If you read the comments on Conchita Wurst’s Instagram account and the account of her stylist last week, you would have seen me talking about her latest look. A look I didn’t like as it’s less ‘pretty’ and quite a bit more androgynous than anything we have had before.
So much so that gone was Conchita Wurst in the gorgeous gowns, glamorous make up and ultra-feminine appeal. Instead, we were presented with a pared down version of Conchita — one far more androgynous with less make-up, fewer eyelashes, in darker colors, with a side-part wig and a darker moustache.
Frankly, it irritated me. Because I love going to her stylist’s Instagram account and seeing another photograph of the glamorous Conchita, or to watch her in a new TV performance all lovely and feminine. And lately, we’ve had few of these.
But, as usually happens between me and Conchita Wurst, I keep looking at what she’s doing and, as the days go by, I assess and reassess and reassess. Until finally, I’m left looking at her thinking “F*ck it. If that’s what she’s going with, I’ll live with it”.
Because here’s the thing about Conchita Wurst and what she does and who she is. And what should be, by now, my reaction to it.
First, she knows her own mind. She knows what she wants, she knows where she’s going with it and while, of course, she will test certain looks to see if she likes it and to see what the reaction is, in most cases, what she wants will still be what she wants. Even if me, you or anyone else hates it. (Case in point, this).
Is that wise as an artist? To irritate fans who loved her previous look and, in quite a few cases, aren’t so thrilled with the new one?
In all honesty? With most other artists, I’d say, no. It’s a foolhardy exercise that could cause fans to leave. As people generally like what they like, and don’t tend to appreciate drastic change.
With her, however, once I’m over my initial irritation I think…differently.
Because look at what she has achieved already, while doing everything pretty much her way.
She’s come from obscurity as an unknown Austrian singer to win the Eurovision Song Contest. Doing it on her own terms, with her own choice of song, her own way of staging, and her own dress design. While having 31,000 of her own countrymen signing a Facebook page saying they did not want her representing Austria at the world’s biggest song contest.
Then, in the two years since her Eurovision win, she has all but conquered half the world. Again, doing it her own way.
She’s been a guest on so many high profile TV shows in so many European countries, it’s difficult to keep count. She’s been invited by two of the world’s biggest fashion designers to work with them. She’s appeared on the largest billboard in Times Square’ history on New Year’s Eve. She has shown up on the red carpet at the Golden Globes, spoken and sung at both the European Parliament and in front of a United Nations’ audience, and been the star of a New York MoMA exhibit. And she is soon going to be singing on stage at the Sydney Opera House.
In fact, when you assess what Conchita Wurst has achieved in the last two years, she has done more than most artists do in a decade. All on her own terms, with her own look, and with a determination to do what she wants to do whether anyone likes it or not.
Now, if you go further back, and look at how Conchita Wurst came into being and who created her, her insistence on always sticking to her way of doing things, regardless of what other people think, makes even more sense.
Because think about what her creator Tom Neuwirth went through for much of his younger life.
Being told by many of his peers that he wasn’t ‘good enough’ or ‘normal enough’ or ‘straight acting enough’ or whatever ‘enough’ it was those people were pushing at that particular point in their week.
And being bullied and ridiculed and made to feel ‘lesser than’, just so that those people could feel more comfortable with how they saw the world.
Yet through it all, he ignored them as best he could, and stuck to his vision of some day being famous. But not just famous. Famous on his own terms. A superstar. Someone like Shirley Bassey or Celine Dion or Tina Turner. A diva. A massive, over the top, dramatic, larger than life, diva.
A decade and a half later, and he’s well on his way. And he did it all by ignoring what people told him he ‘should do’ or how he ‘should look’, and instead went with what he wanted to do and how he wanted to look. And it paid off…in spades.
So for me, as a writer, after I’ve gotten over my own hissy fit about the way Conchita Wurst currently looks, and thought more seriously about why she’s doing what she’s doing and where most of it really comes from, it sits a bit more comfortably with me. As doing things her way is what she is comfortable with.
Besides, as she has said in interviews before, she’s tried doing it other people’s way and it was always a mistake.
Because, remember that now famous quote?
“Over the years I tried to fit in, and I changed myself in every way you can imagine. I just wanted to be part of the game. And then I realized: I create the game!”
And, when you think about it rationally, isn’t that why we all like her anyway? Because she doesn’t play anyone else’s game but her own.
So, for me, while I’ll probably still have my own private grumble now and again when Conchita Wurst comes out with yet another new look I’m not particularly loving, I doubt you will ever see me in public complaining about it.
Because here’s the thing too.
As much as I have my own personal opinion about what I like or don’t like about what Conchita Wurst wears and how she looks, there is one thing that will always be more important to me.
I don’t ever want her, or just as importantly him, to feel for even one fraction of a second that I am ever going to like her any less because of who she chooses to be, the way she looks, or what she decides to wear.
Because God knows that boy, and to some extent her, has already gone through enough of that. And sure as shit doesn’t need more of it from me.
Finally, if you missed where Conchita Wurst’s new look first hit the big time, it was during her performance at the Austrian national selection for Eurovision last week. And, let me just tell you, she is absolutely spectacular.
Watch her below. And, as usual, comments in the box below that.