Known for her powerful stage presence, as well as her prominent and versatile voice, Fernandes has participated in several singing contests and performed in public in both her home island of Madeira and on the mainland of Portugal since 1997.
In 2007, Vânia won Portuguese public television's talent contest, Operação Triunfo (Operation Triumph). That same year, she completed her professional music studies and training in singing, including jazz, at Madeira's Conservatory.
On May 22 2008, Fernandes sung "Senhora do Mar" (Lady of the Sea) during the second semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2008 in Belgrade, Serbia. The song was the winner of the 2008 edition of Portugal's national selection final for Eurovision, the Festival da Canção (Festival of Song). She represented Portugal in the Eurovision final on May 24 2008 and gained 13th place (out of 25) with 69 points.