Conchita Wurst, the onstage drag persona of Austrian singer Thomas Neuwirth, took top honors in the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest with a power ballad titled "Rise Like A Phoenix." With 290 points, it was one of the most popular acts in the contest's history. In under five minutes, Conchita Wurst became the most famous Austrian musician since Mozart.
Her win is a resounding victory for the LGBTQ community. The pseudo-lesbian Russian duo t.A.T.u, who exploded in the U.S. with their smash single "All The Thing She Said," were chosen 10 years ago to represent their country in 2003's Eurovision Song Contest. The politics and controversy surrounding their performance completely overshadowed their vocal efforts. To this day, Russia's attitudes toward gender, sexuality and identity politics are remarkably conservative; both Russia and Ukraine requested that Wurst's entry be blocked. A Russian lawmaker was moved by the spectacle to describe Eurovision as a "pan-European gay pride parade."
While discussing her win, Wurst said, "For me a dream came true, but for our society, it shows there are people out there that want to go on and not step back into the past. I'm so thankful. I think we said something tonight. It's not just a victory for Austria, it's a victory for love and tolerance."
Despite the vast success of "Rise Like A Phoenix," Wurst will most likely be remembered in the history books for what she represents rather than the performance that secured her victory.
"I cried because I am so happy and beyond thankful," she explained. "I said to myself, 'Just this one time let me be the one with the gold.' I don't know who I have to thank but… I'm speechless."
Conchita Wurst is a welcome reminder that women can, and quite often do, kick a**. Every day we hear detailed story lines about thwarted productive rights, victim blaming, lower wages and legitimate rapes. All the while, the incredibly buoyant drag community reminds us that there's an entire herd of men out there who are so dedicated to women, they even choose to dress like them.
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