This time two years ago, an appearance by a bearded lady in a ballgown would have been quite an unusual sight. Before May 2014, even Vienna had only one Conchita Wurst. Now she is everywhere you look in the Austrian capital: co-presenting the Eurovision broadcasts, smiling from magazine covers, advertising products… and her voice greets visitors using the city’s public transport system. These days, she’s rarely the only bloke in the city sporting a frock, full beard and full makeup. On Conchita Day (or Friday, May 22nd, as it is usually known), there were at least six other contenders.
Declared by the organisers of Vienna’s Eurovision Village to salute the „Queen of Austria,” the day brought us a Conchita lookalike contest organised by national broadcaster ORF. It saw six wannabe Unstoppables competing in several events, all for the chance of winning a ticket to the sold-out Eurovision final. In front of the stage, six British visitors wearing knitted chin-warmers, a German fan with a glued-on felt beard and a life-size drag doll looked on, alongside a crowd made up of avid fans and bemused locals.
The real Conchita was briefly present on screen, welcoming visitors in a video message, but left the stage to her impersonators. The youngest candidate, 12 year old Jessica Neustädter, was joined by teenagers Kerstin Eggetsberger and Franziska Strobel. Their cross-dressing adversaries were three grown men: Tobias Born, who had simply recycled his Cologne carnival costume, a fellow German who goes by his drag name Emily Island, and Curtis Woodside, a South African filmmaker currently in town to shoot a behind the scenes Eurovision documentary.
The odds seemed stacked against the young fans, but the competition was focused on good-natured fun rather than „RuPaul’s Drag Race“ style battles. After several rounds of musical chairs (accompanied by Conchita songs, naturally), and some rope-skipping (while trying to hold a high note), the remaining candidates set to building a bridge. Curtis Woodside emerged victorious and impressed the crowd by staying in character and reciting Conchita’s Eurovision acceptance speech verbatim. A deserving winner, the South African was probably also the candidate least in need of Eurovision tickets. As a fully accredited member of the media, he has been in the press centre on a daily basis, rubbing shoulders with candidates and exchanging air-kisses with his idol Conchita.
In Vienna, where the reigning queen’s star power still outshines all current Eurovision competitors, Conchita Day and the lookalike contest were perfect entertainment for a gap in the schedule (between the semis and today’s final).
Australian fans looking to revel in memories of last year’s poignant final to get in the mood for the 2015 edition can also find Conchita impersonators a little closer to home. In Perth, for example, ConchiDaz will be appearing at the Court Hotel before heading to the Backlot Cinema where the local Eurovision Euroclub are watching the live telecast to find out who will be crowned the new regent of Eurovision. (ConchiDaz pictured below with Eurovision Euroclub Perth co-host Kate Hansen).