The Eurovision competition was hyped as a political statement with Russia and Ukraine squaring up against each other along with twenty-four other European countries. It turned out to be a statement of another kind as Conchita Wurst aka Thomas Neuworth the 25 year old ‘drag’ stole the show on the final night with “Rise Like A Phoenix.”
Wearing a super-tight dress and a full beard on his face, Wurst became Austria’s first Eurovision winner since 1966.
“For me, my dream came true,” he said to reporters after the contest. “But for society it showed me that people want to move on…. We said something. We made a statement.”
Earlier Wurst’s very presence in the competition had created controversy. In Armenia, Belarus and Russia — where a law against “gay propaganda” has been passed — petitions had called for the singer to be removed from the competition. But Wurst’s manager, Rene Berto said “Let’s change our way of thinking — Conchita is just a woman with a beard”
Developed to encourage good relations between European neighbors, Eurovision has been held every year since 1956, and today draws a television audience of about 180 million people in 45 countries. Eccentricity is tolerated and even approved.
The organizers describe the event as non-political. But in reality, politics colors the voting. This was seen in the semi-finals when Russia’s 17-year-old twins Anastasia and Maria Tolmachevy were booed while performing.
William Lee Adams, a Eurovision expert and the editor-in-chief of Wiwibloggs.com, the popular Eurovision website presented it another way. “The booing was a release, a statement of solidarity with Ukraine and Russia’s sexual minorities”, he tried to cover.
The way the competition works is, the countries involved in the contest award a set of points from one to eight, then 10 and finally 12 for their favorite songs. Television viewers then cast votes in their respective countries over telephone hotlines. These votes count for half the final tally. The remainder of the vote is cast by expert juries.
In the end, Ukraine’s Yaremchuk was found ahead of Russian rivals, finishing in sixth place with 113 points, while Russia’s Tolmachevy twins took 89 points to finish seventh.
The Netherlands duo came in second to Wurst, with a Swedish entry winning the third prize.