I was sent a gift of a copy of Conchita Wurst’s autobiography ‘Being Conchita: We Are Unstoppable‘ this week. From a lovely person in Vienna (you know who you are, thank you, and you are always very welcome). And while the entire book is interesting and beautifully written, one small section stuck in my head.
Because that’s how my head works when it comes to Conchita Wurst. Something I read or see, out of something much larger, strikes me and, if it insists on sitting around long enough, that’s the bit I write about.
‘Being Conchita’ by Conchita Wurst
Now, before I start, let’s take a quick look at ‘Being Conchita‘, the book she is rightfully proud of — “lots of pictures” and all. As it’s a book that does a good job of briefly covering what Conchita Wurst is all about. From her childhood as Tom Neuwirth, through to the birth of Conchita, her win at Eurovision, and what that crazy year after it was like.
It’s a book also that, in “voice”, at least to me, is not always entirely in her voice, but in that of her writer Daniel Oliver Bachmann instead. As some of it is a little too ‘attempting to be educational’ — about things like gay rights, myth and philosophy — and a bit too ‘attempting to make her look smart’.
As she’s already one of the smartest people I’ve ever come across, I have to admit I didn’t really quite understand the necessity for some of that. But that’s just a minor thing.
While other reviewers have said ‘Being Conchita‘ is an especially good book for fans who are just getting to know her, however, I disagree.
As, in my mind, yes, it is a great book for them, but it is an absolute treasure for those who already know her well and just want to find out more. Because if you look beyond the surface of the things being said, to the words she uses to say them, there’s a lot of insight into who Conchita Wurst is. And who, of course, Tom Neuwirth is — because this book is his as much as hers.
Which leads me to the part that stuck out the most for me. The part, I believe, that has gone a long way to shaping who Tom Neuwirth ended up becoming, and why Conchita Wurst arrived on the scene.
“…to no longer be stared at, bullied and left out”
And here’s the part of the book that hit me like a bolt of lightning, and slammed one of those ‘snapshots’ I’m always looking for with her into place in that album in my head. Just a short paragraph, a stand out sentence, and then the things that came after.
Because I believe what happens to you as a child never goes away. It shapes and forms you, for good or bad, and certain moments during that childhood will send you off on a path you will probably never leave. My ‘snapshot’ was when I was six. (And I’m using the term ‘snapshot’ as that’s what she uses in her book). This, I believe, is one of hers.
It starts out in her chapter on Tom arriving in Graz. Age 14. An attempt to start a new life, away from all the bullying he had received back home in Bad Mitterndorf. And he’s talking about what he thought would happen to him in Graz. (Page 11, “With Needle and Thread“).
“My belief that this was somewhere that I could be my true self arose entirely from my desire to no longer be stared at, bullied and left out. I would have bet everything I owned that my new life would not be like that. It turned out that I was mistaken. The very opposite was true“
She (still ‘he’ here, really) then goes on to describe living in a boarding house in Graz, every Sunday night to Friday afternoon before he went home for the weekend. How the boarding house was divided between boys’ and girls’ floors, and how soon he was getting the exact same bullying he got back home in Bad Mitterndorf. But worse, of course.
Because, at least in Bad Mitterndorf, at night he had his own home to go to. Here, he slept in the same area as his tormentors.
And I cannot even imagine how alone he must have felt. Or how scared.
But, here’s the thing. That boy. Tom. Even with all that abuse going on. You should never feel sorry for him. Because he’s not a victim. He never was. That boy has balls of steel. As he proved by his reaction to it and as he, and she, have proven ever since.
He made friends with the girls in the house, just like he did with the girls at his school in Bad Mitterndorf, and those girls helped protect him from some of the abuse. Just like girls had always done. In so doing, they helped him get through it.
And you wonder why he and, of course, she love women so much?
Because they (mother, grandmother, his ‘gaggle of girls’ in the school yard and in Graz, the landlady he lived with after the boarding house, the Vienna friends who have always surrounded him, and his best friend Nicole) have always been the ones above everyone else who have always loved him for exactly who he was, seen things in him he couldn’t always see in himself, and protected him whenever he needed protection.
The arrival of Conchita Wurst
And so, from Tom in Graz getting through whatever he had to get through just to get where he was going, we come to Conchita Wurst. Someone who has catapulted Tom Neuwirth to the superstardom he couldn’t quite get by himself. And to my belief that she was the one who was always meant to do just that.
Because I realized after reading this book, chances are she comes directly from his experiences in Graz and elsewhere. And so she is, to some extent, Tom Neuwirth’s homage to women.
The women who loved him, the women who protected him, the women who made him feel special, and perfect and wanted. Even to this very day. Because, while Conchita Wurst has a huge number of male fans, it’s still often the women who are fighting for her, promoting her, and pushing her to the top as much as they possibly can.
So it’s Conchita Wurst who is now the one who lives out Tom’s fantasies. Lets him be who he wants to be on stage, and gets him into those worlds of music, fashion and celebrity he always wanted to be in.
But she’s also more than that. She’s the perfect woman (yep, even with the beard). She’s beautiful, and smart, and witty. She’s kind and gentle and loving. She’s perfectly dressed, beautifully coiffed, with manicured hands, and delicate feet dressed in the highest heeled and most elegant shoes. She’s everything most women would love to be.
And she’s the embodiment of what Tom Neuwirth carries in his heart. The love for all those women who saw in him what everyone else did not. Saw in him who he knew he was himself, and who he wanted to show the world — the boy who could do anything, be anything or anyone. If only others would get out of his way.
Buy Conchita Wurst’s “Being Conchita: We Are Unstoppable”
You can buy Conchita Wurst’s “Being Conchita: We Are Unstoppable’ at Amazon in the US, at Amazon in the UK, on Kindle in the UK, on your own country’s Amazon, on her publisher’s website, and, of course, at many local bookshops.
I recommend you do. It’s beautifully done, stuffed full of colorful photographs, most of which you will never have seen before, and it adds just a bit more to figuring out the enigma that is Conchita Wurst. I loved it.
Meanwhile, if you want to know more about Conchita’s book, there’s a lovely interview she gave at The London Book Fair back in May. Watch that below.