• 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)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Conchita to perform for Ban Ki-moon at VIC
Photo: courtesy Conchita Wurst

Conchita to perform for Ban Ki-moon at VIC

The Austrian winner of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest will perform live at the Vienna International Centre in the presence of the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, during the Secretary-General's visit to the United Nations in Vienna. READ  

Jihadist sought crowds to boost bomb deaths
Photo: APA (Archiv/epa)

Jihadist sought crowds to boost bomb deaths

Investigators have begun to carefully probe the background of Austria's latest radicalized teenage jihadist, whose pre-detention was extended on Wednesday afternoon after a court hearing in St. Pölten in Lower Austria. READ  

Funeral museum rises from the dead
Cemetery for the nameless in Wien Simmering. Photo: HeinzLW/Wikimedia

Funeral museum rises from the dead

Just in time for Halloween on Friday and a weekend devoted to the dead, Vienna's unashamedly morbid Funeral Museum is now closer to the action: the Austrian capital's huge Central Cemetery. READ  

Warmest October for eight years
Not looking so warm in the Alps. Photo: APA/Techt

Warmest October for eight years

Given how cold it has felt in parts of Austria over the past week it may come as a surprise that it has been the warmest October for eight years. READ  

Are you ready for your flying car?
Photo: AeroMobil.com

Are you ready for your flying car?

Austria's Pioneer Festival was the venue for the launch of what has been called the world's first production-ready flying car. READ  

Update
Teen jihadist planned to make bombs
Photo: APA (Hochmuth)

Teen jihadist planned to make bombs

A 14-year-old boy who was arrested on Tuesday evening has been revealed to be a Turkish national who has lived in Austria for the past eight years. READ  

Rocky Horror to rock staid Vienna's corsets
Photo: APA

Rocky Horror to rock staid Vienna's corsets

A bizarre story of a couple on their honeymoon whose car breaks down and they're forced to seek refuge in a mysterious castle occupied by sinister aliens is the theme of one of the most popular rock musicals of the past forty years. READ  

Cannabis: A burning issue for Austria's Neos
Photo: APA/epa

Cannabis: A burning issue for Austria's Neos

Austria’s centrist Neos party has sparked controversy by speaking out in favour of legalizing cannabis. READ  

Advertising
The Local offers advertisers great value
Photo: Paul Gillingwater

The Local offers advertisers great value

The Local Austria is looking to build new partnerships with advertisers. We’re a small business based in Vienna, staffed by experienced English-language journalists and social media specialists. We produce independent daily news from around Austria, providing a window on life in this fascinating country. READ  

Police warn of Halloween hooligans
Photo: APA (Hochmuth)

Police warn of Halloween hooligans

Despite Halloween being a relatively new phenomenon in Austria, teenagers are using the holiday as an excuse for running a little wild - with police warning that some see the US-centric festival as an excuse to commit property damage and theft. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Culture
Funeral museum rises from the dead for Halloween
Business & Money
Advertising value with The Local
Culture
The Lowdown on Austria's goose eating season
Society
Left behind in 1939 - a tale of loss
Travel & Tourism
Ten things to never say to an Austrian
Gallery
Austrian regions: The best and the worst
Travel & Tourism
Europe's top six ski hotels features Austria
National
Protest in concrete: Vienna's €19 billion 'Hypotopia' city
Tech
Editorial: Google Plus
Travel & Tourism
Vienna in Lonely Planet's top ten city destinations for 2015
International
Finding your favourite home foods in Austria
Gallery
Photo of the Week: Austrian Jagdkommando and his dog
Culture
Vienna Philharmonic receives major music prize
Gallery
What kind of Austria expat are you?
Health
Doctors launch campaign to challenge smoker's paradise
Culture
Happy Birthday, Udo Jürgens
Culture
Test your German skills with the odd word out quiz
Gallery
Ten noises that sound very different in German
National
Graz designer creates Dirndl and Lederhosen with a twist
Health
Sigmund Freud: 75 years after his death
Society
Coming home after 75 years with the Jewish Welcome Service
Health
Austrians can't stop smoking
Culture
Why Austria wants a divorce from Germany
Features
'A love of learning was vital'
National
The Vienna solar power plant that is also a nature reserve
National
Vienna exhibition on 50 years of Turkish guest workers
Politics
The unpopular finance minister defeated by tax reform
Features
'Suddenly you're just trying to get a sentence out'
Health
Key to happiness is 'making the right choices'
National
The Austrian office with a climbing wall and swimming pool
National
Six top tips to get a job in Austria
National
Danielle Spera on the mission of the Jewish Museum Vienna
National
Why Vienna is a 'hub for European jihadists'
Gallery
Horses rescued from burning barn
National
Why beggars are a problem for Vienna's street paper Augustin
Culture
'No one speak English to him!'
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
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

245
jobs available