Jelena Karleuša

Jelena Karleuša Tošić (Serbian Cyrillic: Јелена Карлеуша; born 17 August 1978) is a Serbian singer and media personality. Born and raised in Belgrade, she rose to prominence in the mid-1990s upon her debut record Ogledalce. Collectively, Karleuša has released ten studio albums to date and has held two big scale concerts: All About Diva (2010) and Viva la Diva Show (2013); in front of 15,000 and 40,000 fans, respectively. Having sold over million records, while also being one of the highest-earning regional performers, she is regarded as one of the most popular Serbian artists.[2][3] Additionally, Karleuša has been a judge and mentor on the popular televised singing contest Zvezde Granda since 2015.

Jelena Karleuša
Parada Ponosa Beograd 2017, 019.jpg
Karleuša at the 2017 Belgrade Pride
Born (1978-08-17) 17 August 1978 (age 42)
Other names
  • Singer
Years active1995–present
Bojan Karić
(m. 2004; div. 2005)

(m. 2008)
Musical career
Associated acts

Recognized as a fashion icon, she has also developed a strong social media presence through her personal style, becoming the first Serbian woman, and second person overall after Novak Djokovic, to reach one million followers on Instagram.[4] Outside music, Karleuša is also noted for her political opinions, specially for advocating LGBT rights, freedom of speech and social equality. Since 2008, she has been married to footballer Duško Tošić, with whom she has two daughters. Her private life alongside her outspoken views, have also received significant media coverage and have sparked occasional controversy. German magazine Focus referred to her as the "Madonna of the Balkans",[5] while W magazine compared her to Lady Gaga.[6]

Early lifeEdit

Jelena Karleuša was born on 17 August 1978 in Belgrade, SR Serbia, SFR Yugoslavia. Her mother, Divna (25 January 1958 – 3 March 2019),[7] was born in Slovenia and worked as host at Radio Belgrade, while her father, Dragan (1 January 1947), is a Belgrade-born retired Captain of Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs, who notably led the investigation of the Kosovo massacre of 1999 and took part in the police Operation Sabre in 2003.[8][9] She also stated that her maternal great-grandmother was an Austrian countess who has a street in Graz named after her;[10][11] this was, however, denied by the Austrian media and the City of Graz.[12] Jelena was raised in the Fontana neighborhood of New Belgrade, where she lived with her mother after her parents were divorced. Karleuša demonstrated an affinity for music from an early age, being influenced by performers such as Lepa Brena. She attended Zemun Gymnasium, but eventually graduated from the New Belgrade's High School of Tourism.[13] Karleuša often describes herself as the "black sheep" in the family, because she is the only one without an academic degree.[13] Nevertheless, she did graduate from the music school playing the flute.[13]


At sixteen years of age, Karleuša expressed desire to become a singer to her mother's support, who nevertheless wasn't able to financially support Jelena's debut album due to inflation and challenging economic situation in the country. Eventually, with help from singer Dragana Mirković, Karleuša managed to release her first album Ogledalce (Little Mirror) under Diskos on 24 April 1995, which was a commercial success, selling more than 100,000 copies in Yugoslavia.[14] Later, she released five more turbo-folk-oriented records, but as her career progressed she tried to be perceived as a performer of exclusively pop music.[15]

In 2002, she collaborated with Greek label Heaven Music and their eminent songwriter Phoebus on her seventh album, titled Samo za tvoje oči (For Your Eyes Only). In February 2004, Karleuša took part in Beovizija music festival to qualify as Serbia and Montenegro's entry for the Eurovision Song Contest with "Moli me" (Beg Me), however without success. Her album Magija (Magic) was then released in February the following year under new label, City Records. In February 2008, Karleuša delivered her best-selling album to date, titled JK Revolution, despite facing scrutiny for the infamous studio session of the lead single "Tihi ubica" (Silent Killer), which was leaked to the public and provoked discussion about her vocal abilities.

In March 2009, she entered Serbian Celebrity Big Brother as a guest and exited on the second day. At the end of the year, Karleuša launched a clothing line, called JK Wear. In December, she also released "Insomnia", which covered a Bollywood song from the movie Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. The electro-infused single was downloaded over a million times for free from Karleuša's official website. Furthermore, the eccentric visual for the song became the first Serbian music video to go viral on YouTube.[16] She then announced her concert in the Belgrade Arena, named All About Diva Show, with "never before seen" production by a Serbian performer. It was held on May 10 to a sold-out venue of 15,000 people.[17] In November, she released a live album alongside a DVD from the concert, which was two years later, upon the release of her next album, certified platinum by the label. During the same year, Karleuša also landed a column in the daily newspaper Kurir, which raised controversy for her comments on politics and show business.

Her tenth album Diva was released on 11 June 2012, after being postponed several times. It saw commercial success, becoming one of the fastest-selling albums by a Serbian artist.[18] The record also marked a significant departure from her previous pop-folk releases, as it comprises dance-pop and electropop songs with hip-hop and R&B influences. She announced her second Belgrade concert for June 15, 2013 in Ušće. However, the concert, titled Viva la Diva Show, began after over an hour of delay due to technical issues regarding video and audio production, which continued throughout the show.[19] Nevertheless, Karleuša managed to perform all the songs. Afterwards, she faced heavy criticism from the media because of which she eventually decided to take a break from the public life.[20]

In 2015, Karleuša ended her hiatus by signing to Grand Production and becoming a judge, and later a mentor, on the reality talent show Zvezde Granda.[21] In 2016, she made a guest performance at Vodafone Park in Istanbul after her husband's team, Besiktas J.K. had won the national championship.[22] The following June, she presented her first releases since 2013, two duets: "Bankina" (Hard Shoulder) featuring Aca Lukas and "Ostavljam te" (I'm Leaving You) featuring Azis, which she performed on the live finale of Zvezde Granda. In late January 2019, Karleuša performed "LaJK" (Like) featuring Serbian rapper Gazda Paja at the 2019 Music Awards Ceremony. The performance included an intro through which Karleuša reflected on the media backlash regarding her personal life from the past month. During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, she announced her online concert via Serbian music service YouBox, which took place on May 24.[23] The live stream performance attracted more than 90,000 viewers.[24] On stage Karleuša was also joined by the girl-group Hurricane, who were supposed to represent Serbia on Eurovision Song Contest that year, and singer Milica Pavlović.[25]

Public imageEdit

Jelena Karleuša has a very polarized public reception of her work, image and persona. Throughout her career, she has attracted significant controversy, criticism, and media scrutiny for her appearances, which are often deemed edgy and over-sexualised, as well as for her outspoken views, specifically regarding other public figures and socioeconomic situation in Serbia.[26][27][28] However, she has an undeniable influence over public life and mass culture in Serbia and its region. In a 2013 public survey, she was cited as the biggest influence of Serbian youth after Novak Djokovic.[29] The title of her 2012 song, "Sodoma i Gomora" (Sodom and Gomorrah), appeared as a question on the standardized test for admission to the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Niš that year.[30] In 2019, Karleuša also served as a subject of a master's degree paper titled "Celebrity Diplomacy in the former Yugoslavia: Case Jelena Karleuša" at the University of Zagreb, Faculty of Political Science.[31]

Regarded as a style icon, Karleuša has acquired significant foreign recognition through fashion over the years.[32][33] In 2015, she rose to international prominence after she accused Kim Kardashian, and then Beyoncé, of copying her fashion style, thus was featured on The Wendy Williams Show, among many other media outlets from around the world, debating on her style and social media influence.[34][35] The following year, Kardashian praised Karleuša's style in her Woman Crush Wednesday column, claiming that she heard of Jelena only after the media allegations.[36] In 2016, Karleuša also had an online dispute with Italian fashion designer Stefano Gabbana, who accused her of wearing fake Dolce & Gabbana pieces in the comment section beneath her Instagram post. After reaching Gabbana through messages, he eventually apologized to her and deleted the infamous comment.[37]

At the beginning of 2016, she had another international media incident when the 2015 Academy Award-winning documentary about Amy Winehouse falsely used unlicensed scenes from Jelena's 2013 concert as ones of Winehouse's last Belgrade performance. Karleuša initially planned to settle lawsuits against the creators for copyright infringement, but eventually gave up due to respect of the late singer.[38]

Personal lifeEdit

On 23 September 2004, Karleuša married Bojan Karić, who is best known as the nephew of the controversial Serbian businessman Bogoljub Karić. However, they divorced in March the following year.[39]

In June 2006, Karleuša started dating Serbian footballer Duško Tošić. The couple was eventually married two years later on 28 June.[39] They have two daughters: Atina (2008) and Nika (2009), both born by Caesarean section on the same date, 7 September.

Since 2016, Karleuša has identified as vegetarian transiting to vegan and also values strong atheistic beliefs.

Legal issues and controversiesEdit

In 2010, Serbian singer Svetlana Ceca Ražnatović sued Karleuša for damage to her reputation and emotional violence regarding the context of an open letter Karleuša addressed to Ceca via her Facebook profile. In the letter, she held Ražnatović responsible of being involved in the 1999 assassination of Zoran Davidović, Karleuša's then-boyfriend who was often connected with crime, but according to Karleuša, falsely because he didn't have a police file. Furthermore, she accused Ražnatović of maintaining close ties with leaders of the Zemun clan, claiming Ceca was "at the head of the table" following the assassination of her husband and career criminal, Željko Ražnatović in 2000. Karleuša also addressed the rumours of Ceca ordering articles through her acquaintances in the media and show business, to create bad publicity for Karleuša.[40] In February 2017, Svetlana Ražnatović claimed victory over Karleuša, who was fined with 650 and ordered to cover Ceca's €900 court expenses.[41] Later that year, Karleuša also settled a lawsuit against Ceca for verbally attacking her during the trials. However, in October 2019, the cases eventually resulted in mediation between two sides.[42]

At the beginning of 2019, she was accused of having an affair with Bosnian footballer Ognjen Vranješ, who admitted this himself even though he was married at the time. The scandal erupted when alleged 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 claiming that those images had been photoshopped.[43] The Press Advice expert, Tamara Skrozza stated that in this case tabloids have practically violated every codex of Serbian journalism and that is the prime example of the downfall of Serbian media in the past couple of years. Another eminent journalist, Petar Jeremić, said that the Ministry should "wake up from their deep dream and start doing their job".[44] 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.[45] Karleuša herself initiated 160 criminal charges against Vranješ and mentioned newspapers for organised and continuous media lynching, defamation, photomontages and attack on her family's dignity, reputation and honour.[46] Following the incident, in October 2019, Olympiacos supporters dropped a banner of support for Karleuša during a match at the Karaiskakis Stadium against AEK Athens, for which Vranješ plays.[47] At the end of the year she was declared the most-searched topic in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Google, partially due to the scandal.[48]

Philanthropy and activismEdit

Karleuša was one of the first Serbian celebrities to publicly support LGBT rights, and is considered a gay icon.[49] She also advocates for animal rights and has collaborated with PETA in 2018.[50]

Karleuša is noted for supporting various other causes during her career. Following the 2014 Southeast Europe floods, she supplied Serbian shelters with basic necessities for three consecutive days.[51] Also that year, Kalreuša and her husband were amongst the few regional celebrities who financially contributed to ALS research after participating in the ice bucket challenge.[52] In 2015 she performed at Donna Ares' charity concert for victims of cancer in Zetra Olympic Hall, Sarajevo.[53] In December 2018, Karleuša donated 100,000 RSD to VK Partizan for pool-heating during winter seasons.[54]


Studio albums


  • All About Diva (2010)
  • Viva la Diva Show (2013)
  • Jelena Karleuša - Exclusive Event on YouBox (2020)

Awards and nominationsEdit

Year Award Category Nominee/work Result Ref.
Oskar Popularnosti 1999 Album of the Year Gili, gili Won
2001 Performer of the year Herself Won
2004 Female Performer of the Year Won
2005 Album of the Year Magija Won
2008 JK Revolution Won
GayEcho Award 2010 Gay Icon Herself Won [55]
Oskar Popularnosti 2011 Female Folk Singer of the Year Nominated1 [56]
Music Awards Ceremony 2019 Collaboration of the Year "Bankina" (feat. Aca Lukas) Won [57]
2020 Trap Collaboration of the Year "LaJK" (feat. Gazda Paja) Won
  1. ^ Karleuša asked her fans purposely not to vote for her, because in her opinion she can't be labelled as 'folk' singer.[58]

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. ^ "Sve pršti za doček! Najveće zvezde pevaju u Beogradu, evo ko će u džep staviti čak 80.000 evra". (in Serbian). October 2019.
  3. ^ "Basnoslovne honorare! Evo koliko naše zvezde zarađuju za samo 2 sata pevanja u Hrvatskoj". (in Serbian).
  4. ^ "Onja je prva Srpkinja sa milion pratilaca na Instagramu i samo 99 odsto ljudi će pogoditi ko je". (in Serbian).
  5. ^ "Serbiens Pop-Ikone in Berlin, "Angela Merkel ist eine eiserne Frau"" (in German). Focus.
  6. ^ Kevin McGarry (October 2013). "International Pop Stars: The Beyoncé of Brazil, The Gaga of Serbia". W.
  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. ^ "KARLEUŠA: Imam šesnaestinu plave krvi, moja prababa je austrijska grofica! (FOTO)". (in Serbian). 23 August 2014. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  11. ^ "KARLEUŠA SE HVALI SA 1/16 PLAVE KRVI: Moja prababa je bila AUSTRIJSKA GROFICA Marija Von Dajc i ima svoju ULICU". (in Serbian). 25 December 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  12. ^ "Jelena Karleuša : „Meine Urgroßmutter war eine österreichische Gräfin"". KOSMO (in German). 7 February 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  13. ^ a b c "Jelena Karleuša: Ja sam "crna ovca" u porodici". (in Serbian).
  14. ^ "Sa Divninom platom od dve marke Karleuša je mogla da sanja karijeru! Evo šta je Dragana Mirković uradila pre 25 godina da joj pomogne". (in Serbian).
  15. ^ "Jelena Karleuša – folk ili pop, pitanje je sad!" (in Serbian). 2011.
  16. ^ "JK "Insomnia" ruši rekorde". trač 4 January 2010. Retrieved 17 November 2010.
  17. ^ "JK napunila Arenu!" (in Serbian). May 2010.
  18. ^ "JK prodala 300 000 albuma u danu". Tračara (in Serbian). June 2012.
  19. ^ "Šta sve nismo videli na Karleušinom koncertu na Ušću". (in Serbian).
  20. ^ "Karleušin dokaz da je na Ušću bilo 40 000 ljudi". (in Serbian).
  21. ^ "Počinje snimanje nove sezone: Evo ko su novi članovi žirija "Zvezda Granda"!". Blic (in Serbian). 15 September 2015. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  22. ^ "Çilgin yenge Jelena Karleusa" (in Turkish). 2016.
  23. ^ "Jelena Karleuša na YouBox platformi - koncert koji će se dugo pamtiti". (in Serbian).
  24. ^ "Sve je prštalo! Jelena Karleuša izdominirala na nezampaćenom online koncertu". (in Serbian).
  25. ^ "4 kostima, 3 mašine, seksi gošće... Najmoćniji momenti Karleušinog lajv spektakla". (in Serbian).
  26. ^ "Šešelj: I dalje mi je drago što je Đinđić ubijen! Karleuša: Dobro je što Šešelj umire od raka!" (in Serbian). November 2014.
  27. ^ "Jelena Karleuša protiv Aleksandra Vučića i Cece, dan drugi" (in Serbian). April 2017.
  28. ^ "Karleuša žestoko odgovorila Dodiku" (in Serbian). RTV BN. 2018.
  29. ^ "Đoković i Karleuša idoli maturanata" (in Serbian).
  30. ^ "Verovali ili ne: Karleuša u testu opšte kulture na fakultetu" (in Serbian).
  31. ^ "Nakon skandala izučavaju je ma fakultetima! jelena Karleuša postala tema diplomskog rada" (in Serbian).
  32. ^ "Jelena Karleuša u internacionalnoj modnoj akademiji u Parizu" (in Serbian). Tračara.
  33. ^ "Karleuša u prvom redu Versace revije u Milanu" (in Serbian). February 2018.
  34. ^ "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.
  35. ^ "Is Beyonce a Copycat?". The Wendy Williams Show. wendyshow. 6 May 2015. Archived from the original on 9 May 2015. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  36. ^ "Kim Kardashian, model names Serbian singer Jelena Karleuša her WCW". 2016.
  37. ^ "Ništa od fejka! Gabana se izvinio Karleuši" (in Serbian). Tračara.
  38. ^ "World-class scandal: In a documentary about Amy Winehouse used videos were stolen from the concert of a Serbian singer". 2015.
  39. ^ a b "Istina nakon 15 godina, zašto su se Jelena Karluša i Bojan Karić razveli". (in Serbian). Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  40. ^ "Ovo je otvoreno pismo Jelene Karleuše zbog kojeg ju je Ceca tužila". (in Serbian).
  41. ^ "Gotovo je! Ce dobila Jelenu na sudu, evo koliko para Karleuša mora da joj plati" (in Serbian).
  42. ^ "Karleuša i Ceca pristalw na pomirenje, evo šta su rekle po izlasku iz suda". (in Serbian).
  43. ^ "Jelena Karleuša – Zaštita privatnosti u doba droštvenih mreža". (in Serbian). January 2019.
  44. ^ "Tabloidi sve više krše novinarski kodeks". N1 Info (in Serbian). January 2019.
  45. ^ "Prekršajne prijave protiv tabloida zbog pornografije na naslovnicama" (in Serbian). N1 Info. January 2019.
  46. ^ "Jelena Karleuša se oglasila novim videom: Sve dobijene pare od tuzbe cu donirati". (in Serbian). February 2019.
  47. ^ "'Šamar' navijača Olimpijakosa Vranješu, sa krova je spušten ogroman TRANSPARENT Karleuša na atinskom stadijonu, ali to nije sve!" (in Serbian).
  48. ^ "Google objavio! Bosanci i Hercegovci u 2019. godini najviše pretraživali..." (in Bosnian).
  49. ^ "Održana parada ponosa, kuma Karleuša održala govor" (in Serbian). Trač 2017.
  50. ^ "Serbian singerJelena Karleusa: 'I'd rather go naked than wear fur!'". 2018.
  51. ^ "Evo kako i gde poplavljenima pomažu estradne zvezde!" (in Serbian). May 2014.
  52. ^ "Karleuša uplatila 220.000 dinara za obolele od ALS" (in Serbian). August 2014.
  53. ^ "Jelena Karleuša na humanitarnom koncertu Done Ares u Sarajevu" (in Serbian). April 2015.
  54. ^ "Apel VK Partizan za pomoć! Od Jelene Karleuše 100.000 dinara" (in Serbian). December 2018.
  55. ^ "Jelena Karleuša - Gej ikona godine". (in Serbian).
  56. ^ "Oređeni finalisti za Oskar Popularnosti" (in Serbian).
  57. ^ "Ovo je lista dobitnika regionalnih MAC muzičkih nagrada" (in Serbian). January 2019.
  58. ^ "Karleuša odbila Oskar Popularnosti" (in Serbian). 2011.

External linksEdit