Austria Triumphant Over Competition and Adversity at Eurovision
The UK’s odds for winning the Eurovision Song Contest this year were better than they had been for years, with a great and strong song Children of the Universe. The song was being performed by Molly Smitten-Downes and the UK was actually listed as second or third favourite to win.
The UK ended up placing 17th with only 40 points – only marginally better than last year’s 19th place and Engelbert Humperdinck’s couple up from the bottom of the points table the year before.
Austria were favourites to win the contest, and proved triumphant in their destruction of the competition, with Rise Like a Phoenix, a powerful Bond-theme-like ballad sung by the beautiful Conchita Wurst. If there is something the estimated 180 million Eurovision viewers from 45 different countries love, it is most certainly a great song – with a twist.
Conchita, indeed beautiful, also sports a beard and is the alter-ego of 25-year-old Tom Neuwirth. Tom, a fashion graduate, had previously tried to find fame with a boyband called Jetzt Anders (‘Now Different’), put together by 2007 Austrian talent show Starmania. Although the group managed to reach the finals, it wasn’t meant to be.
In 2011, Tom returned to television in another talent show called The Big Chance, but this time it was not him appearing on the stage, but his alter-ego Conchita Wurst, with long eyelashes, long hair, and a beard. Conchita placed second, and the country had fallen in love with her, propelling her to national celebrity.
Conchita has since appeared on more television shows in Austria, and the public was very happy that she would be representing them at the Eurovision Song Contest. Tom explained that although Conchita is simply an artistic creation, her character is that of a woman and so behaves like one. “It is obvious, for example, that when I am Conchita, I use the female toilet, and when I am Tom, the male toilet,” the singer said. “I can assure you it is never a problem for women – they love it.”
Leading up to Eurovision, Conchita spoke in interviews of wanting to be able to show people that they are capable of anything by just being themselves and “believing in yourself”.
Taking to the stage in a figure-hugging gold fishtail dress and butterfly eyelashes, Conchita did just that, to the wild applause of the audience. Austria ended up securing its victory with three rounds still left to go, ending up with a staggering 290 points and generating more than 5 million tweets on Twitter.
“I felt like tonight Europe showed that we are a community of respect and tolerance,” an emotional Conchita said as she collected her prize. “This award is dedicated to everybody who believes in a world of peace and freedom… We are unity and we are unstoppable.”