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Life's a drag! Eurovision queens past and present

24 October 2016 at 19:00 CEST
Verka Serduchka visited Copenhagen during the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest Thomas Hanses (EBU)
Over the weekend, Verka Serduchka, one of the most iconic participants of the Eurovision Song Contest, participated in a special Eurovision gala which took place in Luxembourg. Verka finished second in the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest with the song Dancing Lasha Tumbai and before Conchita Wurst won the contest in 2014, she was the most successful drag act in Eurovision history. Today we look back at other drag acts that have graced the Eurovision stage.

Drag can be a divisive tradition with some viewing it as distasteful whilst others view it as a fun form of entertainment and even an art form. Norway was the first country to enter a drag act in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1986. Ketil Stokkan performed his song Romeo alongside a member of the Great Garlic Girls, a drag group that have been performing since the early 1980s.

It wasn't until 2002 that the next drag act took part in Eurovision when the trio Sestre were chosen to represent Slovenia. The choice was controversial and sparked a debate on gay rights in the country which even reached the European Parliament. Sestre finished 13th with the song Samo Ljubezen in Tallinn.

The 2007 Eurovision Song Contest saw not one but two drag queens take to the stage. Denmark's DQ performed the song Drama Queen in Helsinki but failed to reach the Grand Final where as Ukraine's Verka Serduchka finished second, the best placing for a drag act at that time. Drama Queen tells the story of a performer overcoming adversity to perform on the stage and take their moment in the spotlight. For good measure DQ, whose real name is Peter Andersen, threw in a customary costume change. The song finished in 19th place meaning that Denmark missed out on a place in the Grand Final. DQ is the first solo drag act to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest. 

Verka Serduchka, the creation of Ukrainian comedian Andriy Danylko, was a controversial choice for Eurovision in 2007 with some politicians in Ukraine objecting to what they considered to be a vulgar act. However Serduchka was able to silence the critics after she achieved Ukraine's best placing in Eurovision since the country won in 2004. Verka has gone on to become one of the most iconic performers in the Eurovision Song Contest and earlier this year she delivered the results of the Ukrainian jury in the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest.

Arguably the most famous Eurovision drag queen is of course Conchita Wurst, the bearded lady from Austria. After participating in the Austrian national selection in 2012, Conchita was chosen by Austrian broadcaster ORF to represent the country in 2014. The song Rise Like A Phoenix took the trophy home finishing 52 points ahead of nearest rival the Netherlands. Conchita, whose real name is Tom Neuwirth, dedicated her victory "to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom". Last year she released her debut album, has continued to tour and has gone on to become a symbol of diversity and acceptance.

With the continued popularity of programmes such as Ru Paul's Drag Race, who knows what drag queen of the future may take to the stage. One thing is for sure though, Eurovision has been dragged into an interesting performative space.