|A.K.A.||Jelena Karleusa, J. Karleuša|
|Is||Singer Journalist Columnist Fashion designer Musician|
|From||Serbia Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Croatia Montenegro Bulgaria|
|Field||Fashion Journalism Music|
|Birth||17 August 1978, Belgrade, Kingdom of Hungary|
|Residence||New Belgrade, Serbia|
Jelena Karleuša Tošić (Serbian Cyrillic: Јелена Карлеуша; born 17 August 1978) is a Serbian singer, who has been known for her provocative work and often reinvented image, through which she earned significant recognition and influence. Karleuša has also been noted for receiving substantial media attention with her outspoken views and occasional controversies.
German magazine Focus referred to her as "Madonna of the Balkans", while W magazine compared her to Lady Gaga. Karleuša is also the most followed Serbian woman on social media, including two million followers on Instagram.
Jelena Karleuša was born on 17 August 1978 in Belgrade, SFR Yugoslavia and was raised in the Fontana neighborhood of New Belgrade. Her mother, Divna Karleuša (25 January 1958 – 3 March 2019), was a host at Radio Belgrade, while her father, Dragan (1 January 1947), is a retired Captain of Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs, who notably led the investigation of the infamous Kosovo massacre of 1999 and took a part in the Operation Sablja in 2003. Karleuša graduated at Zemun Gymnasium, attended music school and was a member of a choir.
At sixteen years of age, Karleuša expressed a desire to become a singer to her mother's support, who, nevertheless, at the time wasn't able to financially carry out Jelenas debut album due to inflation and, overall, challenging economic situation in the country. Eventually, with help from singer Dragana Mirković, Karleuša managed to release her first record Ogledalce (Little Mirror) under Diskos in 1995, which saw a commercial success, selling more than 100,000 copies in Yugoslavia. Later on, she released five more turbo-folk oriented records, but as her career progressed she tried to be perceived as a performer of pop music exclusively.
In 2002, she collaborated with Greek label Heaven Music and their eminent songwriter Phoebus on her seventh album, titled Samo za tvoje oči (For Your Eyes Only).
In February 2004, Karleuša took part in Beovizija music festival to qualify for Serbia and Montenegro's entry for Eurovision Song Contest with "Moli me" (Beg Me), however without success. She then signed a recording contract with City Records and released Magija (Magic) in February the following year. In February 2008, Karleuša delivered her best-selling album yet, titled JK Revolution, despite facing scrutiny for the infamous studio session of the lead single "Tihi ubica" (Silent Killer), which leaked to the public and provoked discussions about her vocal abilities. In March 2009, she entered Serbian Celebrity Big Brother as a guest and walked on the second day. At the end of the year, Karleuša also launched a clothing line, called JK Wear. In May 2010 she held All About Diva Show, a 15,000 people concert in the Belgrade Arena, displaying Karleuša's showmanship with her sexual and eccentric appearances, visual effects and choreographies. During the same year, she also landed a column in the daily newspaper Kurir on politics and the music scene, which raised a lot controversies. Her tenth electropop influenced album Diva, released on 11 June 2012, saw great commercial success, but also marked a significant departure from her previous pop-folk records. Her second Belgrade concert, Viva la Diva Show, was then held in Ušće, Belgrade, June 2013 in front of 40,000 fans. However, afterwards, she suffered strong media backlash, weighing about the actual number of people at the concert, which also saw technical issues. Karleuša then lost her recording contract and allegedly got banned from RTV Pink following a disagreement with its owner and CEO, Željko Mitrović. Due to all of these issues, Karleuša declared that she would take a break from the public life.
In 2015, she ended her hiatus by signing to Grand Production and becoming a judge, and later a mentor, on the reality talent show Zvezde Granda. In meantime, Karleuša has also developed an online and social media presence through her fashion style, and in April 2016 was the first Serbian woman, and second overall after Novak Djokovic, to reach one million followers on Instagram. Also that year, she made a guest performance at Vodafone Park in Istanbul after her husband's team, Besiktas J.K. had won the national championship. The following June, she performed her two new duets, "Bankina" (Hard Shoulder) with Aca Lukas and "Ostavljam te" (I'm Leaving You) featuring Azis, on the live finale of Zvezde Granda, which were her first releases since 2013. In late January 2019, Karleuša performed "LaJK" (Like) featuring Serbian rapper Gazda Paja at the 2019 Music Awards Ceremony. The performance included an intro through which Karleuša reflected on the media backlash regarding her personal life from the past month, since she'd decided to take a break from the media.
Jelena Karleuša has a very polarized public reception of her work, image and persona. Throughout her career, she has attracted significant controversy, criticism, and media scrutiny for her appearances, which are often deemed edgy and over-sexualised, and for her outspoken views, specifically regarding other public figures and socioeconomic situation in Serbia. However, she has also created an undeniable influence over the public life and mass culture in Serbia and its region. In a 2013 public survey, she was cited as the biggest influence of Serbian youth after Novak Djokovic. The title of her 2012 song, "Sodoma i Gomora" (Sodom and Gomorrah), appeared as a question on the standardized test for admission to the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Niš, that year. In 2019, Karleuša also served as a subject of a master's degree paper titled "Celebrity Diplomacy in the former Yugoslavia: Case Jelena Karleuša" at the University of Zagreb, Faculty of Political Science.
Regarded as a style icon, Karleuša has acquired significant foreign recognition through fashion over the years. In 2015, she rose to international prominence after she'd accused Kim Kardashian, and then Beyoncé, of copying her fashion style, thus was featured on The Wendy Williams Show, among other media outlets from around the world, debating on her style and social media influence. The following year, Kardashian praised Karleuša's style in her Woman Crush Wednesday column, claiming that she heard of Jelena only after the media allegations. In 2016, Karleuša also had an online dispute with Italian fashion designer Stefano Gabbana, who accused her of wearing fake Dolce & Gabbana pieces in the comment section beneath her Instagram post. After reaching Gabbana through messages, Karleuša assured him that the clothes on the questionable photo were bought at the official D&G store. Gabbana afterwards apologised to her and deleted the infamous comment.
At the beginning of 2016, she had another international media outlet when the 2015 Academy Award-winning documentary about Amy Winehouse falsely used unlicensed scenes from Jelena's 2013 concert as ones of Winehouse's last Belgrade performance. Karleuša initially planned to settle lawsuits against the creators for copyright infringement, but eventually gave up due to respect of the late singer.
Philanthropy and activism
She was one of the first Serbian celebrities to publicly support LGBT rights, thus considered a gay icon. Karleuša also advocates for animal rights and has collaborated with PETA in 2018.
She is noted for supporting various other causes during her career. Following the 2014 Southeast Europe floods, Karleuša was supplying Serbian shelters with basic necessities for three days straight. Same year her husband and her were one of the few regional celebrities who actually financially contributed to the ALS research after participating in the ice bucket challenge. In 2015 she performed at Donna Ares' charity concert for victims of cancer in Zetra Olympic Hall, Sarajevo. In December 2018, Karleuša donated 100,000 RSD to VK Partizan for pool heating during winter seasons.
In September 2004, Karleuša married Bojan Karić, nephew of the controversial Serbian businessman Bogoljub Karić. However, the marriage last shortly, as they divorced after three months.
On 28 June 2008, she married Serbian football player Duško Tošić. The couple has two daughters, Atina (2008) and Nika (2009). Both were born by Caesarean section on the same date, 7 September.
Since 2016, Karleuša has identified as vegetarian transiting to vegan and also values strong atheistic beliefs.
Karleuša v. Ceca
In 2010, Serbian singer Svetlana Ceca Ražnatović sued Karleuša for the reputation of honour and emotional violence regarding the context of an open letter Karleuša addressed to Ceca via her Facebook profile.
In the letter she held Ražnatović responsible of being involved in the 1999 assassination of Zoran Davidović, Karleuša's then boyfriend who was often connected with crime, but according to Karleuša falsely because he didn't have a police file. Furthermore, she accused Ražnatović of maintaining close ties with leaders of the Zemun clan, claiming Ceca was "at the head of the table" following the assassination of her husband and career criminal, Željko Ražnatović in 2000. Karleuša also addressed the rumours of Ceca ordering articles through her acquaintances in the media and show business, as a way to create bad publicity for Karleuša.
In February 2017, Svetlana Ražnatović claimed victory over Karleuša, who was ordered to pay Ceca 650€ fee and to cover her €900 court expenses. Later that year, Karleuša also settled a lawsuit against Ceca for verbally attacking her during the trials. However, in October 2019, the cases eventually resulted in mediation between two sides.
Adultery allegations and sex scandal
At the beginning of 2019, she was accused of having an affair with Bosnian footballer Ognjen Vranješ, who stated that himself even though he was married at the time. The scandal erupted when alleged nude pictures of Karleuša surfaced and were placed on the cover of every tabloid in Serbia. Karleuša firmly denied these allegations via her Twitter account claiming that those images had been photoshopped.
The Press Advice expert, Tamara Skrozza stated that in this case tabloids have practically violated every codex of Serbian journalism and that is just the prime example of the downfall of Serbian media in the past couple of years. Another eminent journalist, Petar Jeremić, said that the Ministry should "wake up from their deep dream and start doing their job". The State Secretary of the Ministry of Culture and Information, Aleksandar Gajović, declared that the Ministry will submit infringement reports against Serbian tabloids Kurir, Informer, Alo! and Srpski telegraf for their sexually explicit front pages. Karleuša herself initiated 160 criminal charges against Vranješ and mentioned newspapers for organised and continuous media lynch, defamations, photomontages and attack on her family's dignity, reputation and honour.
Following the incident, in October 2019, Olympiacos supporters dropped a banner of support for Karleuša during a match at the Karaiskakis Stadium against AEK Athens, for which Vranješ plays. At the end of the year she was also declared the most searched topic in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Google, partially due to the scandal.
- Studio albums
- Ogledalce (1995)
- Ženite se momci (1996)
- Veštice, vile (1997)
- Jelena Karleuša (1998)
- Gili, gili (1999)
- Za svoje godine (2001)
- Samo za tvoje oči (2002)
- Magija (2005)
- JK Revolution (2008)
- Diva (2012)
- TBA (2020)
- All About Diva (2010)
- Viva la Diva Show (2013)
Awards and nominations
|Oskar Popularnosti||1999||Album of the Year||Gili, gili||Won|
|2001||Dance Singer of the year||Herself||Won|
|2004||Female Performer of the Year||Won|
|2005||Album of the Year||Magija||Won|
|GayEcho Award||2010||Gay Icon||Herself||Won|
|Oskar Popularnosti||2011||Female Folk Singer of the Year||Nominated|
|Music Awards Ceremony||2019||Collaboration of the Year||"Bankina" (feat. Aca Lukas)||Won|
|2020||Trap Collaboration of the Year||"LaJK" (feat. Gazda Paja)||Won|
- ^ Karleuša asked her fans purposely not to vote for her, because in her opinion she can't be labelled as 'folk' singer.