Didem Kınalı was born in 1986, in Istanbul, to a gypsy family earning its living from performing live music and dancing. After only completing three years of primary education, she dropped out of school. It’s unknown exactly what she was doing in her adolescent years, but she was certainly developing her passion for belly dancing, even if she wasn’t performing to crowds.
In an interview, she stated that she was first performingb belly dancing in the suburban district of Avcılar, which is not known to be the place to go for an evening’s entertainment. Nevertheless, Turkey’s male oriented “gazino” culture offers plenty avenues, ranging in quality, for belly dancers like Didem to perform.
Working with her tutor, Sema Yıldız, a former belly dancer, she eventually made her move to the high quality venues in Taksim, the heart of Istanbul’s night life. One of her first venues is understood to be one of Istanbul’s finest belly dancing and dinner venues, Sultana’s Dinner.and 1001 Nights Show, which opened in 2001, replacing the famous discotheque of the 1970′s and 1980′s, Regine. She would work here for four years, as well as making nightly appearances at other surrounding venues, before she got the call to perform on “Ibo Show”, one of the few talk-show/performance programmes on Turkish television that feature belly dancers, hosted by the star of the Turkish arabesque music world, İbrahim Tatlıses.
Following the controversial departure of Asena from the show, all eyes were on Didem. Asena had built a reputation as having innovated Turkish belly dancing, and was revered throughout the country. Didem initially struck audiences with her beauty, but her talent was also soon recognised.
Those who have watched Didem live have always been left mesmerised, and it is true, as is with all stage performances of any kind, that she must be watched at a venue to really appreciate her talent and energy, which she conveys to the viewer through eye contact and a very honest, cheerful smile.
Didem’s personal life is a big mystery. However, she is known to be a very cheerful, strong and positive young woman to her friends. She’s proud of her Roma heritage. She has been seen in public dressed casually with relaxed fitting clothes, far from the image she puts across on stage.
During a year’s absence from İbo Show due to reasons out of her control, Didem performed on the Wednesday morning day time television show “Sabahların Sultanı”, hosted by Seda Sayan, who never hid her admiration for Didem. However, a morning chat show could never be the arena that Didem deserves. Audiences, mainly made up of housewives, would be seen knitting and chattering amongst themselves during the broadcast. For a dancer like Didem who thrives on audience energy, there could hardly be a worse place to perform.
In June 2009, İbo Show returned to Star television, having been on Kanal D and Atv previously. The weekly summer shows, being broadcast from the beautiful Aegean holiday area of Bodrum, feature Didem’s dances.
She also regularly performs in Europe, where she is hired to dance at clubs and events. Since 2009 she’s also been featuring at Günay restaurant, on nights where Tatlıses has also performed.
Didem’s guest appearances on Turkish television include the “Beyaz Show”, a light hearted chat show hosted by Beyazıt Öztürk. In one show, she attempted to teach belly dancing to Carmen Electra.
It remains to be seen what the future will hold for Didem. She rarely speaks on television, in fact she’s not allowed to by Tatlıses. But she has developed a massive following across the globe, thanks to YouTube, where some of her videos have been watched over a million times.