Issue #92 - Digital Cover

Published on October 28th, 2015 | by Dr. Jerry Doby


Crossing Over: Bleona Brings European Pizzaz To Her American Debut!

Bleona! She is one of the best-selling recording artists of Eastern Europe. She’s got eight albums, with over 1.5 million copies sold. She’s also been on Bravo’s TV series called Euros of Hollywood. According to the word, she’s strong, feisty, and humorous, and it’s made her a fan favorite. Filling 70,000 seat arenas across Europe, Bleona will make her official American debut in 2016 with her full length project.

Currently, her song “Take You Over” is blazing up the charts on multiple levels and Bleona’s global presence will soon include a footing in North America that is unparalleled since Shakira, at least on the Rhythmic Pop side of music.

We got to meet Bleona by phone while she was in Turkey and get an inside look at this amazingly talented and astute entertainer. Big personality, big sound…big future!


You’re coming to us from Eastern Europe, you’re making an America debut.

It’s been a long, long way for me, yes, and I’m doing the first debut in U.S. My first single, Take You Over, came out in iTunes on September 18th and then we had the video premier on Vevo on September 21st, and then Sirius XM did a premiere of the track as well. I’m really, really excited. We just released in the clubs the single and the remixes made by Dave Aude, Ralphi Rosario, to name a few names. We were actually the most added number one Billboard dance charts song, so I’m really, really proud.

I’m really actually really surprised, because I’ve worked so hard for this for three years, and at this point I’m just working hard and not really expecting anything in return. Hearing so many good news in a matter of a month has been really, really surprising for me, and I see it finally happening. You never know that it’s happening until you hear this and you’re like, “Wow, I guess I’m just there.” It’s been a very humbling experience for me. I’m extremely happy and extremely humbled at the same time.


You’ve earned it, you’ve put in the work, obviously.

Thank you. It’s like the people that build a long, tall building that you see that’s really beautiful from the outside, but then only the people who really build it know how deep that foundation of the building goes in order to stand that tall. It’s basically like the same thing. For me it’s not really been work, because music is what I do. I love music. It’s nice when work isn’t work. I love doing this. It’s also nice though to hear something good in return.

I know that you’ve been rocking the American audiences. A lot of people probably don’t know this, but you and Timbaland have been working as well.

Yes, I’ve done the White Party twice, in 2013 and 2014. That was actually a really refreshing experience for me, because I love challenges. As an entertainer, you know that you’re good when you can make dance people who never heard of you, because when you go on the stage, everybody can dance with you, if they’re your fans, if they know your music from before, then it’s really easy, but to go on, on stage, especially with the gay community, with a very, very particular community and they have their standards very high about what they call a great show, you have the guts to go and sing in front of them when they’ve never ever heard of you, it actually takes courage. I love challenges and I did it and I love it. Now gay community is actually a very big supporter of my music and I’m really, really happy about it.

I just wanted to go back to the Take You Over single, because actually the guy who did Take You Over, his name is Roccstar, he’s fresh off his work with Chris Brown. As you know, he did Fine China for Chris, and he’s got an amazing, amazing talent. We got in the studio together and were vibing with each other. I just wanted a song that really, really represents me. I just wanted that first single that would be different, that would bring something else in the table, that is something like people have not heard before, because at the end of the day, America has a Beyonce, has a Lady Gaga, has a Katy Perry, has already a lot of pop stars, so you need to bring something different in the table. I wanted to bring an American blend of pop music together with international music.

After I was speaking to Roccstar, and of course I’m being crazy in the studio, singing and dancing all over the mixers, after half an hour, he comes out with a song called Take You Over, “Let my love take you over.” I was like, “Oh my god, this is actually a song that really, really describes me, who I am as a character.” If you really hear the lyrics of the song, it actually really describes me. I’m really happy that I’m doing things my way and I am free on the creative process because I’m not signed to the labels yet, so obviously we can do whatever we want in the studio and come up with whatever songs we want. I’m really happy that the first single I’ve made in America, it really represents who I am.

Of course we’ve done this video, which is very, very a high-fashion, conceptual video. I was collaborating with a director, Dennis Leupold, who’s very known for his work with J-Lo and Rihanna, and we got an amazing DP and also an amazing professional, Jeffrey Kelly, who amongst his numerous videos, he’s done Drunk In Love with Beyonce and a lot of other videos in her video album that she released a while ago. Just having the opportunity to work with such extreme talented people like Roccstar, Dennis, Jeffrey Kelly, it’s given me the opportunity to express myself creatively into what I want and who I am. I feel really, really glad for getting this opportunity to work with them.



You worked with Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins as well?

I also worked with Darkchild, yes. He’s absolutely amazing. He’s absolutely amazing and got an extreme, extreme talent. Rodney said something that really stuck with me for the longest time. Rodney’s like, “Bleona, don’t go to the labels. Let the labels go to you. Get in the studio, do good music, and release it, and let the labels know who you are instead of sitting on shells.” It was one of those advices that in the beginning you’re like, “What? Does this really work this way?” Then when you really understand it, what they mean, it’s actually better this way. Rodney was the guy that told me that we need to find my own sound instead of having the song just like everybody else. Actually the songs that he’s done are really, really beautiful.

At the end of the day, it’s all about the song, it’s not about who did the song. I’ve always been very aware in America that all the big producers of course, they’re not going to be like, “Oh, let me hand you my best song,” because of course they’re going to have that song in the drawer for Beyonces and Gagas of this world. I just need to earn my place into their studio. It’s been really, really hard work, but we’re getting there. We’re getting there and we’re very excited.

You’ve earned the place. Take It Like A Man went to number seven on the UK charts, right?

Thank you. Yes. That was with no label, no support whatsoever from any label.


No promotional support. We just went to the clubs and we hit number seven. It’s one of those songs that, it’s all about female empowerment. All the music that I’ve done in my previous eight albums back home has been a very … I’ve been very known for being a rebellious entertainer, so of course my music in English is not going to be any different, of course it’s going to be rebellious. It’s dance and it’s pop and it’s fun, but it has a strong element of female empowerment. I want to empower all the girls of the world and let them know that if you have a dream, you’re the only one who’s going to achieve it.

Take It Like A Man is one of those songs, yes. I love Take It Like A Man. It’s actually really, really nice.


I’m digging Fu*k You I’m Famous. I got a chance to listen to that. I was like, “Okay, all right, that’s dope.”

Fu*k You I’m Famous actually is more like a ironic track that I did because of Euros of Hollywood, because of my TV show. When I was waiting around for all those producers to hand me a song, I was going to LA and I would go to some restaurant and I would be like, “Hey, I need a table for two people tonight.” They’re like, “Yeah, can you spell your name?” I’m like, “Excuse me? Google me.” I always had that attitude with me. It was like, “What do you mean you want me to spell your name?” because I come from a total different mentality that I’ve been a singer since I was five years old and actually when I go back home, people just roll out a red carpet, so for me to not even get into a restaurant in LA was a little different. I understood, and of course I worked for my place in the industry.

Then I was going to to a club that night to hear what’s the latest music, and I’m hear a long line of people trying to impress the security, like, “Yo, man, do you remember the such and such ad in 1982? I was the one playing that. Do you know who I am? I’m a producer, I’ve done this movie, I’ve done that movie.” I was staring at the people, I was like, “Oh my god, this is a city where these people are like legends of their own minds. Everybody thinks they are so famous but nobody ever heard of them.” Because of my persona and my history, it was making sense to come up with a song called Fu*k You I’m Famous, because the Euros of Hollywood, the show that I did, was actually about a fish out of water kind of situation.

It was actually perfect for the show, but the melody of the song is so beautiful and the chorus of the song is so catchy that it actually has started to be an anthem of the gay community. We are actually re-releasing the song this November. Everything that I do that gets noted in the music industry, I will always re-release that record, because for me it’s actually really funny. It’s nothing to do with any arrogance actually. It’s just like an ironic, it’s like an irony, if that makes any sense.

Tell me, what’s the best part right now about being Bleona?

I’m a pop singer. Fashion and music and crazy visuals is what I do, it’s how I express myself. This is what I’ve been doing in my country for years. Any time I go on stage, I have to express myself doing something crazy because this is who I am. It’s not just about the music that you have. Of course you have to have a talent and you have to have the song, but ultimately you have to have that it factor, that it factor that only God has blessed you with, that when you go on stage, you make people listen to you. I live for that and I love that. I love to go, I love to live on a tour bus. This is the best part about Bleona. I don’t mind starting from zero.

I’m done with the adrenaline of being in magazines and being the dream girl of all the guys and blah blah blah blah, all that. To me, it’s not about that anymore. At the end of the day, how many pairs of shoes are you going to buy, and how many watches? To me, it’s about the challenge. To me, it’s about when people say, “You can’t do that.” Then that’s exactly what I’m going to do. It takes a lot of courage to get out of your comfort zone and go to another country and basically start again from nothing.

I could’ve easily stayed back home and just enjoyed my status and be the jury member, like I was a judge on X Factor Albania this season, or do a judge of this or judge of that, but that’s not interesting for me. For me, I want to rock the world, I want to be on stage, I want to go to places that never heard of me, and I want to rock the world with my music. That is the best part about me because I’m actually, if you remove the music out of me, I don’t know what else can remain there.

Music is like air, you got to have it?

I actually mean that. I actually really mean it. It’s not that I’m having an interview, it’s exactly who I am. I feel alive when I am on stage. It’s one of those things that, it just keeps me high, being sober.

“Keeps me high being sober,” I have not managed that.

Basically my main purpose in life is I want to be high all day long but actually on a sober mode, if that makes any sense. If you can be high without using drugs, that is what music does for me and that’s why it’s so addictive and that’s why I keep doing it and doing it and doing it.

Natural high, I got it, natural high.

It’s called natural high in English?

Natural high, yeah.

How is my English, by the way?

Your English is magnificent. When you were singing, there’s not much of an accent. 

Yeah, there is still a slight accent.

You speak better English than some of the Americans that I have interviewed. They butcher the English language and here you are from Eastern Europe and you’re speaking The King’s English magnificently, perfectly, no problem.

Thank you so much, I appreciate it, thank you.

What is your country of origin? I know what you said earlier you’re in Turkey right now.

I am Albanian originally and I do have a very strong head. As I said before, if you tell me you can’t do this, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. A lot of people in my country, this whole thing of me doing an album in English actually started like a joke. I remember I was in tour in Germany in 2008, because Albanians, they live all over the world, especially in Western Europe, so I used to do 80 concerts a year throughout Western Europe from the year 2001 until 2004, when I was still a kid.

We were on tour and then I went in America in 2004 and somebody advised me to go to Webster Hall. When I landed in New York, I saw the city and I completely fell in love. I was like, “Oh my god, this is exactly where I want to live.” It was one of those things that you are like, “Okay, well this is too good to be true. You can’t really do this.” Sometimes you doubt yourself. I did a concert that night, it was great.

The next morning, I went straight to an immigration lawyer with all my magazine covers, with all my CDs, with everything I ever had press-wise. I just dropped it on the table and like, “Hey, my name’s Bleona, I need you to get me my O-1 visa.” He was like, “Uh, excuse me?” This is how actually this really happened. Then I couldn’t come to America because I didn’t have the documents, they weren’t ready on time.

I was in tour in Germany in 2008, and Timbaland came out with a song called The Way I Are, which is actually to this day is one of my most favorite songs on the planet. We were on tour on the tour bus and we’re hearing this song and I was like, “You know what? The minute I get the green card, I need to go and find this guy and need him to make an album with me.” Everyone on my bus, they just thought that I’m using drugs. They’re like, “Okay, yeah, whatever, you’re being delusional right now.” I’m like, “You know what? Just watch me.” It’s actually really funny because I said, “Watch me,” but I really had no plan. I really had nothing where to start on.

Later that year I had a concert for Donald Trump at the Mar-a-Lago, it was a private event. I was there with a band from Detroit, because Detroit was the only place where I got the green card, because the concentration of Albanian population is bigger there. We went to Mar-a-Lago, I sing my ass off, and Donald comes to me and he’s like, “Who are you? You are like the most famous person I never met.” I was like, “Well my name’s Bleona, I’m from here and I’m from there.” He’s like, “Well what can I do for you?” I’m sure that every girl would’ve asked Donald Trump to give her a penthouse in Manhattan. I was like, “Can you get me to Timbaland please?” He was like, “Justin Timberlake?” He thought I was some groupie, that I just wanted to do a picture. I was like, “No, his name is Timbaland and he does all the songs of Justin.” He’s like, “Well, let me just call David Foster for you.”

Donald called David Foster and then I found myself on a plane, in LA singing in David Foster’s studio. I was like, “Oh my god, I actually can’t believe this is really happening.” I was in heaven. David, after he gets off the piano, he goes like, “Uh, well, you don’t have Celine Dion’s voice, but she also doesn’t have your face, so I think you need to move in LA and do an album in English.”

David takes me to the Grammys, I meet Timbaland, and we just got introduced to each other. Then a week after, I went to his studio, I was invited to his studio, and he was like, “Okay, so tell me what’s your story?” I was like, “Well, my name is Bleona, I need you to do my album.” Back then I used to speak into “I need” quotes because I just don’t know English. It’s not that I’m giving orders, just sometimes my English gets crazy.

He’s like, “First of all it’s not the albums time, it’s the singles time, that’s number one. Number two, your name is not Justin Timberlake, so I don’t know if I can help you.” I was like, “Excuse me?” Now my eyes are all in tears because all my dreams were shattered. I went through hell to get to this guy and now he was rejecting me. With tears in my eyes I was like, “Well you know what? Whether you want or not, you’re going to work with me, you just don’t know it yet.” Just left the studio.

Ten days after the fact, I’m back in Milan and I had a concert that night, and I see Timbaland on my phone. I was like, “Pick up the phone.” I pick up the phone, I was like, “Hello?” He was like, “Yo, this is Tim.” I’m like, “Yes?” He’s like, “Where are you?” I’m like, “I’m in Milan.” He was like, “Oh yeah, you’re in Milan? I’m telling you to go make a song how you sound and you just ran out shopping?” I was like, “No, man, I have a concert. I’m coming back, I promise.”

I finish the concert in Milan, I go back, I did eight songs with his production company, and then he still didn’t reacted for a year and a half after that. I sat in the studio for a year and a half until I got the first beat from him. In one of the random nights, he just picks up the mic and is like, “Yo, this girl has been with us for a year and a half now and she really deserves it and I’m going to give her a beat.”

We did the first single together in 2012, and I did not know what to do with that, because I did not have any support system in America, I didn’t really know anybody, so I was like, “Okay, whatever, I’ll just go back home and do a tour based on the singles.” Then I took Tim’s people with me. I took his DJ, DJ Freestyle Steve, and one of his rappers, Brasco, with me, who was featuring a song called Pass Out. Then we went back home and I organized the whole tour for 11 days by myself.

Now we come on the first concert and they find out 70,000 people on the first concert, and they’re like, “Yo, is this for us?” I’m like, “Well, duh, what did you guys thought?” Then they called Timbaland back on the phone and they’re like, “Yo, man, this girl’s got a movement over here, man. You have no idea. We’re having so much fun,” blah blah blah blah. Then we send Tim the footage and then he calls me back, he’s like, “Hey, I had no idea you were this kind of artist. When you come back in America, we’re going to talk in a different language.”

It was nice to earn people’s respect, especially to people who have left a big mark on the music industry. For me now, it’s not to get another song from Timbaland. For me now, is that I have worked hard enough to earn my place with all these producers, so now they can give me or we can create that A-list record that will break me as an artist so people can hear my voice in America. To me it’s not about dropping names anymore, work with this or work with that. It’s about really, really having that record. I believe Take You Over, it’s actually a real representation of who I am. Sorry, it was a long answer.

Exactly what you’re doing is exactly what I want. You’re fulfilling my dream as a journalist, is to get someone to tell you their story the way they want it told, and people will hear and read this exactly as you’re telling it.

Thanks. Now you know that I can’t take rejection, obviously.

I was going to not touch that. You know what? Look, when you first started, obviously everybody didn’t receive you maybe as you wanted them to.

No. When I first started, everybody told me I wasn’t going to make it. Everybody told me I wasn’t going to make it.

You had the intestinal fortitude to stick with your dreams and your goals. The way I say it, entertaining, music is like air, you have to have it, and therefore your passion.

I just need to have it, exactly, exactly.

You’re in Turkey?

I’m going to be in Europe still because I’m setting up the song here, so I need to be in Russia, Turkey, Spain, Italy, Germany, and UK to do all the press for the song. This Saturday I have to be back home, back home I mean, my home now is United States because I’m a U.S. citizen, but I still call home Albania, because there’s the Miss Universe Albania stuff. I am a jury member there and the head of the jury, so I have to go there and do the press.

What has been the greatest shocker to you about the music business itself, the business part?

That’s exactly what happened to me is not knowing the mentality can really steer you wrong. For example, in my country, when you are really a big artist, when you actually bother and take an effort to go to the studio and talk to yourself in person to a big producer to make you a new song, he’d take that as you being humble enough to consider to come by and tell him that you need a song. This is back home. When you get in America and you’re a big artist, you actually need a team to hype you up and pump you up with the producers in order for them to even consider to listen to you.

Coming from a mentality that I just go and get it done myself, without any team whatsoever, without any representation, this is exactly what happened when I went to Timbaland, he had no idea who I was. I didn’t really brag about it because really, you want to brag to Timbaland you’re famous? You don’t want to do that. I ended up waiting around for a year and a half for this guy to give me a song and he only found out who I was when I got his people on tour with me.

For me, this is a really shocking thing, because if I knew, I would’ve gotten a team to pump me up, not really pump me up, but at least tell me to inform people who I was. In my mind, it was like, “Hey, I have enough guts on me and I know who I am. That’s why I’m even bothering to come to you to take an effort to ask you for a song. I don’t need to bring my manager or my agents to speak to you.” For me, this was a shocking fact, but I think this is just mentality.

As far as the music business, profession-wise, it’s still sad the fact that a nude picture, sadly, takes more traction than a good song. That is actually all over the world, it’s not only in U.S. You make a very good song out and people still, they’re like, “Man, yeah, it’s okay, but you know … ” There’s this song and that song, but then you take your boobs out and everybody talks about it and you’re like, “What the fu*k?” You know what I mean?

Yeah, it sux.

Am I not being politically correct? Because I am very bad about not being politically correct.

No, you’re perfect. You don’t have to be politically correct. I am not politically correct.

I’m never politically correct. I fu*king hate the rules. I hate the rules. Me and the rules have got no connection. I’ve got a Fu*k You I’m Famous kind of attitude. You know what I mean?

Yeah, I love that. I might need to develop some of that. Maybe hanging out with you would be a great thing for me, like, “Hey, fu*k you, I’m the Editor-in-Chief of The Hype Magazine, I’m good.”


That would be hilarious.


If you were able to deliver a message to a audience of 3,000,000 people and you have one minute to deliver that message, what would your message to those people be?

Do not let anyone step on your dream and tell you you can’t do it. The only person that’s going to make it happen is you. If you’re looking for the person who’s going to make happen your dreams, buy a fu*king mirror. That’s it.

Wow. She is on point, so on point. This is someone who fills arenas, 70,000.

Especially girls that just expect somebody else to get it done for them. You know what I mean?

Right, go get it, be a self-starter, yes, believe in yourself. That’s crazy. You mentioned about people telling you you can’t do this and you can’t do that. Last week I was talking to Matthew Knowles and he was saying to me that, “If you get enough naysayers, people who say you can’t do this, it’s quite possible that you have an outstandingly great idea, and you should act on it.”

Yeah, exactly, and they just don’t get it. Their brainwaves are so small, they just don’t get it. Your energy and your picture is so big that it doesn’t fit in their small brain, so of course, naturally, the first thing that comes out of their mouth is, “You can’t do it,” because them their self, they never even would dream to do that. That’s not my problem, that’s their problem.

That’s a great philosophy. Not my problem you can’t see my vision.

They say that doubt has killed more dreams than failure ever will. How’s that?

It’s better to start something and fail, because you actually never fail until you quit and doubt yourself to the degree of not even starting at all, because then you’re already a failure.

Think about your friend, Donald Trump, he went bankrupt, for god’s sake, and now he’s running for president.

Exactly, and look at him now.

Back on top again, yeah.

Exactly. Anytime I see Donald, he reminds me of the song  Watch Me Whip.

Silento, yeah, yeah, yeah. It is a crazy song.

He’s like, “Look at me now, look at me now.” He’s a funny guy.

“I’m getting paper,” that’s right, that’s right.

Sorry, I’m being crazy, but I feel comfortable.

Thank you! Is there anything that you wanted to cover perhaps that I may have neglected or missed?

That’s about it. I’m looking forward to release my single in America and I’m looking forward to people to see the video. I’m looking forward to really get introduced to this country via my music and I’m looking forward to meet everyone in person and rock the stage and then see how they feel about it. That’s about it. For me, music is the most powerful form of communication in the world. It brings us all together, even when religion separates us. A hit record actually unites us in all sorts of beliefs, race, politics, everything.

As a world traveler, what is your outlook on our global community as people? What’s going on that everybody should be paying attention to, in your mind?

I’m actually really, really blessed to live in America and to be an American. Of course I’m never going to forget that I come from Albania, and I’m very proud to be Albanian, but I’m very blessed to live in a country when you have so many opportunities to go and get it done. We don’t understand how spoiled we are in this country until we travel to some other side of the world where actually nothing is possible. America for me is land of opportunities, is the land where you can make your dreams come true. Coming from a very small country where the opportunities are limited to none, I’m actually living my American dream. This is where I am right now.

You can go to Paris, into a five-star hotel, and by any means, I love Paris and I love their food and their fashion and all that, but you go to a five-star hotel and you’re like, “Excuse me, can you close the door please?” and they’ll be like, “I’m sorry, madam, this is not possible.” I’m like, “Just close the freaking door! Why is that so not possible?” Meanwhile, you go to America and you’re like, “Yo man, I need a green cappuccino with a side of yellow milk in it and some coconut milk on top,” and they’ve probably never heard of that, what you’re looking for, but they’re like, “You know what? Let’s just make it happen.” They have that attitude. I love American people. They all just want to make it happen.

Only if you’re a foreigner you understand how actually blessed you are to live in America, especially to be born in America. I would love to be born in America, then I would have no accent, but that’s not possible, so at least now I’m living in America.

We are enchanted with the accent.

No, I don’t like that.

That’s part of the character, it’s beautiful. Beautiful, magnificent.

Yes, but I would like to be with no accent.

Everybody has an accent. I have a country accent.

I know, I know, but you know what I mean, I have a crazy accent.

No. No! No. You know what? One of the most famous people, I don’t know where actually the Gabor sisters are from, I think they’re from Poland, Warsaw, Zsa Zsa Gabor, she was an icon here, both for fashion and the innocent sex symbol kind of thing. She never did any of the naked stuff or anything like that. She was on one of the longest-running TV series in America called Green Acres. Part of the enchantment with her was the accent.

Oh wow, really?

I always tell people, you come here, whether you’re from Africa, whether your from Afghanistan, Albania, [crosstalk 00:43:50], wherever you have a chance, but keep who you are. Never say, “Oh I wish I didn’t have an accent,” That’s what intrigued people from the outside looking in. 

That’s exactly right. That’s why when people are like, “Oh, you’re going to be the next this and the next that,” I’m like, “No, I just want to be the first Bleona. I don’t want to be the next anything.” The world already have a lot of entertainers. You want to bring your own originality to that. Basically what I was saying before is actually that really until you really live in America and you really see how things happen and what the attitudes, you understand what it means. Sometimes you get it for granted because you’re just there and you don’t know any better. Then when you come to the other side of the world, you’re like, “Holy shit. I’m so happy in live in U.S.” You know what I mean?

I understand. I’ve seen people where having a piece of wood to burn in the fire elevates their social status. That’s amazing, and I come home and people are saying, “Oh, well I don’t have the best car,” or this complaint, that complaint, I’m like, “Look, you could be doing much worse.”

Like, “Are you crazy or what? Just go really quick in the other side of the world and understand what’s that all about.”

Wow…Wake up call for America!!!

Issue #92 – Cover Story

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About the Author

Editor-in-Chief of The Hype Magazine, Media and SEO Consultant, Journalist, Ph.D. and retired combat vet. 2023 recipient of The President's Lifetime Achievement Award. Partner at THM Media Group. Member of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, the United States Press Agency and ForbesBLK.

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