A 25-year-old bearded drag queen named Conchita Wurst took the top prize at the Eurovision song contest last night after singing “Rise Like A Phoenix.” Wurst, a native Austrian, helped her country achieve its first Eurovision victory in 48 years. The victory is especially sweet since some conservative countries said the bearded beauty would be too controversial, and tried to petition against letting the drag queen perform at all.
After winning the trophy, the drag queen was visibly moved to the point of tears, calling the accomplishment a positive thing for people who believe “in the future of peace and love and tolerance.” During an interview, Wurst was asked what she’d say to Vladimir Putin, Russia’s leader who infamously signed a law banning gay propaganda last year. In response, the bearded drag queen said, “I don’t know if he’s watching, but if so, I’ve made clear, we’re unstoppable.”
Even though this is the first time a bearded drag queen has ended up as the winner, the Eurovision song contest has been going on since 1956. The last time Austria was able to win it occurred when Udo Juergens sang “Merci Cherie.”
However, from the start, the singing competition has often been tied to politics. For example, each contestant gets awarded points for performing well, and there are judges from throughout Europe. When judges from Azerbaijan and Belarus gave good feedback after the Russian entrants performed, they were booed by the audience.
It may be surprising that the bearded drag queen was even able to secure some points from Russian officials last night, perhaps demonstrating how although the country’s leader is very against people of certain sexual orientations, the same is not true for everyone in Russian. Wurst, whose birth name is Tom Neuwirth, echoed that thought by saying, “It doesn’t depend on a country. There are people… also in Eastern Europe, who believe what I believe.”
Austrian president Heinz Fischer congratulated the bearded drag queen and called her achievement “not just a victory for Austria, but above all for diversity and tolerance in Europe.” Although some may have been anticipating that the competition would be very close, the drag queen with the trademark facial hair was able to win a total of 290 points, and her closest contender only received 238.
On the same day, Michael Sam notably became drafted by the St. Louis Rams as the first openly gay professional football player and excitedly kissed his partner. As television cameras in the United States watched, a bearded drag queen was making history in another part of the world as an estimated 180 million people looked on. Perhaps these events are positive signs that acceptance is progressing more quickly than some might realize. What do you think?