Conchita Wurst: How Eurovision 2014's bearded drag ‘pervert’ reviled by Russia became the toast of Europe

Austria’s drag act won Eurovision with overwhelming public vote

Eurovision is over and this year’s queen has been crowned: Conchita Wurst, Austria’s drag act who has been attacked by transphobic and homophobic slurs for weeks, has won the song contest with her ballad “Rise Like a Phoenix”.

Despite a barrage of offensive slurs against the 25-year-old performer, Ms Wurst was the overwhelmingly popular choice in the competition with 290 points last night.

Ms Wurst, who was branded a “pervert” by a Russian politician Vitaly Milonov before the final, was named the winner after only 34 of the 37 countries had revealed their scores.

Taking to the stage to receive her trophy, Ms Wurst said: “This night is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom. You know who you are – we are unity and we are unstoppable.”

Ms Wurst, whose real name is Tom Neuwirth, has been accused of creating a “hotbed of sodomy” at Eurovision by homophobic Russian protesters, while Milonov, the politician who was instrumental in passing Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law, accused Ms Wurst of turning the competition into the “Sodom show”.

 

Petitions in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus unsuccessfully attempted to get Austria banned from their national broadcasts, and Armenia’s performer Aram MP3 claimed that Ms Wurst needed to “eventually decide whether she is a woman or a man”.

After Ms Wurst shot back with “I told him I don’t want to be a woman. I am just a working queen and a very lazy boy at home,” Aram MP3 apologised and claimed he had meant his comments to be taken as a joke.

But Ms Wurst has taken the recent criticism in her stride, insisting that she has a “very thick skin,” adding: “If this is only about me and my person, I can live with it. I’m just a singer in a fabulous dress, with great hair and a beard”. She has received strong support online, too, and Twitter was alight with praise for her last night.

Neuwirth first appeared on national television when he reached the final of the Austrian TV show "Stamani" in 2007. He reappeared on television four years later as Conchita, a persona he said he created in repsonse to previous experences.

The song “Rise Like a Phoenix” is a Bond-esque power ballad that Ms Wurst has said is a defiant metaphor for her journey from a rural boyhood to her successful career as a bearded drag queen. Coincidentally, Neuwirth performed 'Gold Finger' on the final of Starmania, demonstrating incredible vocal ability. 

“The beard is a statement to say that you can achieve anything, no matter who you are or how you look,” she said

Speaking of growing up in conservative Austria, Ms Wurst said: “Being a teenager, a gay teenager, in such a small village is not that much fun. I am part of the gay community and most gays have a similar story to mine.”

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