• Austria's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Austria's newest royal's triumphant return

Staff reporter · 11 May 2014, 17:18

Published: 11 May 2014 17:18 GMT+02:00

AFP/The Local - Austria's bearded transvestite crowned Eurovision queen Conchita Wurst returned home Sunday to a jubilant welcome, vowing to use her newfound fame to promote tolerance.

"This will remain an issue for a long time and I fear I won't see the end of it in my lifetime," said Wurst, who captured Europe's imagination at this year's edition of the song contest.

"It will be my life's work and I gladly take it on," the 25-year-old drag queen, who is also known as Tom Neuwirth, told reporters in Vienna.

"Yesterday was not just a victory for me but a victory for those people who believe in a future that can function without discrimination and is based on tolerance and respect."

Wurst's participation in the contest had sparked controversy ahead of the finals in Copenhagen, with petitions running in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine for her to be dropped from the competition.

Her win was also greeted by an outpouring of scorn from Russian politicians and stars.

But at Vienna airport, the waifish singer was greeted Sunday by a jubilant crowd that went wild when she stepped into the arrivals terminals in a flowing pale pink skirt and jeans vest.

At least 1,000 fans -- some of them wearing painted beards on their face, including women and children -- had been waiting for hours, playing Wurst's anthem "Rise like a Phoenix" non-stop and singing along at the top of their lungs, while waving Austrian and rainbow signs and banners that read "We love you!" and "Conchita Queen of Love + Tolerance".

Surrounded by an international media scrum, she lifted her Eurovision trophy in the air and smiled to the cameras.

"I don't really feel vindicated (against her critics). I believe everything happens for a reason," she said afterwards.

She insisted she was no "ambassador of tolerance... I'm just doing my little bit. This is what I was given and I feel it's my duty as an artist to work in that direction."

After her win on Saturday, Wurst cried out: "We are unity, and we are unstoppable."

"That was obviously meant for certain politicians whom we all know," she explained in Vienna. Asked if she meant Russian President Vladimir Putin, who last year signed a law banning "gay propaganda", she replied coyly "among others".

"It's the end of Europe"

Wurst's unusual persona sparked a backlash from eastern Europe and her win saw an outpouring of anti-gay anger from Russian politicians and stars on Sunday.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin tweeted that the Eurovision result "showed supporters of European integration their European future: a bearded girl."

Russian nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky meanwhile predicted: "It's the end of Europe... They don't have men and women any more. They have 'it'."

But Wurst retorted that parents should just tell their children: "He's a young man who wears women's clothes and he wants to show that you don't need to be made fun of for that.

Story continues below…

"I think if you say that, kids will understand. Children are far more mature than you might think," she said.

Austria erupted in joy Saturday as Conchita brought the country its first Eurovision victory in 48 years.

One local radio station played "Rise like a Phoenix" on loop 48 times over four hours on Sunday in honour of the win.

Further afield, stars like Lady Gaga and Boy George have also tweeted their support for her.

Cracking jokes, the "bearded lady" as she likes to call herself charmed the media crowd.

"I'm always asked when I first realised that I'd won. Next week I think," she said with a flutter of her long fake eyelashes.

Staff reporter (news@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Opinion
Syrian: How to build bridges between cultures in Austria
Majd Nassan

One Syrian in Austria explains what he thinks the government and asylums seekers could do to alleviate discontent and improve integration in the country.

Strache apologizes over 'fake' asylum pic
Tweet about the contentious picture. Original photo: Juerg Christandl

The head of Austria's anti-immigration far-right apologized on Friday for claiming a newspaper faked a photo of an anti-refugee protest by his party, donating 9,000 euros ($10,300) to a migrants charity.

Austrians are happy folk says laughter survey
Marc Kjerland/Creative Commons

Over three quarters of Austrians laugh at least once day according to a recent survey.

Cat chase ends badly for huge dog stuck in gate
FF Hainfeld

An over-ambitious Newfoundland managed to get his head firmly stuck while chasing a cat.

Austrian bank keeps €38K sent by OAP with dementia
Wolfgang Sauer, nephew of the OAP. Photo: ORF screengrab

An Austrian bank is refusing to pay back a €38,000 ‘donation’ sent to them by an elderly woman suffering from dementia after she heard they were in financial difficulties.

New city map app helps refugees navigate Vienna
Esther Vargas/Creative Commons

A new city map app designed to help refugees orientate and integrate themselves in Vienna is being created by developers in the city.

Italy: Border plans 'an enormous mistake'
Austrian interior minister Wolfgang Sobotka. Photo: Michael Kranewitter/Wikimedia

Italy told Austria Thursday it would prove Vienna was "wasting money" on anti-migrant measures and closing the border between the two countries would be "an enormous mistake".

Teen sentenced for ISIS propaganda
Photo: The Local

An Austrian court jailed on Thursday a 15-year-old Islamic extremist for a second time, handing down a 20-month sentence for sending banned propaganda material via mobile phone messaging service WhatsApp.

Tense talks as Italy fumes over Austria migrant 'slap'
ROBERTO TOMASI /EPA

Italy and Austria were set for showdown talks Thursday as Italian politicians and media reacted furiously to Vienna's new anti-migrant measures that could close the border between the two countries.

Brexit
Expats lose bid to scrap 15 year rule for EU referendum
D Smith/Flikr

A high court bid to force the British government to change the law that bars long-term expats from voting in the crucial EU referendum has been thrown out by judges.

Sponsored Article
How to launch your international career
Features
Refugees need practical help
Sponsored Article
What's the best way for expats to transfer money abroad?
Lifestyle
All you need to know about Austrian Faschingskrapfen
Lifestyle
Why looking good on the ski slopes has never been easier
Lifestyle
Live in Austria? You might develop some of these weird habits
National
How 'Silent Night' rules the carol world
Lifestyle
How a chance meeting on the slopes led to a new business
Lifestyle
What it means to be human
Sponsored Article
Top tips for affordable but stylish travelling
Technology
How a town became a green icon
Lifestyle
Why Austria has the world's best ski resort
Lifestyle
Let them eat cake!
Lifestyle
Top tips for partying like an Austrian
Culture
Five places to learn how to cook Viennese cuisine
Lifestyle
How living in Austria will improve your lifestyle
Lifestyle
Backstage at the World Beard and Moustache Championship
Gallery
Up to 60,000 people welcomed refugees in Vienna
Culture
Can you spot an Austrian?
Lifestyle
Our pick of Vienna's best vegetarian restaurants
Analysis & Opinion
Italy's South Tyrol: where an identity crisis lingers
National
Lost on the way to sanctuary
2,477
jobs available