Rosa López Cortés combs gray hair. Some white threads speckled the simple tight bow tie with which she appears to be interviewed —and photographed— in the EL PAÍS Newsroom, where she arrives in a modest tour driven by Nacho Alonso, her boyfriend and representative. Warm, talkative, hypersensitive until breaking several times during the talk, Rosa seems to show herself, at the same time, in live hides and with a cuirass of several centimeters of steel. From time to time he looks at his partner, Nacho, a local policeman from Madrid, as if to check that he does not leave the pot where he has decided to stay so as not to get into puddles. If it’s not media scalded, it looks like it.
When did you realize the effect of your voice on others?
When I was 13 years old, I performed with my uncle Hernán on a terrace in my town. He and his wife enlivened the summer nights singing pachanga so that people dined at ease. He took me out and I sang I will always love youby Whitney Houston, and there was a lovely silence amid the bustle. I felt something inexplicable, I was left wanting more, and until now.
What did singing mean to you?
Everything. I came from school and did not do my homework: I would go into my temple, which was my room, I would draw the curtain, put on my tape and the hours would come on me. I spent hours singing, trying on clothes, doing video clips in front of the bathroom mirror. I was self-produced.
He wears a mask against ‘bullying’. Do you know the cloth?
We have all suffered it at some point, even if you are beautiful. It is true that in my childhood, I did suffer some circumstances, but my bulliyng is exceeded. If it weren’t for the fact that I was strong without knowing it, and for the values my parents transmitted to me, I would have had an even lower self-esteem of which I had in Triumph operation.
That she wasn’t very tall either?
Well, it was a self-esteem of the age I had in my head, that it was not 20 years, but 13 of the old, not of the present, that a child has his studies, travels and is able to handle himself in society and look at a adult to the eyes.
[Se emociona] It’s hard for me to go back. Well, I had little experience, little culture, or insufficient. Enough to be at home, but for that new life that touched me, it was insufficient. It’s funny, because people saw me as a fragile person, but now I realize that if you can get on stage, you are neither weak nor insecure.
It is one thing to be up and another down.
They are different bulls, different pressures. That an entire country sees you does not happen every day, but I am stronger than I thought.
You told me before that you are afraid of headlines. What headline would you put on this interview?
That, after 20 years, the time has come to applaud the public. Because for me music is a tool for my true vocation: to help.
But you don’t eat helping out.
Yes, you eat on an emotional level, and also professionally because at my concerts, even if they are small, whole families come after a pandemic.
I don’t see it as very ambitious.
That is one of the biggest problems I have ever had in life: not being financially ambitious. Yes, I am in helping, in transmitting love to people.
Where does altruism come from?
My parents [vuelve a emocionarse]. Sorry, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I think it’s psychological. Closed places with a light in front, like this little room, remind me of Triumph operation. What I clung to in each gala was the light, the spotlight, and whenever a light focuses me it reminds me of it. I’m sensitive.
What do you think about when you are restricted from the success of your peers?
That we are morbid and selfish as hell. We want someone to have a hard time to help him, or to be in a fucking way to say what a son of a bitch he is. At my father’s wake they asked me for autographs. Is that respect? War? None, because as long as I don’t want it, there isn’t. For me Bisbal is a life winner, just like Mirella. Every person who gets on stage deserves respect.
In his video ‘Finally I think of me’, from 2018, he appears as a puppet. Did you feel used?
I wanted to portray the bonds that you make yourself, not blame others, which is what everyone wants to hear.
Why do you think that?
Because there is a very large magnifying glass on the Rose triumphant.
How far is it from her?
Until nowhere. I see her with love. It is like a father who scolds you, but he is your father.
They say that you have to figuratively kill your father to grow up.
I have fought against that game and not to allow myself to blend in with a character. 20 years have passed, the normal thing would be to grow with the public. But the magnifying glass only looks at the Rose of 20 years ago, poor thing, who must be helped.
And is she no longer ‘poor thing’?
I have never been poor. What I like least in this life is to feel sorry. I neither give it, nor does anything happen to me to give it, nor do I want to give it. It is quite the opposite. I am a strong woman, with 40 years I have much more to tell, I step on the ground with more force, or so I think, and, although it makes me harder because I am alone and independent, I direct my career.
Was your break with your record company flight or release?
I respect the music industry a lot because I come from there and my career is thanks to that. To be in the industry you have to be on the radio, at festivals. And I have felt valued as celebrity, not as an artist.
How fast does 20 years go by?
Well, very fast, because I think I’m still 20, and I don’t have them. Many things have happened, and well my life situation and the mirror tell me every day.
I see her beautiful. How long did it take you to look beautiful?
Well, that has always been a struggle within me. I think it was at thirty-something, my father had already died, that he died at 27. It was a whole at the same time: seeing me alone, with a partner, under my roof, with my money, with my own decisions, with the control of my emotions, my thoughts, with my discipline, my good habits. I took my thing.
How much has family responsibility weighed the hump?
I was thinking of my mother, of my brothers. Much. That is why I believe that professional help is important, because it seems that it is not, but life is heavy. And it does not mean that it is bad, but there is a moment when you have to unload a backpack to be able to with it.
And that has taken time.
Yes, the therapy is mega done, everything is worked very hard, what happens is that even so … An artist is vulnerable. It is like a player who never plays on his field: if he moves, he scores a goal himself, and if not, the others.
Have you felt classism?
I’ve been to palaces and cabins, yes. And yes, I have noticed classism, until I stopped seeing it and began to feel comfortable and to make the person in front feel comfortable.
What is the win for the winner of ‘Operación Triunfo’?
I win OT, but I have not had the life of a winner. I live naked, but I am no longer afraid of anything. My mother says that, for giving, I give up to the chocho [ríe]. I have learned that the most beautiful triumph is not on stage [mira a su novio]. I am in the best moment of my life. My power is not mine, it belongs to the public. As they take advantage of me, I am going to take advantage of myself for something good. Everyone wants us to tell outrages or secrets to make headlines, to see who celebrates the best this year. I look for what is purest. Do people want OT? Voucher. But the time has come for the protagonist to be the audience that made it possible.
‘ROSA FROM WHAT?’
Neither Rosa de España, nor Rosa the triumphant, nor Rosa the fat one. This is how Rosa López (Granada, 40 years old) presented herself in ‘Soy Rosa’, a 2017 documentary in which she settled accounts with her public image of Cinderella. Today, the winner of the first edition of ‘Operación Triunfo’ celebrates the 20th anniversary of the legendary program that changed her life. She won, but she has not led the life of a winner, confesses the singer who fell in love with the country with her participation in Eurovision and who, afterwards, has not reaped the sales success that has accompanied other of her fellow contestants, such as David Bisbal, David Bustamante, or Chenoa. In return, he lives as he wants.
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Rosa López: “I live naked, but I am no longer afraid of anything”