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‘The ones that I love’

My Żarbun brought Chiara notoriety, but her passion for shoes is genuine

Chiara Siracusa totters out of the television studio balancing on her pink, glittery high heels, all 16cm of them, and leaves behind an audience still reeling from the vibe of her latest single, the controversial My Żarbun.

“Shoes are my life,” the singer says by way of introduction. “They mean the world to me.” She has 155 pairs – she counts them – and they line her bedroom wall on open shelves from top to bottom.

“I don’t want them in boxes, I want to be able to look at them all the time,” she says in her larger-than-life manner.

This self-proclaimed obsession is what got her new Icelandic management, Hands Up Music, to write her a club song dedicated to her shoes.

“When the song was ready, my manager Valgeir Magnusson, asked me: what is ‘shoes’ in Maltese?” The rest is history.

The minute I put on a colourful, sparkly pair of high heels, I feel better

Upon its release last month, My Żarbun went viral, with more than 112,000 views, over a thousand comments, and scores of humorous memes doing the rounds on social media.

To fuel the comic element, the song also features the contribution of Icelandic DJ Haffi Haff.

“It was hilarious, but I assure you it’s completely incidental that the DJ’s name means barefoot in Maltese. I really hadn’t noticed before people started commenting on it,” she said.

The lyrics speak of her as “a warrior” in her “żarbun”. Did she intend the song to be funny?

“No! Not at all... to me the song is a metaphor: the lyrics talk about the trials and tribulations of my life.”

However, she is putting herself in her viewers’ shoes, so to speak, and has started to see the song in a different light and with a giggle adds: “I’m starting to see the funny side – it didn’t occur to me before.”

She is also of the philosophy that any publicity is good publicity for her song which is available only on iTunes.

“We’re even doing a video now to go with it.”

The song hit the headlines in Iceland, making it on the news bulletins and recently she got a call from Cherry Grove Club on Fire Island in New York, asking her for permission to play My Żarbun. The song is also being played in clubs in Holland, Belgium, Germany and Denmark.

At 36, she felt the urge to go for an international agent.

“Malta’s market is what it is – plus this is an opportunity to talk about Malta wherever I go,” she says with a passion.

Żarbun is the ideal ice-breaker to start talking about the language.

Chiara says high heels make her feel more confident. Photos: Darrin Zammit LupiChiara says high heels make her feel more confident. Photos: Darrin Zammit Lupi

She guffaws at some of the comments which labelled her as “tal-pepe” – a term usually used for English-speaking people from Sliema who use a mix of English and Maltese.

“I am from Senglea... I always speak Maltese except when talking to foreigners,” she said.

She does not mind being criticised. “I’m always open to criticism as long as they don’t offend my family – I am very protective of them,” she said, although she added that her skin was as tough as old boots, having been in the industry for 20 years.

The singer became popular after competing in the Eurovision Song Contest three times – placing third in 1998, second in 2005 and 22nd in the 2009 final. But Żarbun is quite a departure from her Eurovision love ditties.

“I’m done with ballads. Due to the things I went through in life, I don’t believe in love that much,

“I’m more into women empowerment and so on – my heart is not in it anymore.”

So she finds that these days she is more comfortable with dance songs. Life is a struggle but her shoe collection brings her a lot of joy.

“The minute I put on a colourful, sparkly pair of high heels, I feel better; it’s a boost, I feel more confident and more womanly, ­know what I mean?”

The conversation returns to footwear. She’s a size 39; she buys most of them online; she does not spend more than €60 on each pair; she dreams of shoes; she buys the shoes first and then matches a dress to go with them. Were the heel inches quite a feat to manage?

“Of course, I fall off all the time, but it’s normal. I mean, take Lady Gaga – not that I want to compare myself to her – but most of the photos we see are of her tripping.”

She can live with the dangers of the heel, she exclaims.

So what is her next step?

“Another song, who knows, maybe about my love for earrings – Misluta,” she says, throwing her head back and laughing heartily.

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