Thomas Neuwirth aka Conchita Wurst, singer and drag arist, Conchita Wurst and Trevor Ashley in Concert
Be your authentic self and accept others the way they are ...
It’s been six years since we first saw Conchita Wurst rise like a phoenix and soar at the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest, and we haven’t been the same since. The stage persona of Austrian singer Thomas Neuwirth became an overnight sensation thanks to the show-stopping performance, and since that incendiary introduction Conchita has become a global sensation and an unofficial figurehead of the LGBT+ community, going on to record and release several immensely-popular albums and tour across continents. Over time, Thomas has managed to incorporate masculine and feminine aspects of their personality into a dynamic and uncompromising whole, while also using his platform to speak out on sociopolitical issues. Thomas will be performing as Conchita Wurst at QPAC on Wednesday February 26 alongside Trevor Ashley and Kate Miller-Heidke. Ahead of Conchicta’s performance, we chatted with the global sensation about musical idols, being your authentic self and tips for any budding Eurovision stars.
Image by Torsten Hoenig
To start, we’d like to go back to the beginning of your love affair with music – what song or artist would you credit with igniting your passion for music and performance?
I think it’s Shirley Bassey – who I owe some money to – because I believe she taught me how to sing early on in my life when I tried to imitate her beautiful talent.
Similarly, when did you first encounter the world of drag and what was the key alluring factor for you?
I was invited to host a weekly show in Vienna – in drag! – and I decided if I was going to do it, I needed to keep my beard because I had no intention on losing it every week just for that one night.
You’re a firm believer that people should be afforded the freedom to express and celebrate themselves – what have been some of the biggest challenges for you in regards to finding your voice and feeling comfortable in your own skin, and how did you overcome them?
It was always easy for me to be myself and express myself because I had a very caring and loving environment, and was allowed to express myself. I think it was when I won Eurovision that I started to limit myself and the ways my stage persona Conchita would act in public. I realised at some point that I was not listening to what she had to say – that everyone should express and celebrate themselves – and that’s when things started to get interesting and I managed to free myself of the corset I’d squeezed myself into for quite some time.
We’re so excited to see you perform soon with our beloved queen of cabaret Trevor Ashley at QPAC! Can you tell us how the two of you became friends and what inspired you to team up for this double-header?
Oh I am so excited, too! Trevor and I met when he was touring his Liza (On an E) program in Vienna, and we connected immediately. I later invited him to be part of my show at the Sydney Opera House and we had so much fun together that he asked me if I wanted to come do a show with him – of course I said yes!
Without giving too much away, can you give us a hint as to what’s in store when you and Trevor take the stage?
I can only talk about my own part, obviously. It will be extracts from my album From Vienna With Love, which is basically the soundtrack to my life – very dramatic glam-pop – and I love all of those songs. And of course we’ll be singing duets, too, because we love teaming up on stage, but I cannot tell you more – just that you’ll have to come and see the program!
Speaking of teaming up – do you have any personal idols that you’d love to share a stage with at some point in your career?
I always thought I wanted to meet Celine Dion, and when I finally did I became a fan-girl. I always wanted to be her, and somehow in the realm of drag art, I somewhat became Celine Dion.
Australia has just selected its representative for Eurovision this year! What advice would you give any artist lucky enough to represent their country at the prestigious song contest?
Enjoy every moment, and don’t let all the parties distract you. You’ve been working so hard to get there, so do everything you can to make those three minutes the best three minutes of your life.
Your career and profile skyrocketed thanks to your success at Eurovision – when it comes to being a spokesperson and an icon for many, what are some issues and beliefs that you choose to use your platform to educate and speak out on?
It’s ironic because I never signed up to be a spokesperson for anything other than myself. So what I do when people want to listen is to tell the things that I think are important in life – be your authentic self and accept others the way they are! As long as you don’t hurt anyone, you can do whatever you want to do, you can look the way you want, you can express yourself the way you want. I believe if everyone lived by these rules, the world could be so much more peaceful and fun.
Finally, we’re at the start of a brand-new decade – what do you hope the next ten years have in store for you?
Ten years? I don’t even know what I am going to do in ten months! I just hope that I can continue to do things I love doing, like entertaining people on stage, touring with my band and creating new music and music videos. But I’d also love to explore new things, like painting very large paintings, direct a movie, create a fashion brand, and so many more things!
Thomas Neuwirth will be taking the stage at QPAC as Conchita Wurst when the drag icon teams up with Trevor Ashley and Kate Miller-Heidke. Tickets are still available! You can nab some here.