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Thomas 'Tom' Neuwirth (1988) was born in Gmunden, Austria. At age 14 he moved to Graz to do his Matura (German high school exam) with a focus on fashion, before embarking on a singing career through the 2007 TV show ‘Starmania’. He subsequently became a founding member of the short-lived boy band 'Jetzt Anders!'. In 2011, Neuwirth began appearing as Wurst – a drag persona noted for her beard – and came second in the Austrian preselection for the Eurovision Song Contest 2012. Wurst was successfully selected to represent Austria at the Eurovision Song Contest 2014, where she would prove victorious.
In German 'wurst' means 'sausage', however Neuwirth relates the choice of last name to the common German expression 'Das ist mir doch alles wurst', which translates as 'it's all the same to me', or 'I don't care'. The name Conchita meanwhile had been adopted from a Cuban friend of his. Neuwirth asserted that the inclusion of the beard as part of the Wurst character was 'a statement to say you can achieve anything, no matter who you are or how you look.' A beard as part of the drag look is not entirely new, having been pioneered in the 1970s by the psychedelic theatre troupe ‘The Cockettes’ in San Francisco and the popular drag performance group ‘Bloolips’ in London.
Neuwirth also created a fictional back-story for his Wurst character, claiming she was born in the mountains of Colombia and married the French burlesque dancer Jacques Patriaque, a real person, and a friend of Neuwirth's. He compares the use of the character to American singer Beyoncé's adoption of the Sasha Fierce alter ego, or Lady Gaga's use of various costumes, being a way to protect Neuwirth's own private life.
Neuwirth clarifies that he is not transgender, but a gay man. He uses female pronouns to describe his Wurst character, but male pronouns when referring to himself.
Four days after the Austrian national public service broadcaster ORF, announced its decision that Wurst would represent Austria at the Eurovision Song Contest 2014, more than 31,000 people had clicked to 'like' an 'Anti-Wurst' page on Facebook. After the contest petitions emerged in Russia and Belarus calling for their respective national broadcasters to edit out Wurst's performance from the televised contest, the Russian petition asserted that Eurovision had become ‘a hotbed of sodomy, at the initiation of European liberals’. But with the controversy also came international attention and established Wurst as a prominent LGBT icon, resulting in invites to perform at various LGBT pride parades and at the European Parliament.
See also Sasha Fierce and Lady Gaga.
'Conchita Wurst', Wikipedia, retrieved 12 October 2014
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