Bearded Austrian drag queen to take on Eurovision

Sat Apr 26, 2014 8:18am EDT
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By Derek Brooks

VIENNA (Reuters) - Drag queen Conchita Wurst will take to the European stage as Austria's contender for Eurovision, the song contest that pits nation versus nation and launched the global careers of ABBA and Celine Dion, Wurst's idol.

Sporting high-heels, butterfly eyelashes and a full beard, Wurst - real name: Tom Neuwirth - is an unlikely contestant for conservative Austria, which has triumphed just once before, in 1966, with Udo Juergens' gentle chanson "Merci, Cherie".

The annual Eurovision Song Contest, which has a huge gay following, could be the perfect platform for the singer to launch an international career. Israeli transgender singer Dana International won the contest in 1998 with "Diva".

But her entry has highlighted Europe's geographical divide on attitudes to homosexuality. Unlikely to raise much controversy in the West, her appearance has prompted criticism by some in the East where anti-gay rhetoric remains more common.

Online petitions have been started in Belarus, Armenia and Russia - whose government passed a law last year banning "gay propaganda" among minors - to have Wurst removed or edited out of broadcasts in their countries.

Armenian Eurovision contender Aram MP3, a 30-year-old man whose real name is Aram Sargsyan, said Wurst's way of life was "not natural" and she should decide to be a woman or a man.

Wurst shot back: "I told him I don't want to be a woman. I am just a working queen and a very lazy boy at home."

Aram MP3 has since apologized, saying his comments were intended as a joke.   Continued...

Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst gestures during an interview with Reuters in Vienna April 24, 2014. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger