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Conchita Wurst, a Eurovision Star, on the Previous 10 Years


Trying again on the final decade, Tom Neuwirth is amazed by how far his 2014 Eurovision win because the drag queen Conchita Wurst has reverberated.

“I feel this second, the win, occurred to all of us,” Neuwirth stated in a latest interview at his crew’s places of work in Vienna. Wearing pink corduroys, a black hoodie and white sneakers, he was charming and candy, jokey one second and quietly reflective the following. “Individuals will inform me the place they have been and the way their life took a flip from then on,” he stated. “There are all the time large tales and feelings.”

That Could, 10 years in the past, 195 million individuals watched Conchita Wurst belt out the ability ballad “Rise Like a Phoenix,” representing Austria within the finale of the Eurovision Track Contest. The annual present is Europe’s longest-running expertise competitors, during which singers representing their international locations carry out for an enormous TV viewers that votes for its favourite act.

This 12 months’s Eurovision last takes place in Malmo, Sweden, on Saturday. The occasion, which has been referred to “the queer Olympics” or “homosexual Christmas,” has lengthy been standard with L.G.B.T.Q. individuals. By 2014, the competitors had already seen a lot of homosexual, lesbian and bisexual members, in addition to a number of drag acts, and a trans winner as early as 1998.

But none of these performers obtained as explosive a reception as Conchita Wurst, whose victory arrived amid widespread developments in L.G.B.T.Q. rights in Western Europe that included a wave of legalization for same-sex marriage. The singer turned a worldwide image of the divisions between liberals and conservatives, with some calling her efficiency a high-profile victory for queer illustration, and others seeing it as an indication of the degradation of conventional Western values.

On the time of his win, Neuwirth was 25 and a newcomer to the worldwide pop scene. All he had behind him was a activate an Austrian expertise present, on which he positioned second, and a quick interval in a boy band that sputtered out.

So his victory was an enormous shock for him and for all of Austria, which had final received Eurovision in 1966. “Everybody was fully out of their minds, like, ‘What, we received that?’” recalled Florian Aschka, a member of a collective that runs the Queer Museum Vienna. “It felt like a win for the entire queer neighborhood.”

Invites for Conchita Wurst flooded in: to headline L.G.B.T.Q. Delight occasions in Madrid, London, Antwerp and past; to carry out on the European Parliament and the United Nations; and to seem in a Jean Paul Gaultier style present.

Across the similar time, “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” which had been on air for just a few years, exploded in recognition, and drag queen story hours started in San Francisco. Within the decade since, each the TV present and the story hours have was cultural phenomena.

Neuwirth stated that as we speak, the looks of a bearded drag queen on Eurovision “wouldn’t be a lot of a subject.” However elsewhere within the mainstream media, he stated, there was a rising backlash in opposition to L.G.B.T.Q. individuals’s elevated visibility in public life — for instance, from individuals who suppose drag queens are utilizing story hours to groom youngsters. “I feel with all this recognition and visibility, individuals who don’t perceive the idea of inclusion get triggered to the max,” he stated.

He would know; the blowback to Conchita Wurst was fierce. One ultranationalist Russian lawmaker described her efficiency as “the top of Europe”; one other known as it “propaganda for homosexuality and ethical decay.” The chief of the conservative Regulation and Justice Occasion in Poland echoed these sentiments, and some years later, Turkey’s public broadcaster, which had been boycotting Eurovision since 2012, stated that the spectacle of “an Austrian with a beard and a skirt, who claims to not have a gender” affirmed its resolution to step again from the competition.

However Neuwirth wasn’t bothered. He was too busy “dwelling my princess fantasy,” he stated. Consideration from the haters was, if something, flattering, he added: “They’re so triggered by me that they’ve to speak about me.”

After the win, Neuwirth spent three years on the street, dwelling his dream as a singer within the public eye, with “paparazzi, being well-known and all of the issues that include it.” However with time got here knowledge. “There was a second in my profession the place I believed, this may’t be it,” he stated. “Conchita turned a really slender area of interest.”

Subsequent, Neuwirth created a brand new, extra masculine character known as WURST, whose 2019 debut was coupled with an digital album, “Reality Over Magnitude.” “I believed I used to be breaking free, however in hindsight I fled in the other way after which once more I used to be caught in no matter I believed I needed to be,” Neuwirth stated.

As of late, Neuwirth is 35 and starring in his first theater function, because the lead in “LuziWuzi: I Am the Empress,” a kitschy dramedy a few Hapsburg royal, Archduke Ludwig Victor, who was overtly however quietly homosexual, periodically donned attire and was ultimately banned from Vienna by his brother, Emperor Franz Joseph, after he was accused of inappropriately approaching one other man within the public baths. The present, which runs on the Rabenhof Theater in Vienna by Sept. 24, has been very effectively obtained, with standing ovations and constructive evaluations.

Neuwirth stated he now felt snug shifting between his personal self — Tom in sweatpants — and his characters, whether or not it’s a glam Conchita Wurst or a campy Hapsburg archduke.

Lastly, he stated, “I understood for myself that there are not any boundaries.”

“I all the time stated it,” he added, “however I didn’t authentically stay it as a lot as I wished to for myself.”



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