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The 59th Eurovision song contest was won this year by a beautiful bearded lady from Austria. Conchita Wurst delivered an epic performance for her song “Rise like a Phoenix” and rise she did, all the way to the top.
This win has been described as a reinforcement of the tone that the competition likes to foster, one of inclusiveness and acceptance. Outside of the competition, there are those who have criticised the 25-year-old. Vitaly Milonov who is leading the charge on Russia’s anti-gay laws advised Russians to boycott the contest if Wurst was allowed to perform. Milonov has reportedly labelled Eurovision as a “hotbed of sodomy.” In addition, an anti-Wurst Facebook page gained over 38,000 likes when it asked that she be banned from performing. Addressing her critics directly, in an interview after the dress rehearsal she reportedly stated that she was surprised at such a reaction in the 21st century.
Despite the attacks, Wurst has called being part of the competition a “dream come true.” She is said to have added that she had always viewed the Eurovision song contest as a place of “tolerance and acceptance.” The beautiful, lady-like Wurst wore a tight glittery, golden gown and a closely cropped beard that emphasized her expressive dark eyes. She sang her winning song against a backdrop of fire.
Despite the overall message of tolerance, Russia was booed on several occasions during the competition. Russia’s entry, the 17-year-old Tolmachevy twins were booed during their performance. In addition, when Russia phoned in to deliver its votes, the spokesman could hardly be heard over the booing crowd. The turn against Russia is thought to be connected to the recent conflict in the Ukraine as well as Russia’s anti-gay stance. The ill-will towards Russia compelled organizers of the show to remind the gathered crowds that the contest was about love rather than politics.
Even Wurst’s song title “Rise Like a Phoenix” seemed fitting for her stance on overcoming transphobic comments in the lead up to the competition. The song is being hailed as James Bond-esque, with Wurst’s voice a likely competitor for long-time performer Shirley Bassey. The win is Austria’s second, with the first being back in 1966.
Wurst’s total score of 290 points was way ahead of those who took the other top spots. The Dutch group The Common Linnets came in second with 238 points and Sanna Nielsen from Sweden earned 218 points.
Eurovision has long been a place of pushing boundaries. The 1998 winner Dana International from Israel, had gender reassignment surgery prior to the competition. Drag acts in the past have also made it to finals, such as Sestre, a drag trio from Slovenia who were finalists in 2002.
Conchita Wurst is the alter-ego of Thomas Neuwirth, who burst onto the pop scene in Austria eight years ago. He first appeared in a talent show in Austria with a boy band. When the band broke up, Conchita Wurst was born. She entered another talent show in 2011 and has taken part in several reality tv shows, including one where participants live with tribes in the Nabian desert.
The beautiful bearded lady commented on her Eurovision Song Contest win saying that her performance was dedicated to all the people who wish for “a future of peace and freedom.” She has already been dubbed the queen of Austria.
By Sara Watson