UPDATE, Saturday, May 10,2014, 6:40pm ET: Conchita won!
A bearded drag queen with a taste for sequins is among the favorites to win this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, the annual music extravaganza that catapulted ABBA and Celine Dion to fame.
With her doe eyes and glittery floor-length gowns, Conchita Wurst (real name Thomas Neuwirth) stole the limelight in the run up to the event, and her performance has beguiled the judges, who selected her to compete in the finals in Copenhagen on Saturday. But Wurst’s unabashed gender bending has also raised some ire. Citizens in Russia and Belarus petitioned their national broadcasters to block her performance. And St. Petersburg legislator Vitaly Milonov—who was instrumental in passing Russia’s infamous “gay propaganda” ban—called on Russia’s Eurovision selection committee not to send Russian singers to the event, which attracts roughly 170 million TV viewers. “Even just broadcasting the competition in Russia could insult millions of Russians,” Milonov wrote in the letter, according to the Guardian. “The participation of the obvious transvestite and hermaphrodite Conchita Wurst on the same stage as Russian singers on live television is blatant propaganda of homosexuality and spiritual decay.”
Wurst, who is representing Austria in the competition, wasn’t fazed by these barbs. “I can only say ‘Thank you for your attention!” she told the Associated Press. Wurst added, “Hey, I’m just a singer in a fabulous dress, with great hair and a beard.”
You can see Wurst in all her bearded glory above.