Dana International (aka Sa'ida Sultana) was born as Yaron Cohen in Tel Aviv, to a homemaking mother and a father who worked as a private secretary to a local judge; they were a Yemenite family who moved to Israel in the 1940s. The youngest of three children, he was very close to her mother. He was a creative child, the expression of which had taken form as an interest in singing and performing at an early age.
By age fourteen, Dana's avocation earned her a role in the Cameri theater's production of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. Though born genetically male, Dana came to realize, over time, that her true identity was that of a female. Early childhood experimentation playing dress-up in her sister limor's clothes lead to her adopting the name Sharon - the feminine form of "Yaron" - in late adolescence. The stage name Dana International would come later.
Dana's debut performance came as part of the drag review Le La Lu. Using the moniker "Sharon", Dana brought down the house with a remake of Whitney Houston's "My Name Is Not Susan".
Dana released her first album, dana international, in 1993. While her on-stage persona may not have appealed to the general public, her music certainly did. Using the money she earned from the commercial release of the album, Dana journeyed to England, where she underwent sexual reassignment surgery.
Her second album, umpatampa, was released in 1994 and contained the song lalya tov, eropa, which international would later perform at the distinguished Eurovision song contest in 1995. Though Dana would only place second at the 1995 competition, that same year saw the release of her third recording, eptampa.
As international's success spread to the neighboring countries, so too would the controversy. In Egypt, where black market tapes of International's music had made her an icon among the country's youth, the government released statements expressing their belief that Dana was, in fact, an agent of the Israeli intelligence organization Mossad. Allegedly intent upon corrupting egyptian youth, Dana's music was banned.
In 1996, on a new record label, Dana released maganona. In 1998, Dana released two compilations albums - diva ha-osef, which was marketed to local audiences, and dana international: the album, which was intended to appeal to european audiences.