Thomas (Tom) Neuwirth, better known by his drag stage persona Conchita Wurst, was born on 6 November 1988 in Gmunden. He grew up on the Styrian countryside and moved to Graz at the age of 14 to study fashion. Neuwirt appeared as “Wurst”, a drag persona noted for her beard, for the first time in 2011. She did not pass the Austrian pre-selection for the Eurovision Song Contest in 2012, but successfully represented Austria at the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 in Copenhagen, Denmark. She won the contest with her song "Rise Like a Phoenix”. Conchita's selection gave rise to controversial reactions and criticism from conservative groups, particularly in Eastern Europe.
Engagement in Cultural Diplomacy
Some European social conservatives and right-wingers saw her performance at the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 as a promotion of LGBT rights. This conversely enhanced international attention and accelerated her establishment as a prominent LGBT icon. She has acted as a LGBT ambassador at multiple LGBT pride parades. In June 2014 Wurst performed at Trafalgar Square in London as the main act during the annual LGBT Pride Parade. In July she opened Madrid's LGBT Pride festival and performed at the Stockholm Pride. In August she performed at the Antwerp and Manchester Prides. Wurst also performed at the European Parliament in Brussels and the United Nations Office in Vienna. After her performed at the United Nations Office in Vienna in front of UN Secretary-General on November the 3rd, a spokesperson for Ban Ki-Moon described Wurst as a "cultural icon" and stated that: "Everyone is entitled to enjoy the same basic rights and live a life of worth and dignity without discrimination. This fundamental principle is embedded in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Conchita is a symbol in that sense and I think it's good for them to meet. [This meeting allows us] to reassert his support for LGBT people and for them to ensure that they enjoy the same human rights and protection that we all do."
On the 8th of October, Wurst performed at an anti-discrimination event held at the European Parliament in Brussels. Over 2000 delegates and members of staff attended. In her speech given there she emphasized the values of tolerance, stating: "As I always say, you don't have to love me, but you have to respect that I'm here." She continues to spread the message of tolerance that she communicated at Eurovision: "It was not just a victory for me but a victory for those people who believe in a future that can function without discrimination and is based on tolerance and respect.” According to the Austrian President Heinz Fischer Wurst’s victory was above all a victory for diversity and tolerance in Europe.
Conchita Wurst attended at Vienna's Life Ball, an annual charity ball for important and famous people. Most of the money raised by the Life Ball in 2013 (about 2.4 million Euros) was donated to the Clinton Health Access Initiative to treat and reduce child HIV infections. When nominated for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Wurst chose to donate double the amount of money instead of pouring the ice bucket over her head.