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It’s no secret that I’m eternally fascinated with Austrian singer Conchita Wurst. I’ve followed her career for almost two years, watched (and commented on) just about everything she has done. And, yes, written endless articles about her.
There’s a reason for that, though, and it’s not just the usual “she’s fabulous and I’m a fan”. Because, frankly, I’m not a fan. Not in the usual sense of the word.
I’m just a writer who came across this woman quite by accident. And then discovered, through the things she does and says, that she makes me think, she challenges the way I look at things and, because of who she is and how I relate to her, she has made me a much better writer than I was before.
So, in October last year, I flew to Vienna for the sole purpose of meeting her. And as usually happens with me when I meet people I have a pre-conceived idea about, she was exactly how I expected her to be. And then she wasn’t.
But, as also happens with me when I meet someone I like as much as I like her, certain visual moments from those meetings stick in my head, and replay themselves at later dates.
The split second in time when she first realized who I was and the way her eyes looked away, and then immediately looked back at me. Curious, but also a little unsure.
And how, when I said I knew she would always find a way to be successful no matter what happened in the future, the way she looked when she quickly corrected me and said, “I will always find a way to be happy“.
Because that’s one of those things that Conchita Wurst said that has embedded itself in my head and won’t leave. As it’s one of those things I think she believes to be true; that happiness is more important to her than success.
To me, however, I think they hold equal standing in what’s important in her life. With success, some days, being more important. As success, it makes her happy.
Because here’s my philosophy on Conchita Wurst, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last few weeks.
It’s a philosophy about the nature of Conchita Wurst when it comes to success, and the fact that she is far more like Lady Gaga, Madonna, P!nk, and, yes, even Miley Cyrus, than Conchita herself might realize.
Because she behaves exactly the same as all these women do when it comes to their careers, in one extremely important way.
As her career progresses, as challenging and unique opportunities present themselves to her, and as she realizes she needs to grow and change to accommodate them, she does exactly what these icons of the entertainment world do. She reinvents herself.
And while that might seem a simple thing to do to anyone who has watched Conchita Wurst as closely as I have, as she reinvents herself all the time, you might not realize it’s actually quite a difficult thing. She just has the gift of making it look easy.
The gift to constantly be looking at herself and what she is doing, seeing what works, and deciding what needs to be drastically changed so she can progress onto the next level of her career and, thus, master the next challenge.
Only the most talented artists are able to do this. The Barbra Streisands, Jane Fondas, Lady Gagas and Madonnas of this world. All women who, at the start of their careers were one thing, and then quickly progressed to another. And another. And another. And Conchita Wurst, she’s right up there with them.
Because she has this fearlessness about her when it comes to the need to always be changing and growing, and an intense desire to never be standing still.
And a belief in herself that, when the moment comes to have to move forward if she doesn’t want to lose everything she has worked so hard for, how to do so will just pop into her mind.
As she explained in an interview on the Austrian TV show Kultur Heute (Culture Today) late last month (see video below),
“And then it has happened to me one time, something I could barely believe. (Winning, because she had never won anything before). The fact that one always thinks about what happens when the album isn’t received well? What happens when the book does not have the desired success? What do I do then?
I believe that too is something specific for an artist. Even if there is no concrete plan, one always keeps a door ajar to then say “But something will come to my mind if necessary”.
And that is how she thinks. Something will come to her mind, because it always does. And because she thinks that way, her creativity is completely open and incredibly free.
Like Lady Gaga when her album ArtPop was a flop, and so she next joined forces with Tony Bennett to come out with one of the best albums of last year. But, with jazz, something so different than anything she had done before.
That is what great artists do. They constantly evaluate, and tweak, and change, and try, and scrap, and do whatever it takes to keep perfecting themselves, and to stay ahead of everyone else so that they constantly remain relevant.
Which is why I never worry about Conchita Wurst fading off into the distance somewhere. A star who burned bright for a while and then slowly faded away. Because that’s not the Conchita Wurst I know, and it never will be.
She’s far smarter than that, and far more experienced. And she has constantly reinvented herself from when she was in her late teens, as did her alter ego, Tom Neuwirth, long before that.
Reinvention is just what she does, and a huge part of who she is. It’s one of the things that makes her so exciting to watch, and makes me sure I will still be writing about her 20 years from now. Because how could I not?