Why Austria’s Controversial ‘Bearded Lady’ Is A Total Rock Star

Conchita Wurst, an Austrian contestant on Eurovision Song Contest (basically a European “American Idol”/”The Voice”) resembles so many divas who have come before her. She’s got mermaid hair and Disney princess eyelashes and can sing like a demon. What separates Conchita from the Beyonces and Rihannas of the world is that she has a beard. And it’s that beard that has ignited a firestorm of intolerance and hate dialogue all across Europe.

Conchita Wurst is the drag queen alter ego of Tom Neuwirth. The stage surname “Wurst” is taken from the German phrase “Das is Wurst” which means that something doesn’t matter, which is what Neuwirth’s character is all about.

“Sexuality and nationality are unimportant things,” Wurst states, “…and it also does not matter how one looks. That’s why I created this character.”

Conchita Wurst has her die-hard fans. She also has her haters. There is an anti-Wurst Facebook page 35,000 fans strong calling for her to be excluded from the contest. This makes me sick to my stomach. Here is a chance to support a singer that doesn’t look like any legendary diva that has come before her, and rather than be excited to support a performer who stands for inclusivity, there are 35,000 people out there who are actively campaigning for entertainment to stay small-minded.

Eurovision has had trans and drag acts before (in this regard, they are a step ahead of American Idol, which just had its first trans contestant this past year). Still there seems to be something about Conchita that is acting like a lightning rod for viewers. Her supporters and detractors love and hate her for the same reason. She represents a new kind of beauty, a new way to be a star. It blows hard that she has to deal with all this intolerance on her way up the ladder. Still, it’s thrilling that she exists at all, as a kick-ass example that beauty and stardom are qualities you can’t put in a box.