Austria’s Eurovision 2014 champion, Conchita Wurst, has overcome her critics again, this time by reaching Number One in the iTunes download chart in … Russia!
As well as reaching the top spot in Russia’s download chart, Gay Star News reports, her winning song — “Rise Like A Phoenix” — has reached Number Six in the singles chart, higher than Russian’s own Eurovision entry, “Shine” performed by the Tolmachevy Sisters.
All this despite Russian politicians denouncing the Austrian drag queen and one even describing her Eurovision win last Saturday as signalling “the end of Europe.”
Conchita Wurst — a.k.a. the Bearded Lady, “Queen of Eurovision” and drag-queen alter ego of Tom Neuwirth, the former boy-band member of Jetzt anders! — received a total of 290 points in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, defying critics, to take the trophy on behalf of Austria.
This is only the second time Austria has come top in the contest — which has been staged for almost 60 years — their first win being 48 years ago, when, in 1966, Udo Jürgens performed “Merci, Chérie”.
Controversial choice ... not!
In 2013, when it was announced that Conchita had been chosen by the Austrian state broadcaster, ORF, to represent the country in Eurovision 2014, initially, there was some opposition from within Austria itself, with thousands signing an “Anti-Wurst” petition calling on ORF to change its decision.
However, it’s from Russia and one or two other former-Soviet countries that the real ire has been directed.
“There’s no limit to our outrage,” the Russian nationalist politician, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, told his country’s Rossiya-1 state television at the weekend. “It’s the end of Europe. It has turned wild. They don’t have men and women any more. They have ‘it’.
Zhirinovsky is the leader of the LDPR (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) and well known for his outspoken views. Of Austria itself, he added, “Fifty years ago the Soviet army occupied Austria. We made a mistake in freeing Austria. We should have stayed.”
Last year, of course, under President Vladimir Putin, Russia enacted a new anti-gay law, which has since been widely condemned around the world. However, to date, Putin has not commented publicly on the Eurovision result, presumably to busy with the ongoing conflict with Russia’s near neighbour, Ukraine.
Irony and condemnation
Ironically, despite Russia’s condemnation of Austria, during Saturday’s Eurovision voting process, Russia awarded more points to Austria than it did Ukraine.
Elsewhere — this time before the event took place — another former-Soviet country, Belarus, saw it’s government’s Minister of Information condemn Austria’s Eurovision entry; calling on his own state broadcaster, BTRC, to not show Conchita’s performance or for the contest to be withdrawn altogether. In the event, they did neither.
However, Filipp Kirkorov, a pop star and the person responsible for producing Russia’s own Eurovision entry this year, countered criticisms, saying that Conchita’s victory could help Russians reconsider homophobic views.
Filipp Kirkorov / Philipp Kirkorov
Also speaking to Rossiya-1, he said, “Maybe this is a kind of protest against some of our views in Russia. Maybe we should have a think. Maybe we shouldn’t have such a categorical attitude to people of different sexual orientations.”
None of this has dented Conchita’s popularity, however, the singer having received a jubilant homecoming when she returned to the Austrian capital, Vienna, yesterday.
Prior to Saturday’s grand final, Conchita was one of several artists to emerge as favourite to win the 59th Eurovision. Others included Ukraine — who won the contest in 2004 — and the 2013 hosts of the contest, Sweden, who had triumphed in 2012.
However, Conchita’s popularity during last week rose significantly, gaining massive support after she successfully qualified for the final during last Thursday’s second semi-final.
When she was announced as the winner, live on television to an estimated worldwide audience of in excess of 180 million viewers, the 11,000-strong audience in the B&W Hallerne stadium, where the contest was being held, went wild.
Conchita Wurst (Austria) triumphs at the Eurovision Song Contest 2014
As Conchita was ushered on stage to collect her trophy from last year’s winner, Emmelie De Forest (Denmark), she was visibly shaking, clearly overcome by the reaction in the stadium.
Accepting the award, she dealt head on with those who had condemned her for her sexuality. “I really dream of a world where we don’t have to talk about unnecessary things like sexuality,” Conchita said, “[or] where you’re from or who you love. This is not what it’s all about.”
She then dedicated the trophy to “everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom. You know who you are. We are unity and we are unstoppable.”
To chanting of “Austria! Austria!” and “Conchita! Conchita!”, the 26-year-old singer then composed herself, ready to perform her winning song, “Rise Like A Phoenix” again — and again, the auditorium went wild.
Like her song, Conchita’s rise is set to continue and, this time next year, she will return for the 60th Eurovision Song Contest, which is likely to be hosted by this year’s winner, Austria.