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The Eurovision Song Contest has always been a night full of music, fashion, and the ever-prevalent weird performances. Eurovision 2014, however, took the entire continent by storm. Following a slew of controversies, the event took a nosedive into politics with the Russian contestants receiving a chorus of boos from the audience despite a decent performance. The response was most likely due to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region that happened earlier this year, proving that the tension between the two countries is far from dying down. The organizers eventually managed to remind the crowd that the event was a coming together of the entire continent and should be treated with love and respect for one another.
There were definitely a lot of good performances this year. But the highlight of the evening was of course, the winner of Eurovision 2014: Ms. Conchita Wurst or more famously known as Austria’s “bearded lady”. Captivating the crowd with the grace and elegance of a woman and the dignified beard of a man she wooed millions of people with her entry entitled “Rise Like a Phoenix” which felt like a homage to the soundtracks of the earlier James Bond films. But before the character Conchita Wurst was created, the singer behind the drag queen persona was Thomas “Tom” Neuwirth, who has joined a number of singing contests in the past. He created the persona of Conchita Wurst to send an important message about tolerance and diversity.In German, the word Wurst literally means ‘sausage,’ but Neuwirth explains that he chose the last name because of the common German expression ‘Das ist mir doch alles Wurst,’ which translates as “it’s all the same to me”, which proves his stance on gender equality and sexuality.
Ms. Wurst amassed thousands of fans for her views on gender and sexuality, but with such conviction comes an equal amount of bad criticism, including criticisms from a certain Russian legislator known for having strong “anti-gay” views. Despite the negative remarks she still managed toearn 290 points winning against the likes of Netherlands and Sweden which came second and third respectively. However, not everyone was pleased with the results. In fact before the event’s Grand Finals, petitions were made to prevent Ms. Wurst’s participation in the said event, Russia in particular asked the broadcasters to block her performance from their TV screens. But the efforts of the “anti-gay” community were quickly shot down, as Ms. Wurst was not denied of her right to perform in the Grand Finals, and not only was she allowed to perform, she was allowed to win against adversity and tell the entire world a message.
Following her win, yet another backlash of negative reactions surfaced on social media sites like Twitter. Russian men tweeted pictures of themselves shaving their beards in protest of her victory, a cute little gesture but it is every bit counterintuitive, If I may say so myself. However, aside from all the negativity she has attracted, the amount of support she has garnered has been completely overwhelming over the past few days. “Rise Like a Phoenix” topped the iTunes chart back in Austria and also made the Top 10 in Germany, France, Italy, Sweden and Denmark. Upon her arrival she was given a hero’s welcome from her fans, her friends, and her family at the Vienna Airport.
With all the positivity and negativity regarding Ms. Wurst’s recent achievement, I am led to believe that she did not win Eurovision 2014 solely on her brilliant performance. It may have been one of the biggest factors but the most important factor would have to be the message that her victory conveyed to the entire world. In her acceptance speech, she said “This is for all those who believe in the future of peace and freedom. You are unity and you are unstoppable.” With Ms. Wurst’s recent victory against adversity and all the homophobic criticisms, one thing is for certain, the world is slowly learning to accept the fact that the LGBT community exists and as for every community it should not be subject to any form of discrimination.
The Eurovision Song Contest has always been a night full of music, fashion, and the ever-prevalent weird performances. Eurovision 2014 however, told an entirely different story. It was a night of tolerance, respect, and love for all people. It became a testament of the change that is happening in the world around us, a change that might happen in the near future. Not radically though, because something this big needs time to occur, and this is only the beginning, a mere stepping stone in the future events that are about to unfold. And maybe in the abundance of tomorrows we will see a world where equality will prevail and discrimination will become a thing of the past; but let us keep in mind that “maybe” is just “maybe” until we decide to do something about it.