‘Auf den Schwingen des Phoenix‘ (On the Wings of the Phoenix) is an ORF documentary about Eurovision Song Contest winner Conchita Wurst. First broadcast on Austrian TV, I watched it on an English-subtitled YouTube video a few days later, and it stopped me dead in my tracks.
Because here was a Conchita we don’t often get to see. A Conchita who was surprisingly open, and incredibly vulnerable. One who spent a good portion of the 30-minute documentary almost in tears, and one who, from the first moment she appears on screen and says “I have won the Eurovision Song Contest. This is the first time in my life I have won something”, she grabs your heart.
And it got me thinking about the lovely Ms. Wurst and her Eurovision win and how, even though she’s watched that win many times since, she still has trouble believing it’s true.
Because, through the things Conchita says, Auf den Schwingen des Phoenix‘ proved to me once and for all not only is Conchita Wurst one of the most love-worthy people I’ve come across, she really is as humble, sweet and, yes, unspoiled as she often seems to be.
“No second did I expect to win. Not one second. And even when I did win, I didn’t believe it”.
Conchita Wurst has one of the purest hearts I think I’ve ever seen, and is the furthest away from an egoist it’s possible to be. Yes, of course, she’ll tell you she is one when it comes to her doing things out of her own self-interest (promoting acceptance and respect, for instance), but it’s not true. An egoist would have thought they stood a good chance of winning the Eurovision Song Contest. She? She never did.
Instead, she spent so many years being ridiculed for who she was, and what she did, why on earth would she think there were millions of people out there who not only loved her, but would actually vote for her?
“Not this time. Not this time. So many times I have been in this situation and I thought: Please, please, not this time. I simply want to get into the next round. I really thought for a moment this cannot be real”.
When the semi-final voting began at Eurovision, it seemed obvious to me Conchita Wurst had a guaranteed place. Yet, even though she had more votes than almost every other act combined, the Danish organizers made her wait through nine agonizing other picks before Austria was called as the tenth and last finalist.
During those final few seconds before the name of her country was called, if you looked closely you could see her actually praying. And when you hear what she says on ‘Auf den Schwingen des Phoenix’, you realize why.
Conchita Wurst had never won anything in her life before, so all she had ever hoped for was to get into the final and to have a ‘good place’. When there was only one place left, it must have felt like her world was coming to an end.
But what comes next explains it even more.
“This was so overwhelming for me, because these people really wanted 100 percent of what they saw on stage. This was a new situation for me and I could not handle it. That was why I was always so emotional with thankfulness that I cried…”
Even for me, someone who has read and watched everything about her I can get my hands on, that was still the first time I fully understood how little success Conchita Wurst had had before, and how many venues she must have sung at for years, knowing most people weren’t there because of her or simply didn’t support her. She’d rarely had people coming to an event to see her.
Just imagine how it must have felt then when she won Eurovision, and everyone in the hall was screaming her name.
When you know that, you can see why, a few months after Eurovision, when Conchita Wurst sang at Manchester Pride, all the love that audience sent her way almost put her on her knees. Because she wasn’t used to all that adoration and, even now…….. still isn’t.
“This is the first time in my life I’ve won something.”
And if that doesn’t make you cry, I don’t know what will. Because what I heard in that small plaintive sentence was everything that little boy ever dreamed of. To be in a place in life where he was respected, admired and loved, and where he was a person who was ‘worth something’.
When Conchita Wurst won the Eurovision Song Contest, all of that little boy’s dreams came true in the time it takes for a sharp intake of breath. And when you realize that, you can understand why, more than half a year after her win, she’s still crying when she thinks about it. Because that kind of fairytale ending takes a lifetime to come to terms with.
Watch Conchita Wurst on ‘Auf den Schwingen des Phoenix’ in the video below (click the CC button if you need the English subtitles). But be warned, if you think you were in love with her before, you don’t know what love is until you’ve seen this.
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