Conchita Wurst was certainly not the worst contestant at Eurovision and won the song competition representing Austria with 290 points. The talented vocalist Thomas Neuwirth adopted the persona of Conchita, a bearded drag queen as a form of expression against homophobic and xenophobic European political leaders. The outpour of support and acceptance from countries participating in Eurovision for an openly gay and genderqueer contestant undoubtedly helped propel Conchita to victory.
Eurovision is “an annual song competition held among the member countries of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU),” (Wikepedia) which functions through “each member country submitting a song to be performed on live television and radio and then casts votes for the other countries’ songs to determine the most popular song in the competition.”
Since beginning 56 years ago, Eurovision has always displayed undertones of social and political conflicts among participating countries, now evident in Russia’s association with homophobia because of leader Vladimir Putin’s strong stance against homosexuality.
In response, contestants mocked Putin with a heavy display of LGBTQ PDA and protest inspired outfits, performances and song choices. Audience members would also boo Russian performers and consistently refuse to vote in their favor.
However, unlike the booers, Conchita Wurst did not show contempt towards his Russian competitors.
Conchita succeeded in shattering the contentious nature of performing as an openly gay drag queen in Europe’s difficult political climate. Neuwirth’s confidence to don a beard and dress defy the expectations of a successful and binary-gendered performer. Conchita uses her voice, in interviews as well as in performances, as a means to positively represent the LGBTQ community.
Conchita’s win sets an inspirational precedence that talent can overcome societal barriers. She proves that other drag performers, openly LGBTQ peoples and those with socially unconventional differences have the ability to overcome discrimination.