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Off-beat, but on target for a win: Conchita

The past two years, Austria's entries were stopped dead at the semi-finals. Will Conchita Wurst buck the trend? Bookies say that she has a good chance at landing somewhere near the top. Do you agree?

Sending a transvestite to Eurovision is a sure-fire way to draw attention in the run-up to the contest. And people are playing along: A petition from Belarus has even called Austria's entry "completely unacceptable," demanding that Conchita be barred from the ESC.

The initiators in Belarus didn't mince words, either: "Thanks to European liberals, the most popular international competition, viewed by our children, has become a breeding ground for sodomy."

Protests over the unconventional artist have not only come from Belarus. A community of opponents formed in her home country, unleashing an avalanche of homophobic insults.

Glittering alter ego

25-year-old Conchita, alias Tom Neuwirth, reacts to the hostility calmly and sees himself as a gay rights activist. "I'll keep my mouth shut only when we've reached the point that it's no longer necessary to talk about unimportant things like sexuality. The human being is the only thing that matters," he adds. "Everyone should have the chance to live his or her life as he or she sees fit, as long as no one is hurt."

Conchita Wurst. Photo: ORF/Thomas Ramstorfer

Diva personified: Tom Neuwirth as Conchita Wurst

As a gay youth from the countryside, Tom had a difficult time of it and now, with his glittering alter ego, is making a statement on behalf of tolerance. Conchita Wurst's home page has two biographies - one of Thomas Neuwith from the Steiermark region of Austria, and one of Conchita, the mysterious beauty from the highlands of Colombia.

Clever game plan?

Sending the unconventional bearded lady to Copenhagen has already panned out: diva Conchita is the buzz of the pre-final phase. And performances by males or transsexuals in female garb have garnered ESC successes more than once. In 1998, Dana took the crown for Israel, and in 2007, the bulky Ukranian trash singer Verka Serduchka (whose real name is Andrei Danilko) placed second.

Having vied in numerous Austrian casting shows, Conchita knows the ropes. In 2012, she sought to represent her homeland at the ESC in Baku but lost by a small margin.

This time, the diva was given the green light without national finals. The ballad "Rise like a Phoenix," all pomp and glamour, was chosen out of over a hundred entries by composers from Austria and beyond.

Whether or not Conchita can follow in the footsteps of Udo Jürgens and take the trophy for Austria remains to be seen - the crooner achieved that feat in 1966, marking the first and only time Austria came out on top. For her part, the singer is nothing if not self-confident, saying, "Myself, I think my song is sensational."

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