Conchita Wurst of Austria won the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday with her song "Rise Like a Phoenix" -- while sporting a dress and full beard.
The Eurovision Song Contest is an annual competition between European countries, always held in the previous year's winner's home country. This year's contest, held in Copenhagen, marked the 59th contest since its inception in 1956.
While Wurst was overwhelmingly popular with voters and audience alike, petitions have been circulating in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine to have the drag queen competitor suspended. “It never ceases to amaze me just how much fuss is made over a little facial hair” said Wurst of her naysayers
— Khaleej Times (@khaleejtimes) May 11, 2014
Wurst was welcomed back to Austria by President Heinz Fischer who said her win was "not just a victory for Austria, but above all for diversity and tolerance in Europe." Wurst, the drag queen character created by 25-year-old Thomas Neuwirth, is not the first victor to disregard the objections of conservative viewers. In 1998, the winner was transgendered Israeli Dana International.
Since Russian President Vladimir Putin's ban on "gay" propaganda was signed into law last year, tensions have run high between LGBTQ supporters and the Russian government, which was very evident throughout this year's competition. When Russian contestants Anastasia and Maria Tolmachevy received votes, they were booed, as were the contestants from Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Belarus (former Soviet republics). When asked what she would say to Putin in regards to his bigotry, Wurst said "I don't know if he is watching this now, but if so, I'll say it: We're unstoppable."
Surely one could find a better pastime than circulating petitions to suspend performers from a (cooler) version of American Idol because they're uncomfortable with the facial hair/clothing/genital combo a stranger has chosen for themselves. Let's all take a cue from Wurst, who dedicated her win to "everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom. We are unity." Word.
Image via Instagram