Don’t Underestimate Conchita Wurst
Conchita Wurst’s 15 minutes of fame will be over soon.
At least that’s what some people want you to believe. After all, she didn’t win Eurovision 2014 because her song was the best and her performance superb. Instead, she won because she’s a drag queen novelty act; one that benefited from homophobic comments from a fellow contestant, and the Russian Parliament’s well-timed passing of anti-gay laws.
To all of this, I say the loudest “Bull” you’ve ever heard.
I then must add, don’t underestimate Conchita Wurst. Not if you believe in the ability of people to triumph over adversity, or in their refusal to listen to others who try to destroy their dreams.
That’s because someone with Ms. Wurst’s phenomenal ability for resilience will always reach the goals she sets herself. Even if she has to fight bigotry, hatred and, yes, even death threats to get there.
Conchita’s Past Proves She’s Here to Stay
Conchita Wurst first appeared in Austria’s public eye in 2007, but this time as her alter ego Tom Neuwirth in the casting show Starmania. After coming out as gay and ignoring the streams of homophobic abuse that followed, abuse even Tom’s mother had to deal with when she took trips into her home town to do the family shopping, Neuwirth eventually ended up in second place in the final.
No matter how devastating it must have been at the time, both the abuse and the second place finish, still wanting to pursue his dream Tom went on to form a boy band with three other young men. After little success, it disbanded the same year.
Four years later, Tom Neuwirth had all but disappeared from the Austrian music scene when Conchita Wurst thrust herself into the public arena in his place.
An extravagant in-your-face bearded drag queen pushing all the wrong buttons for that segment of Austrian society that’s less tolerant than the rest, she auditioned for a TV talent show called Die große Chance, wowed the audience but ultimately came in sixth.
Austria obviously wasn’t quite ready for what a bearded drag queen had to offer. Even one as fabulous as Conchita Wurst.
The final result this time round? Second place. Again. And second place to a less talented act with an inferior song.
Conchita Has a Strong Drive to Succeed
At this juncture, less confident folks would likely decide the dream they had wished for their whole life was too difficult to attain. But not Conchita Wurst.
While the rejections, homophobic attacks and outright cruelty undeniably hurt, as the heart-wrenching look in her eyes in some videos from this time proves, what’s also undeniable is they added fuel to her passion and to her strong drive to succeed.
Turned down for her first attempt at Eurovision? No problem. She’d reinvent herself again, this time as an elegant and haute couture version of Conchita Wurst. A version that would re-approach the Eurovision committee and make them understand she was a worthy choice.
And not just any choice. But instead a choice that could cinch the win for Austria, by showing the world it not only had talented artists, it was also a country that was tolerant and open-minded.
But, when she fought this fight to its ultimate victory and her name was announced as Austria’s official Eurovision 2014 representative, Conchita Wurst didn’t get to experience the adulation Eurovision representatives from other countries feel and bask in. Not even for a little while.
Instead, there immediately came strident calls for her to be eliminated from the competition. Not only from bigots in Russia and a fellow Eurovision contestant in Armenia (et tu, Brute?), but even from some of her own Austrian countrymen who set up a Facebook campaign to defeat her.
Again, Conchita Wurst took it all in her stride and, believing she was the right choice for Austria, simply said “I’m sorry you feel that way. But I’ve been chosen, and I’m going”.
Then she got on with what she had to do. Work as hard as she could to get her name and her song out there, and to garner the support she would need for the win.
Conchita’s Incredible Courage
Now, stop for a minute, and imagine the incredible courage it must have taken to face the world every day while she was doing this; knowing the level of venom that was being directed at her. When you realize that, it should make you cry. After all, 25 years old is too young to have to handle that much hate.
And not only to handle it, but to do it with dignity, kindness and unwavering professionalism, and with the faith that, when she finally did break through to the other side and get to do what she had longed to do her whole life, it would indeed be beautiful.
As we all now know, Conchita Wurst went on to defeat her detractors, make much of the world fall in love with her, and win the Eurovision crown for Austria; a country that hadn’t appeared on the winning stage for 48 years. When she did it, she achieved her dream.
So What About the Bigots?
But, with that win, world-wide fame, and an avalanche of new fans, did the people screaming for her head finally disappear? Have they shrunk back into the Middle Ages mists a civilized society should never have allowed them to emerge from in the first place?
No. Of course not. They’re now louder, more shrill and they’ve increased in number. All over Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Harsh voices in the buzz of electronic traffic crying for her to fail, shrivel, die and, yes, even burn while she’s doing it.
Conchita’s Message of Tolerance, Acceptance, Respect and Love
But, for Conchita, while this well-deserved Eurovision win obviously means the world to her, and singing is her life, something else is just as important. Something that will mean she continues to rise above the bigots and homophobes and never lets them beat her.
That something is the absolute belief that every person, no matter who they are, what they look like or where they come from, deserves the same dignity and respect as everyone else, and she will deliver that message to anyone and everyone who will listen to help ensure they get it.
For this and so many other reasons, I will never underestimate Conchita Wurst or her staying power and you shouldn’t either.
In fact, as a non-betting person, I would bet every last penny I ever earn that when it comes to Conchita Wurst vs the haters, that race doesn’t even exist and, if it did, the winner would be closer to the finish line than I think even she may realize.
As for her 15 minutes of fame her detractors keep talking about? How about 50 years?
After all, when she’s already become that proverbial bird rising from the ashes, the zenith of the rainbow is only a wing beat away.
Cheesy? You betcha. The best things in life often are.
Conchita Wurst Isn’t Going Anywhere, Except Up, Up and Up
As for what Conchita feels about what she does, and why I’ve always been convinced she’s going to be an international star for years to come, watch this older interview in the video below. It’s from her tour around Europe promoting her Eurovision performance – filmed long before she won the competition and became the lauded ‘Queen of Europe’.
Make sure you notice the look in her eyes and the absolute joy she exudes when she talks about how much she loves dressing up, going on stage and performing as Conchita.
Do you think she’s going to ever give that feeling up now she’s reached her dream and all the opportunities its affording her? Particularly when it’s obvious how happy she is?
That’s why I’m telling you once and for all – don’t underestimate Conchita Wurst. She’s going nowhere but up, up and up, and I’m just one of millions of fans who is going to enjoy every single second of her rise like a phoenix (okay, I had to get that in there somewhere).
I am a Brit-American journalist, former radio DJ at 97X WOXY, and Founder/CEO of Leo Sigh. I’m also obsessed with music, anime, manga, and K-dramas. Help!