The Eurovision Song Contest ended in victory Saturday night for Austria's Conchita Wurst, the bearded drag queen who won over the event's enormous audience with her Bond-theme-style ballad "Rise Like a Phoenix."
The 25-year-old Austrian, whose name off-stage is Thomas Neuwirth, celebrated her win with a timely message. "This night is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom," she said, according to the Associated Press. "You know who you are – we are unity and we are unstoppable." Her sentiment was echoed by Austrian President Heinz Fischer, who declared the outcome "not just a victory for Austria, but above all for diversity and tolerance in Europe."
This was the 58th year of the camp-laden contest, which drew a television audience of about 180 million people in 45 countries, CNN reports. Held this year in Copenhagen (per tradition, the homeland of the previous year's winner), the event took on tense political connotations as contestants from Ukraine and Russia faced off against each other. (The Russian contestants, twin sisters Anastasiya and Maria Tolmachevy, were booed during the semi-finals.)
Wurst's entry drew another political dimension to the event, as organizations in Armenia, Belarus and Russia circulated petitions seeking to block the singer from competing. Russian legislator Vitaly Milonov, who earlier this year had suggested that gay athletes could be arrested at the Sochi Olympics if they "promoted" homosexuality to minors, called Wurst a "pervert" whose participation would "insult millions of Russians," according to Time.
Asked after winning if she had anything to say to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Wurst said, "I don't know if he is watching this now, but if so, I'll say it: 'We're unstoppable.'"
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