Conchita Wurst, Tom Neuwirth and the Right to Privacy

conchita wurst privacy

Yesterday, I wrote this. A plea to Conchita Wurst fans to stop posting recent photographs of Tom Neuwirth on the internet. Tom, in case you don’t know, is the man behind the drag artist Conchita Wurst, and someone who values his privacy above many other things.

Due to some of the responses I got on Facebook and in private messages, this is my commentary for today. Please note, this is only my opinion and in no shape or form has it been endorsed by either Conchita Wurst or Tom Neuwirth.


Conchita Wurst, Tom Neuwirth and the Right to Privacy

What is the right to privacy and, more specifically, what should the right to privacy mean to someone who has chosen to put themselves in the public eye?

For me, a writer who believes the right to privacy is everything, this issue has been on my mind lately since I first discovered Eurovision Song Contest winner, Conchita Wurst.

Why? Because my heart hurts when I think of what Tom Neuwirth could lose if fans and others refuse to give what Conchita always asks for him – the right to a private life removed from his alter ego Conchita Wurst, and the right to choose what information about himself he makes public.

Background on Tom and Conchita

Now, before we get started, here’s a little background for those who may not be the besotted Conchita Wurst fan some of us are.

Austrian singer Tom Neuwirth created the drag artist Conchita Wurst after a short career in music that, Conchita herself has admitted, wasn’t that successful. Tom’s alter ego Conchita burst onto the music scene in Austria in 2011, but hit true international attention in May, 2014 after her win at Eurovision.

In many interviews since then, Conchita has stressed, while she loves being the center of attention on stage, and welcomes any contact with the media and the public when out as Conchita, Tom himself is now mainly off limits.

Consequences of a Request for Privacy

That type of statement, of course, is like a red flag to a bull for anyone with dodgy morals and, as Conchita’s fame grows, that unfortunate reality will become even more so.

For some fans too, Conchita’s request has been ignored as they continue to obsessively look for recent personal photographs of Tom Neuwirth in private moments with friends, and then share them with the world.

So what could that possibly mean for Tom and, of course as a result, for Conchita Wurst? What are the consequences of a request for privacy that isn’t being honored?

Consequence number one – As an artist, Conchita Wurst gives everything she has on stage, with the news media, and with fans. As a creative person myself, it’s obvious to me if Conchita didn’t have safe places where she can be Tom, “the lazy boy at home”, and people who he can absolutely trust with the secrets of his off-stage life, that type of intense creativity would end quickly.

After all, you can’t be a fabulous diva on stage, if you’re always nervous and looking over your shoulder when you’re off it. It would rip you in two.

Consequence number two – For a well-known person, Conchita Wurst is surprisingly open about her feelings and the things that are most important to her. It’s one of the things I like about her. So, now imagine a Tom Neuwirth, continually subjected to the breaches of privacy some people are intent on pursuing. Do you think that honesty, sincerity, and charm would continue? Or would we, the people who admire Conchita the most, have to put up with the bland and ‘packaged’ responses so many other artists regurgitate.

How long before we stopped loving her then?

Consquence number three – While this, I believe, is the least likely thing to happen, it could. It’s also the one that scares me the most.

Conchita has been honest from day one about the death threats and verbal abuse she gets on an hourly basis from homophobes, bigots and nutjobs the length and breadth of the globe.

While she charmingly jokes “Get in line” when asked if she worries about the possibility of a physical attack, it’s obviously something she and the people closest to her have to take into consideration as they plan her career.

After all, only a stupid person would be unconcerned and, believe me, that’s the last adjective you would ever use to describe Conchita Wurst.

Just imagine the day to day threats someone like Beyoncé or Angelina Jolie get, then multiply that by a thousand for this beautiful, compassionate, in-your-face drag queen with a long, glossy wig, manicured nails, a glamorous dress and beard, and a refusal to take shit from anyone (my words, not hers. She’s quite a bit more polite!).

No wonder her team is always so tightly wrapped around her. It’s not just to make her look ‘important’, you know.

Final Thoughts on the Importance of Privacy

So, the next time you consider sharing a recent photograph or information about Tom Neuwirth, or go trolling online to find it, information I’m guessing Conchita (and Tom) do not want you to share or know about, think about this.

Would it upset you if Conchita Wurst finally decided all this fame simply wasn’t worth it? Not if she couldn’t protect Tom’s privacy? And so disappeared from the public eye. It would me.

And, if it gave someone with a far less altruistic motive than yours the means they would need to cause Tom physical harm, could you live with yourself? Because I know damn well, I couldn’t.

Now, my intention here is neither to chastise or to blame, only to point out there are possible negative consequences of ignoring what Conchita Wurst is saying about the issue of personal privacy, and how much Tom needs it. Consequences that could emotionally, and even (God forbid) physically, hurt the person some people profess to ‘love’ the most.

These consequences are why, if you are a fan of Conchita Wurst or Tom Neuwirth, I ask you to think about the possible results of your actions every day when it comes to the people you supposedly ‘love’.

And, if those results have even an infinitesimal chance of hurting Conchita or Tom, people who have never done anything but give out love and ask for respect in return, consider carefully if your temporary emotional needs are really that important.

At the end of the day, I’ll guarantee you, they’re not.

As for anyone from the news media reading this and thinking about the issue of celebrity privacy, well, many of you live with completely different morals than anyone I would ever choose to associate with. That means, no matter what I say in relation to the privacy of Tom Neuwirth, you will continue to do what you always do. In fact, you probably just wasted your time being here.

Finally, as for answering my initial question, – “What is the right to privacy and, more specifically, what should the right to privacy mean to someone who has chosen to put themselves in the public eye?”

I think it’s quite simple.

When someone you care about asks you for privacy, even if it is a very public celebrity, if you love them, you grant it.

Because, as I said yesterday and as I truly believe, if you love someone, respecting their wishes should be everything, or it’s really not love at all.

And, as for what Conchita Wurst has said on the issue of privacy, this was recorded in Padua, Italy last weekend. I honestly don’t know how she can be more clear.


About Michelle Topham

Brit-American journalist based in Austria, former radio DJ at 97X WOXY, and Founder/CEO of Leo Sigh. I've covered K-drama, K-pop, J-pop and music news for over a decade.