The Austrian drag queen Tom Neuwirth, aka Conchita Wurst, 25, talks about life after winning this year’s Eurovision
I have two types of day: a laid-back day when I’m just me, Tom, and I can just get up and put on a pair of jeans. Or a day when I’m Conchita, my stage persona, and I’ll get up early to get ready. Either way, the first thing I’ll do is make coffee and have a good breakfast of boiled eggs and toast.
I live in the centre of Vienna with my friend, Matthew Steurer, who’s a hair stylist, but since winning the Eurovision, I’ve been doing a fair bit of travelling, whether it’s to appear on TV talk shows, do interviews or perform in the evening somewhere.
Of course, as Conchita, it takes me ages to get ready and for that I always put music on. Sometimes the outfit will even end up reflecting what I’m listening to — if it’s 1980s hits I’ll end up with way more glitter than I intended. I have the curled eyelashes and everything, but for a drag queen I actually try and keep my make-up quite understated.
Obviously, I’m in the bearded-lady corner, something I’ve had since I was 21, and I accentuate it using a make-up brush and eye shadow. I then put on one of my seven wigs and my nails are always done with Shellac — I keep them simple because you’ll never get on a Vogue cover with claws.
It’s still so weird for me to think that I won the Eurovision this year. A minute after we started leading on the scoreboard I said to my friends: “You better take a picture of the scores now because it’s going to change very soon.” But it didn’t. When I realised I had won, I couldn’t believe it… and I couldn’t stop crying. My big plan now is to get signed and release an album of songs that are being written for me.
If I need to catch a flight, the thing I find so funny is that when I’m going through security and the beep goes off, the security men and women always look confused as to who should search me. I don’t care who I get, but if it’s a woman, I always tell her I love her hair, and if it’s a man, I just flirt with him.
Rushing around, I often don’t stop for lunch, but if I do, I can really eat whatever I want because I never put on weight. I don’t work out either — I’ve already got arms like Madonna. From an early age I knew I was different. I wanted to be friends with the girls at school and do things like wear their clothes and play with their hair, but I never thought of kissing any of them. Some of the kids were very mean to me, but I would remember what my grandmother said to me: “Tom, always be yourself.”
I was born in Gmunden, a town in Upper Austria. When I was a bit older my parents had a hotel in Bad Mitterndorf, a winter resort in the heart of Austria. I was 14 when I moved to the city of Graz to study fashion, but in my third year I auditioned for an Austrian talent show called Starmania and won a place in the final. I didn’t win it so I finished my fashion course and graduated.
I was 21 when I first began hosting a burlesque show. It was at an underground club in Vienna and that’s when I created Conchita Wurst — I wanted to be a diva in the spotlight myself! Most of my performances now are in the evening, and my friend, Tamara Mascara, who’s also a drag queen, often helps me with my wardrobe. She’s even figured out the best underwear for drag queens, including these thickly padded bras from H&M. I also wear a G-string that’s designed in such a way that everything is where it should be. I don’t want to worry about panty lines and I want my butt to look as good as possible.
I think I speak for all drag queens when I say it’s annoying when people refer to us as “he” instead of “she”. But being gay and dressing like a woman doesn’t mean I want to be a woman — I don’t. I’m single at the moment, I broke up with my last boyfriend before Eurovision. Luckily, it wasn’t in a dramatic way — though I can certainly do dramatic!
I have a close group of friends, so after I’ve finished performing I love to go out for dinner. A great place to eat in Vienna is Motto am Fluss — you get the best tafelspitz [boiled beef broth in horseradish sauce] there. But my favourite place to eat is my mother’s kitchen.
When I get back in from a long day, I’ll fall to sleep very quickly. It’s all been quite surreal this past year, but the one thing I always remember is to be true to myself and respect everyone else for doing the same. To me, that’s what life is all about.