• Austria's news in English
 

Bearded Eurovision drag queen courts controversy

Published: 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)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Serial bigamist on trial in Vienna
A police photo of Tijan S.

Serial bigamist on trial in Vienna

The trial of a Gambian man who was arrested in Austria on charges of bigamy and fraud has started. READ  

Woman flees gun-toting husband
File photo: APA/Gindl

Woman flees gun-toting husband

A woman in Upper Austria had to take refuge in a kindergarten with her two-year-child after her husband threatened her with a gun on Thursday morning. READ  

Austrian protesters support flogged blogger
Protesters gathered outside the Saudi embassy on Thursday. Photo: APA/Fohringer

Austrian protesters support flogged blogger

Around 80 people gathered outside Vienna's controversial Saudi-financed religious dialogue centre on Friday, to protest against the flogging of blogger Raif Badawi. READ  

Islamic school closed for 'endangering children'
Photo: meinbezirk.at

Islamic school closed for 'endangering children'

A private Islamic primary school in Vienna's Brigittenau district has been shut down as the city council believes its students’ welfare was endangered, the Kurier newspaper reports. READ  

Austria's response to the Russian bear
Austrian President Heinz Fischer meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in June. Photo: APA/ROBERT JAEGER

Austria's response to the Russian bear

Gustav Gressel is Visiting Fellow on the Wider Europe Programme with the European Council on Foreign Relations. In this feature, he looks at the Austrian views on how Europe as a whole should respond to Russia, especially in the light of its unacknowledged war on its European neighbour, Ukraine. READ  

Early ancestor's hands were 'human'
Photo: José Braga and Didier Descouens/Wikimedia

Early ancestor's hands were 'human'

The hand structure of early human ancestors who lived 3.2 million years ago suggests they had the ability to grasp and use tools, even if they hadn't invented them yet, anthropologists said Thursday. READ  

British doctor dies in skiing accident
Mountain rescue helicopter. Photo: APA/ZEITUNGSFOTO.AT

British doctor dies in skiing accident

A doctor and respected psychiatrist from Northern Ireland died in a crash while skiing in Austria on Tuesday morning. READ  

Austria and France moot new FTT tax proposal
Austrian finance minister Hans Jörg Schelling. Photo: APA/HERBERT PFARRHOFER

Austria and France moot new FTT tax proposal

In a move strongly opposed by the UK and Sweden, a new plan for a retooled financial transactions tax across the 11 members of the Eurozone has just been unveiled by Austria and France. READ  

ECB announces economy boost
ECB President Mario Draghi. Photo: APA

ECB announces economy boost

The European Central Bank (ECB) will buy €60 billion of European debt every month from March 2015 until September 2016, ECB president Mario Draghi announced on Thursday. READ  

EU considers energy drink ban for under-18s
Photo: APA

EU considers energy drink ban for under-18s

Vytenis Andriukaitis, the EU Commissioner in charge of Health and Food Safety, has said he is considering a ban on the sale of caffeinated energy drinks to under-18s - which could mean bad news for Austrian energy drink company Red Bull GmbH. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
International
How should Austria respond to Russia's new aggressive foreign policy?
Health
Expat Profile: Helen Rudinsky
Features
How Austria's music scene inspired the pioneer of Electro Swing
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Features
Bitcoins are growing in Austria - but what are they?
National
12,000 support IAmCharlie in Vienna
Health
Gender identity is all in your head.
Technology
How to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus
Gallery
Daniel Craig enjoys the view with Lea Seydoux and Dave Bautista
Culture
Celebrate an Austrian New Year with The Local
National
Top stories on The Local in 2014
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
Culture
Top 12 German language idioms
Travel & Tourism
Top mistakes tourists make in Austria
Society
Afghan refugees get integration help
Society
Waiting to be smuggled into Austria after a tortuous journey
Culture
Facing up to death over coffee and cake
Gallery
What foods did Austrians search the most in 2014?
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Culture
Our pick of Austria's best Christmas markets
Society
Vienna's Ring is about to celebrate its 150th birthday
Travel & Tourism
A slice of Austria in northern California
International
An Austrian surgeon is working to repair broken bodies in Ukraine
Travel & Tourism
Tales of Couchsurfing in Vienna
International
Nuclear incidents show dangers of weapons
Gallery
Ten things to know before you party with an Austrian
Society
The Congress of Vienna revisited
Society
New museum houses memories of Kindertransport children
International
Is Vienna at the heart of a possible new European war?
Gallery
Images from the ice storm which hit Lower Austria on the weekend
National
Returning home after 20 years away and starting a business
National
It's the most wonderful time of the year, but can be hazardous for kids
Gallery
Get ready for Christmas like an Austrian. Here's how.
National
Holocaust survivors' family retrace grandparents' steps in Vienna
International
An alpine village welcomes asylum seekers
Culture
Painting is a journey of discovery for Russian artist in Vienna
Gallery
Top 10 mistakes Austrians make in English
Culture
Guide to Austrian coffee
Gallery
Ten of the most delicious Austrian desserts you shouldn't miss
Features
No picnic with Italian bears
Features
Building a new life in Austria
National
12 etiquette tips to help you make friends in Austria
Features
The Austrian ski school churning out champions
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

282
jobs available