The former X Factor finalist and Eurovision star reveals how Lady Gaga's music helped her through the coming out process.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything, and that includes how we’re all celebrating Pride in 2020.

With huge public gatherings out of the question, we’re asking a range of LGBTQ celebrities and allies for their personal Pride anthems, to help us all get into the Pride spirit from lockdown.

Since making it through to the X Factor final in 2016, Saara Aalto has been busy not just consistently releasing music and performing all over the world, but also representing her native Finland in Eurovision and trying her hand at ice skating in Dancing On Ice.

Saara Aalto performing at Pride In London in 2019
Saara Aalto performing at Pride In London in 2019

As part of our ongoing My Pride Anthems series, Saara has also shared some of the songs she thinks we all need to be listening to this Pride month, including a “lesbian anthem” from Brandi Carlile, and the music that she says helped her through the coming out process...

Lady Gaga – Born This Way

“This was the song that I used to sing a lot at my gigs, when I was just about to come out. This was like a power song for me, I used to be like ‘I’m going to come out soon, and it’s OK to be who you are’ when I was performing this, I just have so many good memories of singing it at my gigs.

“I used to perform it at Prides around Finland at that time... and then I also chose it for my first performance on Dancing On Ice last year. I was like ‘it has to be my first skate’, and it was! It’s a special song for me, I love it.”

Brandi Carlile – The Story

“Oh my god, this song is so, so good. I remember when I came out, and I started to have more LGBT people in my friendship groups, there were lesbians I knew who absolutely loved this song. This song was actually played on Grey’s Anatomy, and then it kind of became a lesbian anthem.

“When I heard it for the first time, I was like ‘this is a song I need to sing’, and I have been singing it a lot at my shows. Last summer I performed it at Diva magazine’s HearHer festival, and it was amazing to have all the lesbians in the audience singing along with me, it’s just a really powerful song. Please listen to it if you’ve never heard it before.”

MNEK and Hailee Steinfeld – Colour

“It’s funny, before I came to the UK for X Factor, I was already a fan of MNEK’s, and I kind of never thought that I would actually meet him. And last summer, we were together on Virgin Atlantic’s Pride flight… and he saw me on the plane and he was like ‘Saara! Hello!’, and came over to talk to me because he knew me from X Factor, and I was like ‘oh my goodness, I’ve listened to you for years, and now you’re here with me on the same flight’.

“I think he is just an amazing producer, amazing songwriter, amazing performer, I just really love him. He’s done so many amazing things.

“And last summer, I was walking in a queer fashion show at London Fashion Week, and I played this song in my dressing room when I was getting ready, and it just really reminds me of last summer. It’s just a happy song, and really LGBT-friendly song.”

Saara Aalto – Dance Like Nobody’s Watching

“I had to choose one of my own songs, and this is my Pride anthem. I’ve worked so much for the LGBT community, and this song is kind of the heart of my work, in a way.

“We also filmed a really beautiful music video for this song, telling the story of a transgender ballerina, and we actually got a trans ballerina for the video, and it was her first professional dance after her transition. So she was crying on set, we were crying, everybody was crying, and when we saw the video for the first time, it felt so beautiful. And it was really important for me to tell that story that isn’t maybe told all that often.

“This was the official song for Pride In London last summer and that was such a big honour, after performing at Prides for years all across the world. I’m forever grateful to X Factor first of all, for giving me that opportunity to move to London, and be accepted in the UK, it’s been such a big thing for me.”

Bright Light Bright Light – This Was My House

“This song is really about feeling safe in your community. I think it’s really important for all of us, in this moment, when everything is a bit scary, to feel safe. That’s why Pride is so important, and everything about this song is totally queer, which I adore.

“Bright Light Bright Light is also a friend of mine, we’ve done some cool things together, and he does so much for the queer community.”

Adam Lambert – If I Had You

“This is a love song really reminds me of that time when I had just come out. And also a time shortly before that, when I was secretly dating girls, but because I was kind of in the public eye… when it was all new to me, I was a bit, like, hiding it. But for me, this song, [reminds me of] when I would be partying and being like ‘I’m coming out soon, I’m doing it’. That song really just makes me want to dance.

“I actually sang with Adam Lambert at The X Factor final, and that was my biggest dream come true, because I’d been his fan for years. He came second on American Idol, and when I came second on X Factor, he sent me a message to be like ‘welcome to the club’. It’s just crazy for a Finnish girl to experience all that. And be friends with somebody that you absolutely adore.”

Saara Aalto recently launched her No Fear school, which focusses on wellness, self-care and sense of self. This currently includes a podcast series with her wife, Meri Aalto, and singing masterclass taught directly by Saara.

We’ll be adding each celebrity’s song choices to our bumper My Pride Anthems playlist each day. Take a listen below:

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