An Austrian drag queen sporting a full beard has won Europe’s most popular televised song competition.
Conchita Wurst, the drag persona for Austrian singer Thomas Neuwirth, looked a bit like a cross between a Bond girl and a Monty Python character when she took the stage in a full-length golden gown to belt out her winning tune, “Rise Like a Phoenix,” during the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest, held Saturday night in Copenhagen.
The competition is the most watched non-sporting event on European television, with up to 170 million viewers tuning in.
Wurst generated a lot of attention, as well as controversy, ahead of the Eurovision finals, with a Russian politician calling for a boycott of the competition because of her participation. Vitaly Milonov, who was influential in passing Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law, said the bearded singer, whom he called the “pervert from Austria” represented “blatant propaganda of homosexuality and spiritual decay.” He called for a boycott of the show.
Wurst had the last laugh though. Her power ballad — and her sultry live performance — won over the call-in voters as well as the national juries. Taking the stage, Wurst dedicated her win to “a future of peace and freedom.” In a nod to the many dedicated Eurovision fans in the LGBT community, Wurst added, “We are unity and we are unstoppable.”
This isn’t the first time an LGBT performer has won Eurovision. In 1998, the pop title went to Dana International, a transgender singer from Israel, for her song “Diva.”