Eurovision, a multinational musical contest featuring the best of the best upcoming European artists, took over the Eastern Hemisphereâ€™s television sets and attentions this eveningâ€”and attention has never been more undivided than when Austriaâ€™s Conchita Wurst first stepped on the stage.
Iâ€™m sure much like my own, hearts across Europe took flight.
She was beauty. She was confidence. She was magnificence. She was working that opulent gold evening gownâ€¦and she was working it with a beard.
Born Thomas Neuwirth on November 6, 1988, Conchita was not always known as Conchita. Neuwirth debuted this personality in 2011 in Austriaâ€™s drag community. A mere three years later, Conchita Wurst is no longer just a drag queen in Austria. She is now well on her way to becoming the (bearded) face of equality.
Performing the eleventh of 26 acts, Conchitaâ€™s power ballad â€śRise Like A Phoenixâ€ť electrified Eurovision and turned this â€ścompetitionâ€ť into an easy decision for voters. As I watched from my sofa in Barcelona, I knew not only that this song would win, but that this song was an anthem. Conchitaâ€™s words left my arm hairs standing on end, chills running down my spine, and tears threatening to escape the corner of my eye.
The chorus claims, â€śOnce I have transformed/Once I am reborn/I will rise like a phoenix.â€ť This song operates on so many levels, and to be delivered with such power and such emotion from Conchita, I feel blessed just to have heard it. This song and this singer are life-changing.
Conchita embraces her drag identityâ€”a bearded diva whose beauty is only outshone by her talentâ€”encouraging others struggling with gender identification to step up, step out, and ask questions. In a world where we can hold the Olympics in a country that is openly anti-gay, Conchita is blazing trails of strength, self-actualization, and love.
And perhaps this is why â€śRise Like A Phoenixâ€ť gave me goosebumps. It is a call to action. It is a prayer. It is the much-needed strength those in the LGTBQ community need. Look at the facts: Marriage equality is still illegal in most states. Gender-questioning or LGBTQ youth are regularly bullied, tormented, and ridiculed. Antigay laws all over the world are not only in existence, but accepted. And in a situation that seems so dark, so hopeless, Conchita Wurst is telling the afflicted to rise. Be transformed, be reborn, and rise like a phoenix. That is her message.
This message was made implicitly clear in Conchitaâ€™s understated and elegant thank you speech. She said, voice thick with the purest gratitude, â€śThis night is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedomâ€¦You know who you areâ€¦And we are unstoppable.â€ť
That future of peace and freedom is for everyoneâ€”even the bearded divas. Conchita has risen like a phoenix from the ashes of intolerance, and it is the worldâ€™s turn to follow.