Conchita Wurst meets UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Austria (Pic: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard)
Austrian drag star Conchita Wurst has been praised by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for her efforts in promoting LGBT equality.
Wurst, sporting a royal blue dress and her usual beard, met Ban and other UN officials at the UN complex in Vienna on Monday where she also performed her winning Eurovision Song Contest entry, Rise like a Phoenix.
“She is an incredible singer and entertainer,” said Ban. “But what made her win so meaningful was the way she turned her victory in the Song Contest into an electrifying moment of human rights education.”
He went on to say: “Conchita is promoting respect for diversity. She confounds people’s preconceived ideas of gender and sexuality — and she appeals to them to accept her as she is. That is a powerful message. I am delighted she is using her talent and the Eurovision platform to take this message to a global audience.”
Ban added: “Discrimination has no place in the United Nations, nor in the world of the twenty-first century. I will continue to fight against transphobia and homophobia. I will stand strong for equality.”
Wurst told Ban that she was often asked if her message did not interfere with her music career, to which she usually replies: “I don’t think in boxes. I don’t put labels on things. Because I’m a singer but I’m so much more than just a singer. And we are all more than just a surface.”
She went on to say: “Each and every one wants to be respected. Each and every one wants to receive respect. But you [can only] be respected if you respect others. Unfortunately there are still many countries and people out there who think that human rights are just for someone – not for everybody. But that’s not true…”
Wurst, performed by 25-year-old gay Austrian man Thomas Neuwirth, won the Eurovision Song Contest in May and became an international phenomenon. She was slammed by outraged homophobic Russian politicians as representing “the end of Europe.”
Vitriol against Wurst is not confined to Russia. On Saturday, veteran Irish radio and television broadcaster Terry Wogan, who was the BBC’s commentator for the Eurovision Song Contest until 2008, wrote that Wurst had turned the competition into a “freak show”.