“Tonight I’m gonna go where I wanna, Say what I wanna, Be who I want to, Tonight you’re gonna see for the first time, See what I have to say, Don’t want you to let go of me, But try to see the other side of me, I’m moving in a different way, But I still need you here.” — lyrics ‘The Other Side of Me’ — Conchita Wurst
As far as writing goes, it’s been a Conchita Wurst week. It usually is when I’m in Vienna, the Austrian singer’s hometown. But what you are reading now is something that has been on my mind for months. Since the last time I was in Vienna, watched her on TV during the Austrian Eurovision National Selection competition, and had a difficult time getting my head around how ‘masculine’ she had become.
After all, like most people who like Conchita Wurst, I fell in love with the ultra-feminine girl with the thick lashes, long flowing hair, beautifully manicured beard, ridiculously high heels and the sexiest and most elegant dresses.
Lately, however, we’ve been getting a pared down version of Conchita Wurst. (Or, should I say, Conchita, as the Wurst got discarded by the wayside too). So pared down, there are less eyelashes, more simple make up, no more fake nails, a beard that is thick and bushy and seems to be quite happily growing half way down her neck, and an overall feel of a person who is suddenly ‘all boy’, albeit a boy still wearing predominantly women’s clothes — well, if it’s a woman who lives her life entirely in pants.
And, as someone who adores girly Conchita, not only did I not like it, it completely pissed me off. Because, that… it’s not what I signed up for.
But, being me, liking a challenge, loving her and fascinated by what the fuck she was doing now (excuse the language, but that’s how I think of this journey of hers in my head), I decided to sit back, spend a few weeks just watching and see if I could get to like what I, frankly, did not.
Besides, let’s face it, as much as I rail against some of the things she does, and try to persuade myself “this time, I’m done with her”, that girl is so firmly jammed into my soul, I’m never going to get her out.
Fast forward to a night in a Vienna audience. A night where, yes I’ve seen Conchita Wurst happy in the past, but nothing like how happy I saw her on Wednesday when I was two feet away from her and felt this unbelievable joy, this elation just flowing off her, and saw the sparkle in her eyes as she was faced with the overpowering love and admiration she was getting from the audience as she kicked off her first ever concert tour.
And then the feeling I’ve been looking for hit me. The feeling that, I don’t give a flying fuck if she’s ‘masculine’, ‘feminine’, a hybrid of the two, or bouncing backwards and forwards depending on the hour.
I don’t care if she’s wearing a long wig, a short wig, a side part, a long dress, a dress slashed to the waist with no bra and an all male chest gloriously exposed, a closely trimmed beard, or one halfway down her chest. Pencil thin stiletto heels, or the flattest, heaviest, clumsiest boots imaginable.
I don’t mind if she’s made up to the nines with eyelashes like huge black spiders, or wearing nothing but lip gloss and a brushing of mascara.
I frankly don’t care about any of it.
What I do care about is that, up on that stage and in person as she gives interviews, heads to fan meet and greets, or makes the most laidback ‘all Tom’ walking-to-the-sound-check-in-Innsbruck videos imaginable, she has grown into herself to such an extent she is clearly ecstatically, wonderfully happy with who she is and what she is experiencing.
Because Conchita Wurst is 27 years old, and it has taken almost every second in her life up to this point to get to a place where she is no longer tying herself in knots trying to be who other people want her to be — ‘more boy’, ‘all girl’, ‘more straight’, ‘more feminine’, ‘more like a girl in a dress than a boy’ and on and on.
To the point where she can be who she wants to be on any given day — all girl one day, all boy the next, haute couture model, rock chick Conchita, up on a stage wearing a glamorous sparkly ball gown and looking like the prettiest girl ever, or in a baggy shapeless caftan over tight black pants on a stage in Salzburg as ‘Tom on Tour’.
Because here’s the thing with Conchita Wurst. From the minute I first saw her, I didn’t fall in love with the exterior, even though for a time I thought I did.
Instead what I fell in love with was this person who is kind and sweet and funny and smart. A person who can make me laugh like no-one else can. Who loves her family, and is insanely loyal to her friends. A person who has a reputation as an incredibly hard-worker. Someone who you never hear a bad word about (try to find anyone who says Conchita Wurst is a bitch. You can’t). Someone who seems to be known by everyone who has ever met her as unbelievably nice.
Someone who can do an interview and talk about something she knows absolutely nothing about, and still convince most people (sorry, not me, love, but it’s still why I like you) that she’s an expert on the subject. Someone who makes goofy mistakes, jokes about them, but never lets them upset her plans. Someone who, in the past two years, has become far less ‘perfect’ and much more ‘real’.
Someone who loves her fans, appreciates everything they do for her, and always tries to make them happy.
And, of course, someone who is a powerhouse singer and artist, and well on her way to world superstardom.
That is who I care about, and what she/he/whoever looks like, beyond the usual ‘cute dress’ reaction, just isn’t in my focus anymore.
Because I’m beyond happy Conchita Wurst seems to finally have found that inner peace and self-acceptance she has been looking for all her life. An inner peace that now allows her to wear what she wants when she wants, and look like how she wants to look, without ever worrying about if someone else likes it or is going to make her feel ‘lesser than’ because of it.
And,frankly, why would I ever want to be a person that tried to take that inner peace away from her?
Finally, if you want to see how absolutely at peace with herself Conchita now is, watch her sing ‘Other Side of Me‘ in Salzburg on Thursday night. It’s the song that was written especially for her right after her Eurovision win.
And listen closely to the lyrics. Because those words, right there, that’s what she wants you to understand. She loves you but, if you love her, you cannot love her with conditions. You have to set her free. To be who she wants to be.