Conchita Wurst Inspires As She Rises Like A Phoenix

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Eurovision, a multinational musical contest featuring the best of the best upcoming European artists, took over the Eastern Hemisphere’s television sets and attentions this evening—and attention has never been more undivided than when Austria’s Conchita Wurst first stepped on the stage.

I’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 gown…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 Austria’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, Conchita’s power ballad “Rise Like A Phoenix” electrified Eurovision and turned this “competition” 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. Conchita’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, “Once I have transformed/Once I am reborn/I will rise like a phoenix.” 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 identity—a bearded diva whose beauty is only outshone by her talent—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 “Rise Like A Phoenix” 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 Conchita’s understated and elegant thank you speech. She said, voice thick with the purest gratitude, “This night is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom…You know who you are…And we are unstoppable.”

That future of peace and freedom is for everyone—even the bearded divas. Conchita has risen like a phoenix from the ashes of intolerance, and it is the world’s turn to follow.

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Anna Turner

Anna is a freelance writer/producer based out of San Francisco. Her writing covers several genres, but her passion lies in humor, entertainment, education and culture.

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