Austria’s unlikely contestant for the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest, drag artist Conchita Wurst, won the competition the weekend of May 10 with an overwhelming score of 290 for her song “Rise Like a Phoenix.”
Wurst’s victory, Austria’s first since 1966, created significant controversy for a small number of countries, most prominently Russia, which started petitions to have her removed from the contest. However, none of them were successful.
In fact, the contest did not shy away from addressing Russia’s new anti-gay propaganda law and the current situation with the Ukraine. During the results, when countries awarded their points to Russia – which was represented by the Tolmachevy Sisters – many in the audience booed, while others voted for Austria to show their support.
The song contest is known for its politically orientated voting system, so when the Ukraine voted for Austria, the world saw a clear statement of independence despite current tensions between the two countries.
The self-labeled “bearded lady,” who is also known as Tom Neuwirth, stated during a press conference, “I think…we [Europe] said something. And this Eurovision family is a family I wanted to join because this project is based on tolerance, acceptance, and love. So it really felt like coming home actually.”
Russia was not as impressed as other Eurovision countries, however.
Nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky said: “There’s no limit to our outrage. It’s the end of Europe. It has turned wild. They don’t have men and women any more. They have ‘it.’”
In turn, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozina took to Twitter to say the Eurovision result “showed supporters of European integration their European future: a bearded girl.”
When Wurst received the award on stage, however, she was quick to drown out the negativity, saying: “This night is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom. You know who you are. We are unity and we are unstoppable.”