• Austria edition
 
Austrian of the week
Bearded Eurovision drag queen courts controversy
Austrian drag performer Conchita Wurst. Photo: AFP

Bearded Eurovision drag queen courts controversy

Published: 08 May 2014 08:29 GMT+02:00
Updated: 08 May 2014 08:29 GMT+02:00

Austria's bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst hogged the limelight ahead of Saturday's Eurovision Song Contest final, but things had become a little hairy for her among socially conservative Europeans, including some gays.

"I created this bearded lady to show the world that you can do whatever you want," said Wurst, the drag persona of 25-year-old Austrian singer Tom Neuwirth.

"If you're not hurting anyone you can do whatever you like with your life and, it's so cheesy, but we've only got one (life)," she added.

Wurst's James Bond theme-like ballad 'Rise Like a Phoenix' was widely expected to make it through Thursday's semi-final in the Danish capital, but few pundits believed she would take the Eurovision crown.

However, comments by Armenian Eurovision hopeful Aram MP3 - one of the bookies' favourites this year - that Wurst's lifestyle was "not natural" have boosted her profile, even though the stand-up comedian later claimed his comments were a joke.

"He apologized by saying his comments were a joke and badly translated," Wurst said.

"I have to say that if it's a joke it's not funny... but he apologized and that's fine for me," she added.

There have also been petitions to have her removed from the competition in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, where a law banning "gay propaganda" was signed by President Vladimir Putin last year.

St. Petersburg lawyer Vitaly Milonov reportedly asked his country's Eurovision selection committee not to send any Russian musicians to the event, which he accused of being "blatant propaganda of homosexuality and spiritual decay".

Cultural divide 

The outrage highlights a cultural divide between eastern Europe and the countries of the west, where the camp spectacle's large gay following is often acknowledged by organizers, local businesses and performers.

The city of Copenhagen has said three gay couples from Russia will get married there in the days leading up to Eurovision as part of an event celebrating 25 years of same-sex unions in Denmark.

Last year, Finnish singer Krista Siegfrids courted the pink vote by entering a gay marriage anthem.

Wurst said her own song reflected the experience of growing up as an outsider in rural Austria.

"It's a story of going through bad times and struggling through difficult things, and growing out of it and hopefully becoming a better person," she said.

"For me of course it's so close to my life... emotionally, growing up," she added.

Her creator, Tom Neuwirth, rose to fame after finishing second on Austrian talent show Starmania in 2006, after which he joined a short-lived boyband.

Conchita Wurst first appeared in 2011, when she made it to the final of another reality show. The following year she came second in the TV programme that selects the central European country's Eurovision entry.

Although much of the controversy over her appearance has centered on eastern Europe, it hasn't always been smooth sailing in her home country.

The leader of the right-wing FPOe party, Heinz-Christian Strache, called her "ridiculous" and threw his support behind another singer, Alf Poier, who suggested she needed psychiatric help.

"If someone doesn't know if they're a man or a woman, they should go to a psychotherapist rather than to the song contest," Poier was quoted by Austrian media as saying.

A German-language Facebook page protesting the decision to send her to Copenhagen has garnered over 38,500 "likes".

There has also been concern among some members of the gay community that her hirsute drag persona could "scare" people coming to terms with their own sexuality.

"A lot of people say: 'I'm also gay but I don't need a beard and a dress to express that,'" she said.

"I can just say to those who don't really realize yet if they are gay or not, you know, and a bit scared of this change: I don't want to scare them.

I just want to show them that they can be accepted in any way. They are allowed to do anything," she added.

Source: AFP

Staff reporter (news@thelocal.com)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
All-clear given on suspected Ebola cases
Photo: APA (dpa)

All-clear given on suspected Ebola cases

Austria's health ministry gave the all-clear Tuesday evening after regional authorities earlier reported two suspected cases of Ebola in two men recently returned from Nigeria. READ  

Two new suspected Ebola cases in Austria
Ebola virus. Photo: Centers for Disease Control/Cynthia Goldsmith

Two new suspected Ebola cases in Austria

Two Nigerians in Upper Austria who recently returned from Lagos on August 13 have been placed into quarantine on Tuesday while medical officials test them for the possibility of the deadly Ebola virus. READ  

Tyrol mosque defaced with swastikas
The mosque and minaret in Telfs. Photo: APA/Parigger

Tyrol mosque defaced with swastikas

A mosque in the town of Telfs, in Tyrol, which is known for its distinctive white minaret has been defaced with swastikas. READ  

Real Estate & Shopping
Vienna's luxury streets and boutiques
Photo: Paul Gillingwater

Vienna's luxury streets and boutiques

Vienna is becoming a major mecca for high-end living and shopping, with the expansion of its Golden Quarter luxury zone - but some of the most interesting boutiques are scattered around other parts of the Austrian capital. READ  

Vienna is second most 'liveable city'
View of Vienna and the Ringstrasse. Photo: APA/Neubauer

Vienna is second most 'liveable city'

Vienna came second place in an Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) poll of the most pleasant cities to live in - after Melbourne which has topped the ranking for the fourth year running. READ  

Alaba is FIFA 15’s Austrian cover star
The Austrian cover of FIFA 15, featuring Alaba and Messi. Photo: EA SPORTS FIFA

Alaba is FIFA 15’s Austrian cover star

EA Sports has revealed that young Viennese footballer David Alaba will be the cover star for FIFA 15 in Austria. READ  

Airline to blame for woman's airport poo fall
The terminal at Vienna Airport - which is normally very clean. Photo: APA/Neubauer

Airline to blame for woman's airport poo fall

Austria’s Supreme Court has ruled that a 69-year-old woman who slipped on some excrement in Vienna Airport’s terminal building, and broke a bone, cannot sue the airport - instead it said that the airline she was flying with was responsible and should compensate her. READ  

Swedish tabloid editor apologises for Nazi slur
Red Bull Salzburg director Ralf Rangnick. Photo: SN/APA/BARBARA GINDL

Swedish tabloid editor apologises for Nazi slur

Red Bull Salzburg football club director Ralf Rangnick revealed that his team had received an apology from the editor of the Swedish tabloid newspaper Aftonbladet, after one of their columnists compared the Austrian club with Adolf Hitler and Josef Fritzl. READ  

Four people smugglers from Syria arrested
Man in handcuffs. File photo: APA/DPA

Four people smugglers from Syria arrested

Four alleged people smugglers from Syria were arrested in Leopoldsdorf, Lower Austria on Monday night. READ  

Enzis fitted with free Wi-Fi and power points
Wien Energie boss Robert Grüneis showing off the new Enzis. Photo: Wien Energie

Enzis fitted with free Wi-Fi and power points

A special type of outdoor furniture developed in Vienna has evolved, with the latest version now offering free Wi-Fi and power points to charge your laptop or cell phone. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Why beggars are a problem for Vienna's street paper Augustin
Culture
'No one speak English to him!'
Sponsored Article
Gymboree - where playing and learning go hand in hand
National
The grassroots group working to unite Muslims and Jews
Society
Pink Lake festival attracts LGBT visitors
Gallery
Weirdest spa treatments: Fancy a session of full-body cryotherapy?
Society
The question of begging in Austria
National
Naked cyclist faces charges and told to wear clothes
International
Cop surrounded; busts a few moves
Society
Church porn star faces charges
Photo: APA/DPA
Gallery
The 12 best words in Austrian German
Tech
Austrian student launches class-action lawsuit against Facebook
Politics
Parliamentary speaker Prammer loses fight with cancer
National
Why Vienna is the capital of choice for spies
Society
Happy birthday, Arnie
Gallery
Pizzeria anarchists block traffic in street march
International
Centenary of Austria's declaration of war on Serbia
National
Eight cheap things to do in Vienna this summer
Features
'I came for a boy and stayed for the lifestyle'
Society
The Local's carnivore goes vegan
Gallery
The pop-up forest restaurant in Austria's most beautiful locations
Tech
Could robots end up doing more than half of the jobs in Austria?
International
Search on for Austrian WWI memorabilia
Politics
The former finance minister embroiled in a corruption scandal
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

267
jobs available