Conchita Wurst, the cross-dressing Austrian superstar who won the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest with his/her Euro-hit “Rise Like A Phoenix”, was invited to meet U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a recent event in Vienna. Ban Ki-moon was so flustered by the stunningly gowned and coiffed and bearded lady that he went on to confuse Austria with Australia in his brief speech. “I thank in particular [Austrian] President (Heinz) Fischer and the government of Australia,” said the U.N. Secretary General, a gaffe for which he later apologized.
Wurst (aka Tom Neuwirth), who says he is gay, not transsexual or transgendered, is a star of the LGBT community, and a leader in the fight to end discrimination based on gender. Earlier this year, Ki-moon extended equal rights benefits to same-sex partners of U.N. staff members. Hence the meeting. If the sight of Wurst and Ki-moon striding together down the hallways of the U.N. conference isn't strange enough, check out Wurst’s video of his award-winning song.
“Rise Like A Phoenix” is pure Barry Manilow-meets-Barbra Streisand schmaltz. Wurst performs it sheathed in (first) floor-length Morticia black, then in a twinkling, strapless pantsuit and then in a bathtub overflowing with rose petals. The searing red of Wurst's lipstick and the hirsute charcoal of the spray-on beard enhances the singer's aquiline features. It’s a cringing tune, but Wurst performs it without kitsch or camp.
Neuwirth’s chosen stage name, however, might not be so irony-free. “Conchita” is Spanish slang for “little pussy” and “wurst” is code for “penis.” The Secretary-General now travels everywhere with a copy of the Urban Dictionary.
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