Conchita Wurst, the drag alter ego of Thomas Neuwirth, won the 59th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest with a soaring power ballad, Rise Like a Phoenix, giving Austria its first win since 1966 and drawing anti-gay venom from Russia and its former Soviet republics — with the notable exception of Ukraine.
The annual competition — this year held in Copenhagen — is intended to be a politics-free zone, but the divide between Europe and Russia couldn’t have been more pronounced. In an apparent reaction to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its meddling in Ukraine’s affairs, the audience booed each time Russia received votes. Boos were also heard when Moscow gave its respective eight, ten and twelve points to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus — all former Soviet republics, many of whom gave their points to neighboring countries. By contrast, Ukraine gave its eight points to Austria, tipping the scale in Conchita Wurst’s favor.
“This is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom. We are unity,” said Conchita Wurst as she accepted the trophy from last year’s winner, Denmark’s Emmelie de Forrest. She told reporters she hopes gay, lesbian, bi, and transgender people around the world feel emboldened to fight for their human rights. When asked if she had anything to say to Vladimir Putin, he of vicious anti-gay laws and subsequent butt-plug comparisons, Wurst said, “I don’t know if he is watching this now, but if so, I’ll say it: ‘We’re unstoppable.'”