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Jelena Karleuša Tošić (Serbian Cyrillic: Јелена Карлеуша; born 17 August 1978) is a Serbian singer, television personality and activist. Regarded as a pop icon and one of the leading figures in the regional music industry, she earned significant recognition and influence thanks to her provocative work and outspoken views, which often receive substantial media attention and have been a frequent source of controversy.[2]

Jelena Karleuša
Parada Ponosa Beograd 2017, 019.jpg
Jelena Karleuša at 2017 Belgrade Pride
Born (1978-08-17) 17 August 1978 (age 40)
Belgrade, SR Serbia, Yugoslavia
ResidenceBelgrade, Serbia
Other names
  • Singer
  • TV personality
Years active1995–present
Bojan Karić
(m. 2004; div. 2005)

Duško Tošić
(m. 2008)
Musical career
Associated acts

In a 2013 public survey, she was cited as the biggest influence of Serbian youth after Novak Djokovic.[3] German magazine Focus referred to Karleuša as "Madonna of the Balkans",[4] while W magazine compered her to Lady Gaga.[5]

Karleuša is also the most followed western Balkan woman on social media, including two million followers on Instagram, and is a recognised style icon.[6]


Early lifeEdit

Jelena Karleuša was born on August 17, 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),[7] 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.[8][9] Karleuša graduated at Zemun Gymnasium, attended music school and was a member of a choir.


Karleuša initially rose to fame as a turbo-folk singer in the mid-90s and gained popularity with her debut 1995 album Ogledalce (Little Mirror), selling more than 100,000 copies in Yugoslavia. Later on, she released five more records of the similar genre, but as her career progressed she tried to be perceived as a performer of pop music exclusively.[10] In 2002 she collaborated with Greek label Heaven Music and their songwriter Phoebus on her seventh album titled Samo za tvoje oči (For Your Eyes Only).

In 2005, she signed a recording contract with City Records and released Magija (Magic). Three years after, Karleuša delivered her best-selling album yet, titled JK Revolution, despite the infamous studio session of the lead single "Tihi ubica" (Silent Killer) and discussions about her vocal abilities. In March 2009 she entered Serbian Celebrity Big Brother as a guest and walked on the second day. In December she released "Insomnia", featuring Mirza Hamzić.[11] The eccentric electropop single gained her much media attention and 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 was writing a column for the daily newspaper Kurir on politics and the music scene, which raised a lot controversies. At the beginning of 2011, she announced her following album with a holographic performance of the single "Muškarac koji mrzi žene" (Man Who Hates Women). Her tenth album Diva, released on 11 June 2012, was a great commercial success, which marked a significant departure from her previous pop-folk albums. Her second Belgrade concert, Viva la Diva Show, was held in Ušće, June 2013 in front of 40,000 fans. Due to technical issues and media backlash the concert was seen as a failure and Karleuša took a hiatus from the public.

Since 2015, she has served as a judge and mentor on the reality talent TV show, Zvezde Granda.[12] Same year she famously accused Kim Kardashian of copying her fashion style[13] and was featured on The Wendy Williams Show showing this time that Beyoncé was wearing very similar looks that Karleuša had worn previously.[14] The following year Kardashian wrote about Karleuša in her Woman Crush Wednesday column, saying that she heard of Jelena only after the media allegations and that she loves "her bold sense of style".[15] In the 2015 Academy Award-winning documentary about Amy Winehouse scenes from Jelena's 2013 concert were falsely used as ones of Winehouse's last Belgrade concert. Karleuša initially planned to sue the creators but eventually gave up due to respect of the late singer.[16] In the summer of 2016 she made a guest performance at Vodafone Park in Istanbul after her husband's team, Besiktas J.K. had won the national championship.[17] She then performed two duets, with Aca Lukas and Azis respectively, on the live finale of Zvezde Granda in June 2017, which were her first releases since 2013.

Due to strong media backlash regarding her personal life and their disrespect regarding the decease of her mother at the beginning of 2019, Karleuša cited she will forever end her relationship with the media, while using only her social media profiles as a way of communication with the public. In late January, she performed her single "LaJK" (Like) featuring Serbian rapper Gazda Paja at 2019 Music Awards Ceremony.

Other venturesEdit

Political activismEdit

Karleuša is one of the few regional singers who regularly talks about politics and has appeared in various political shows. She also voices her opinions on social issues via her Twitter account, thus often criticising or even disputing with eminent politicians.[18][19][20] She was one of the first Serbian celebrities to publicly support LGBT rights and is considered a gay icon.[21] In 2018 she became a PETA advocate for animal rights.[22] As a supporter of the Liberal Democratic Party of Serbia, Karleuša also promotes other causes and ideas such as social equality, feminism and medicinal marijuana legalisation.[23]


Karleuša is noted for supporting various causes during her career. Following the 2014 Southeast Europe floods, Karleuša was supplying Serbian shelters with basic necessities for three days straight.[24] Same year she was one of the few regional celebrities who actually contributed to the ALS research after participating in the ice bucket challenge.[25] In 2015 she performed at Donna Ares' charity concert for the victims of cancer in Zetra Olympic Hall, Sarajevo.[26] In December 2018, Karleuša donated 100,000 RSD to VK Partizan for pool heating during winter seasons.[27]


General mediaEdit

At the beginning of 2018 the prosecution threatened lawsuits against Karleuša and other public figures under suspicion of spreading panic in the media by promoting the freedom of choice when it comes to MMR vaccination during epidemic. Karleuša based this view on personal experiences with her younger daughter, who allegedly suffered from its side effects.[28]

The following year, 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 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 saying that those images had been photoshopped.[29] 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 journalist, Petar Jeremić, said that the Ministry should "wake up from their deep dream and start doing their job".[30] 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.[31] 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.[32]

Personal lifeEdit

Karleuša was briefly, only for two months, married to Bojan Karić, nephew of controversial Serbian businessman Bogoljub Karić, in 2004.[33] On June 28, 2008, she got married to 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, September 7. Since 2016, Karleuša has declared as vegetarian transiting to vegan and also values strong atheistic beliefs.


Awards and nominationsEdit

Serbian Popularity Oscar
Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
1999 Gili, gili Album of the Year Won
2001 Herself Best Female Dance Singer Won
2004 Best Female Performer Won
2005 Magija Album of the Year Won
2008 JK Revolution Won
2011 Herself Best Female Folk Singer Nominated1 [34]
Music Awards Ceremony
Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
2019 'Bankina'
(Jelena Karleuša feat. Aca Lukas)
Collaboration of the Year Won [35]
Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
2010 Herself GayEcho Annual Gay Icon Awards
(Gay Icon of the Year)
Won [36]
Loud & Queer Annual Awards
(LGBT Personality of the Year)
Won [37]
  1. ^ Karleuša asked her fans purposely not to vote for her, because in her opinion she can't be labelled as 'folk' singer.[38]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Diva dala odgovor na pitanje koje sve zanima, gde je Jelena Karleuša u filmu o najvećoj balksanskoj zvezdi, Lepoj Breni" (in Serbian).
  2. ^ "Karleuša najplaćenija domaća zvezda, evo koliko hiljada evra košta njen nastup u kulubu u Beogradu" (in Serbian). May 2019.
  3. ^ "Đoković i Karleuša idoli maturanata" (in Serbian).
  4. ^ "Serbiens Pop-Ikone in Berlin, "Angela Merkel ist eine eiserne Frau"" (in German). Focus.
  5. ^ Kevin McGarry (October 2013). "International Pop Stars: The Beyoncé of Brazil, The Gaga of Serbia". W.
  6. ^ "Karleuša u prvom redu Versace revije u Milanu" (in Serbian). February 2018.
  7. ^ "Preminula majka Jelene Karleuše! Divna izgubila bitku sa opakom bolešću" (in Serbian). March 2019.
  8. ^ "Dragan Karleuša". Vreme. 30 August 2001. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  9. ^ "Za Jelenu Karleušu poseban tretman". RTVBN. 4 November 2014. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  10. ^ "Jelena Karleuša – folk ili pop, pitanje je sad!" (in Serbian). 2011.
  11. ^ "JK "Insomnia" ruši rekorde". Trač 4 January 2010. Retrieved 17 November 2010.
  12. ^ "Počinje snimanje nove sezone: Evo ko su novi članovi žirija "Zvezda Granda"!". Blic. blic. 15 September 2015. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  13. ^ "Kim Kardashian Copying Jelena Karleusa's Style? Stealing Or Not, Kim's Paris Looks Were Very Similar To This Serbian Pop Star's!". hollywoodtake. Hollywood Take. 13 March 2015. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  14. ^ "Is Beyonce a Copycat?". The Wendy Williams Show. wendyshow. 6 May 2015. Archived from the original on 9 May 2015. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  15. ^ "Kim Kardashian, model names Serbian singer Jelena Karleuša her WCW". 2016.
  16. ^ "World-class scandal: In a documentary about Amy Winehouse used videos were stolen from the concert of a Serbian singer". 2015.
  17. ^ "Çilgin yenge Jelena Karleusa" (in Turkish). 2016.
  18. ^ "Šešelj: I dalje mi je drago što je Đinđić ubijen! Karleuša: Dobro je što Šešelj umire od raka!" (in Serbian). November 2014.
  19. ^ "Jelena Karleuša protiv Aleksandra Vučića i Cece, dan drugi" (in Serbian). April 2017.
  20. ^ "Karleuša žestoko odgovorila Dodiku" (in Serbian). RTV BN. 2018.
  21. ^ "Održana parada ponosa, kuma Karleuša održala govor" (in Serbian). Trač 2017.
  22. ^ "Serbian singerJelena Karleusa: 'I'd rather go naked than wear fur!'". 2018.
  23. ^ "Kerleuša ulazi u politiku?" (in Serbian). October 2010.
  24. ^ "Evo kako i gde poplavljenima pomažu estradne zvezde!" (in Serbian). May 2014.
  25. ^ "Karleuša uplatila 220.000 dinara za obolele od ALS" (in Serbian). August 2014.
  26. ^ "Jelena Karleuša na humanitarnom koncertu Done Ares u Sarajevu" (in Serbian). April 2015.
  27. ^ "Apel VK Partizan za pomoć! Od Jelene Karleuše 100.000 dinara" (in Serbian). December 2018.
  28. ^ "Karleuša otkriva: Lično sam svedok štetnog delovanja MMR vakcine" (in Serbian). Trač 2018.
  29. ^ "Jelena Karleuša – Zaštita privatnosti u doba droštvenih mreža" (in Serbian). January 2019.
  30. ^ "Tabloidi sve više krše novinarski kodeks" (in Serbian). N1 Info. January 2019.
  31. ^ "Prekršajne prijave protiv tabloida zbog pornografije na naslovnicama" (in Serbian). N1 Info. January 2019.
  32. ^ "Jelena Karleuša se oglasila novim videom: Sve dobijene pare od tuzbe cu donirati" (in Serbian). February 2019.
  33. ^ "Biografija – Jelena Karleusa". Poznati. 4 July 2010. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  34. ^ "Oređeni finalisti za Oskar Popularnosti" (in Serbian).
  35. ^ "Ovo je lista dobitnika regionalnih MAC muzičkih nagrada" (in Serbian). January 2019.
  36. ^ "Jelena Karleuša gej ikona godine". Scandal. 27 December 2010. Archived from the original on 30 December 2010. Retrieved 27 December 2010.
  37. ^ "JK dobila nagradu za LGBT licnost godine". Opera-17. 10 February 2011. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
  38. ^ "Karleuša odbila Oskar Popularnosti" (in Serbian). 2011.

External linksEdit