In 2002, the world went crazy for two Russian teenage “lesbians” in school uniforms. The duo, Yulia Volkova and Lena Katina, called themselves t.A.T.u., and their song, “All The Things She Said”, was a number-one hit in Australia, as well as other countries around the world, thanks mainly to a video featuring the girls, in extremely short skirts, kissing in the pouring rain.
But it wasn’t long before the world found out the duo weren’t really lesbians – and eventually, the two had a falling-out so huge that they completely stopped speaking to each other.
Volkova and Katina both started out as members of a kids’ musical group in Russia called Neposedy. Volkova was classically trained in piano and singing, while Katina’s father was a well-known songwriter. At the age of 14, they auditioned for Ivan Shapovalov, a former adman who had decided to form his own pop group, with “lesbian teenagers” as its image. Volkova and Katina were chosen, and t.A.T.u. was born.
The video for “All The Things She Said” caused controversy everywhere it was played, with UK TV presenter Richard Madeley calling for the song to be banned.
"We are being told that these girls actually have underage lesbian sex in real life and we are being told by their manager that he spotted a gap in the market - a paedophile gap in the market," he said. "That's sick and it's wrong.”
Katina defended Shapovalov in a 2003 interview with The Telegraph.
“Ivan is a genius," she said. "He is our friend and he has helped us on our journey through life."
Despite initially claiming to be lesbians in real life, Katina later explained she and Volkova were playing a role, as if in a movie.
“I never was a lesbian,” she told The Daily Beast. “I never was attracted to a girl.”
But she thinks t.A.T.u. helped Russian teenagers who actually were gay, saying the duo received “so many thank you letters”.
t.A.T.u. performed at Eurovision in 2003, where they came third. They kept recording, and were particularly successful in Japan.