 April 2008, Vandi released the fourth single from 10 Hronia Mazi titled "Fantasou Apla" (Simply imagine).
Collaboration with Schiller:
Vandi was featured on the gold-certified album Sehnsucht by German electronica act Schiller, which was released in early 2008, providing vocals for the song "Destiny", composed by Phoebus. She performed the track with Schiller on 17 June 2008 at the MAD Video Music Awards 2008, where she won the category of "Best Female Artist" and also performed "I Gi Ki I Selini" (Earth and Moon). Her live appearance in the MAD Video Music Awards 2008 was included in the live edition of Sehnsucht (Desire).
On 24 June 2008, the album was repackaged with the title 10 Hronia Mazi: It's Destiny as one disc. The repackaged version includes the song "Destiny" by Schiller featuring Despina Vandi. The one-disc repackaged version features the songs from the original first and second discs, excluding all the remixes (with the exception of "Ta Lefta (Remix)"). Two more songs were released as singles, "I Gi Ki I Selini" and "Tha Thela"; the music video for "I Gi Ki Selini" was her performance at the MAD Awards, while the video for "Tha Thela" was the live performance of the song at the Love Radio party which took place on 12 May 2008.
Vandi has become involved in the Global One music project. She attended a recording session in Beijing with Chinese pop start Wei-Wei and Brazilian samba singer Daniela Mercury, while also attending the project's first official press conference. The project's ambitious goal, driven by successful international record producer Rob Hoffman, is to have one artist representing their country record common Global One songs in their native language, as well as in the English language, in efforts to pool together as many languages and cultures as possible to promote their artistry on a global level.
In the end of 2008, Vandi began touring out of Greece. On 10, 11 October and 12 she performed three sold-out concerts in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide and then from 15-24 May 2009, she sang a five venue tour of the United States and Canada.
In 2009, Despina Vandi did not appear in any nightclub in Athens or Thessaloniki, but preferred to rest after a long period of appearance in nightclubs. Instead, she performed in charity concerts in Cyprus, where she was given the platinum award for her album 10 Hronia Mazi in Cyprus, after she had already received the platinum certification for the sales of the album in Greece. Following these concerts, Vandi went on with concerts in the USA and Canada. Following her tour in America, she collaborated with Goin' Through for a lengthy tour throughout Greece.
On 16 June, Vandi made a comeback, after a year's absence, with the song Iparhi Zoi (There's still life), a pop-rock song with a charity character. The song was written by Phoebus and it was presented on 24 June in the Mad Video Music Awards 2009. On 29 June, Despina gave the opening concert in Thessaloniki for the Long Hot Summer Tour. After 32 sold-out concerts the tour sold 150,000 tickets. With this tour Vandi broke the record for pre-sale tickets to the concert in the Olympia pre-selling 3,000 tickets. The tour was, also, the most successful tour of 2009.
Following the departure of her songwriter and collaborator Phoebus from Heaven Music, Vandi officially announced on 2 November 2009, that she also has chosen to leave Heaven Music. She signed in with the record label founded by Phoebus, called The Spicy Effect.
On 11 December, Vandi returned to the Greek nightlife, singing at club Politia in Thessaloniki alongside Goin' Through. On 12 December, Heaven Music, released the compilation "Despina Vandi - Greatest Hits 2001-2009", which included major hits of hers. The album was released in two versions: the standard version (1 CD) with 16 tracks and a deluxe edition (2 CDs and 1 DVD) with 32 tracks and 27 music videos.
Move to The Spicy Effect and C'est La Vie (2010-present):
After her appearances in Thessaloniki, Vandi appeared at Thalassa People's Stage with the group 48 Ores, which had participated in the Greece's The X Factor. The show began on 15 April and lasted until July. Vandi later appeared on 14 March on Chart Show, a show broadcast by Alpha TV where her certifications and sales figures were chronicled.
In 2010 Vandi sang her new song, "Koritsi Prama", live exclusively for the listeners who wοn VIP invitations from the Dromos 89.8 FM radio. The fans who had the chance to listen to the new song participated at the video clip as well. "Koritsi Prama, Part 1", was released to radios on 22 March and was the lead single from her eighth studio album, "C' est la vie". The pop rock song was written by Phoebus and is the first released coordinated by The Spicy Effect label. The music video of the song was filmed on 22 March at "Diogenis Studio" and during filming, Vandi revealed that the song is the first part of a two-part work and that a second song will follow soon afterwards. Also at the video shoot, a release date for the album was said to be scheduled for June 2010.
In addition to the new single, the German band Schiller, which worked with Vandi in the past, released a new song featuring her as vocals. The song's name is Sunday and included on the Schiller's album Breathless, the international version of Schiller's album Atemlos. The song was also included in the forthcoming album of Vandi, C'est La Vie.
Vandi released "Koritsi Prama, Part 2" on 14 May 2010. During the spring of 2010, Greek medias and press named Vandi The Queen due to the success of her comeback and her 16-year successful career. Also, The Time magazine referred to Vandi as the "Queen of Greek Pop".
C'est La Vie:
The new album of Despina Vandi, called C'est La Vie, was released on 13 June with Real News newspaper. It was her first album to be released along with a newspaper, following a popular tendency of the Greek musical industry, as an effort to deal with the reduction in the disc sales. The newspaper, along with the album, sold more than 100,000 copies. Furthermore, on 14 June, Vandi performed live at the MAD Video Music Awards, presenting her new song "Kommati Ap' Tin Kardia Sou".
The song "Kommati Ap' Tin Kardia Sou" was also the following single of the album C'est La Vie and was released on 7 June 2010. The video clip was released on 5 July 2010 and made positive impressions, revealing a "rock side" of Vandi. The third single of the album, "Erota Theli I Zoi", was released to radio stations on 13 September 2010. The music video, filmed on the Greek island of Hydra, was a combination of the CD version of the song and a remix version with Ipohthonios and it was uploaded on 19 October 2010 on Spicy's YouTube Channel.
Vandi was also the first artist who took part in the MTV Unplugged concert series of the music channel MTV Greece. Vandi sang some of her big hits along with songs from other artists. The concert took place in the theater Hora in Kypseli on 9 June.
In order to promote her new album, Vandi made a tour around Greece, along with the singer Elli Kokkinou. After the successful concerts all over the Greece, Vandi performed live on 31 October at HMV Forum of London. It was the first for Vandi in London and was sold out. After the concert, she appeared at the music scene VOX and after five months, the show finished on 6 March.
Theatrical projects & Mou 'his perasi:
In March 2011, Vandi expressed her wish to star in a movie. She decided to take a break from her live appearances in music scenes for a while in order to appear in a play, a musical by Alexandros Rigas, which initially was to premiere on October or December in the theater Pallas. Ultimately, the musical was postponed for October 2012. In 14 June 2011 Despina Vandi appeared on Mad Video Music Awards 2011 and performed the song "Gi' Alli Mia Fora" (For one more time) combined with the "Slow Version remix" of the same song, receiving good reviews. Α new proposal by the director, Hari Borka, revealed by many Greek sites, which talk about the adaptation of the famous novel of Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, on the theater in the form of a musical and the willingness of the director about playing a leading role the singer. However, she finally rejected the part.
On November 2011 a digital single was released by Vandi called "Mou 'His Perasi". The music was written by Gavrilis Mosas and the lyrics by Phoebus. The video clip, filmed in the area of the Messolonghi lagoon was also released the same month. On late 2011 Vandi's appearances began at the nightclub FEVER along with Elli Kokkinou and Nikos Ikonomopoulos.
Despina has been offered many times to represent Greece in Eurovision song contest but she never accepted, but the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT) announced on 15 January 2013 that it had reached an agreement with private music channel MAD TV to take on the organization and production of a national final to select a song to represent Greece in the contest. Despina Vandi was selected to host the event along with famous actor Giorgos Kapoutzidis, and this was the first time ever that a superstar hosted such an event to select the artist that will represent Greece in 2013. The following year, Vandi and Kapoutzidis were selected to host Eurosong 2014: a MAD Show.