• 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
Retired judge acquitted in Kampusch perjury claim
Retired judge Johann Rzeszut. Photo: APA/ROLAND SCHLAGER

Retired judge acquitted in Kampusch perjury claim

Exclusive: Investigative journalist Flemming Emil Hansen delves into the legal morass that surrounded the 'botched' handling of the investigation of the abduction and escape of Natascha Kampusch, with the acquittal this week of a former supreme court president on charges of perjury. READ  

UN weighs in on 'unjust' disabled access case
Simon Bacher. Photo: Sue Bacher

UN weighs in on 'unjust' disabled access case

The United Nations has asked Austria for an explanation after a British woman complained that her 25-year-old disabled son has been left stranded in their home every time there is bad weather because of bureaucratic red tape. READ  

The Sound of Music - 50 years on
Photo: 20th Century Fox

The Sound of Music - 50 years on

It’s the film which brings thousands of tourists every year to Salzburg but it’s virtually unknown in Austria. Fifty years ago, The Sound of Music - the movie based on a successful Rogers and Hammerstein Broadway musical - premiered in New York. READ  

'Put Put Putin' song a surprise YouTube hit
Screenshot: Rammelhof/YouTube

'Put Put Putin' song a surprise YouTube hit

A satirical song by an Austrian pop band about Russian leader Vladimir Putin has become a surprise hit on YouTube after gathering a fan base in Ukraine. READ  

Sedative found in dead Kazakh dissident's blood
Rakhat Aliyev. Photo: APA/DRAGAN TATIC

Sedative found in dead Kazakh dissident's blood

According to a report on Austrian radio station Ö1, traces of barbiturates were found in the body of former Kazakh ambassador Rakhat Aliyev, who was found hanging in his prison cell on Tuesday. READ  

Could diary hold clue to Aliyev death?
Aliyev was found dead in Vienna's Josefstadt prison. Photo: APA/Schlager

Could diary hold clue to Aliyev death?

Prosecutors in Austria have confirmed that the diary of former Kazakh ambassador Rakhat Aliyev has been found in his prison cell, where he was found dead on Tuesday. READ  

Sixty-year-old Austrian gives birth to twins
Photo: APA/dpa

Sixty-year-old Austrian gives birth to twins

In a first for Austria, a 60-year-old woman has given birth to twins in a clinic in Wels-Grieskirchen in Upper Austria, following IVF treatment. READ  

Six months for Isis Facebook postings
The trial took place under heightened security. Photo: APA/Hochmuth

Six months for Isis Facebook postings

A court in Vienna has handed a young Kurdish man a six month conditional sentence for posting Islamic State (Isis) images and propaganda on Facebook. READ  

Help Me, Helen
How to avoid saying things you'll later regret

How to avoid saying things you'll later regret

Vienna-based Marriage and Family Therapist Helen Rudinsky looks at how to avoid saying things you'll later regret which can harm your relationships. READ  

Charlize Theron adds glamour to Life Ball
Charlize Theron with Sean Penn. Photo: EPA/ETIENNE LAURENT

Charlize Theron adds glamour to Life Ball

Vienna’s annual Life Ball, which is dedicated to raising awareness about AIDS and HIV, will have a touch of Hollywood glamour this year with Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron attending as a special guest. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
Kampusch judge in perjury acquittal
Features
Help Me Helen: How to avoid saying things you'll later regret
National
Ten phrases you'll only hear at work in Austria
Culture
Austrian gourmet cuisine proves to be a highlight in London
Culture
Pickled herring on Ash Wednesday - a culinary treat
Features
How superstitious are Austrians? The Local lists a few of the stranger ideas
Features
British musician Tall William on mapping Vienna's music scene
International
What's keeping UK expats from voting?
Features
Nine things to know before dating an Austrian
Business & Money
FATCA: 'The age of financial privacy is over'
National
Celebrating immigration with beautiful accessories
Gallery
Sponsored: Fun factory for the under-fives
Health
Help Me Helen: How to avoid invalidating others
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
Culture
Our pick of the best German language idioms
Travel & Tourism
The most common 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?
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
Holocaust survivors' family retrace grandparents' steps in Vienna
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

201
jobs available