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The rise of Conchita Wurst: celebrating a decade of the phoenix

30 April 2024 at 10:30 CEST
Rising like a phoenix for the occasion that's upon us - Conchita Wurst will be in town
It’s 10 years since Conchita Wurst spread her wings on the Eurovision Song Contest stage and won the 2014 Contest for Austria with ‘Rise Like A Phoenix.’ Following her iconic drag performance, her message of tolerance and inclusion has been rising ever since.
Conchita Wurst winner of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest on stage EBU / Thomas Hanses

When Conchita Wurst’s wings of fire spread behind her on the Eurovision stage in 2014, she knew she had arrived.

“I had this fantasy for all of my life as a queer kid,” Conchita told the Official Eurovision Song Contest Podcast host, Steve Holden, at a special live recording in London in 2024, a decade after her big win. 

“Every hairbrush was a microphone… Every group of people was an audience, whether they wanted it or not. And I always had this imagination of me being in a slow-mo movie and finding my light, and then it came true all of a sudden," said Conchita, who is the drag alter ego of Tom Neuwirth.

When Conchita was approaching the final chorus of Rise Like A Phoenix on the stage in Copenhagen, the audience went wild. It was so loud, Conchita could hear it in spite of her in-ear monitors.

“Until this day, I can't really watch any snippets of it. And then I'm already in tears, because it meant so much to me as an artist, as a queer kid,” Conchita said.

Adding to that feeling, Conchita often hears from other people who were impacted by Rise Like A Phoenix.

Since winning the 2024 Contest, Conchita has taken her winning song across the world — to Pride festival stages, to the Sydney Opera House, and to the Opening Ceremony of the Eurovision Song Contest 2023 in Liverpool, where aerial dancers dressed as phoenixes flew over the town while Conchita’s voice soared.

She became a catwalk model, released albums, hosted TV shows, and wrote a book. She even performed for the European Parliament and the United Nations, sharing her message of tolerance and respect.

When Netflix’s Eurovision Song Contest movie came out in 2020, and the famous song-along scene unfolded, Conchita took centre stage. And a decade after her Eurovision win, she's celebrating by releasing a new single, Any Day From Now On, which comes out on 3 May 2024.

Conchita Wurst in 2024, 10 years after she won the Eurovision Song Contest for Austria Hanna Fasching

“I always wanted to be somewhat of a star and living my life in a creative way and then this win came and you kind of start to believe it, you start to believe in yourself and then you get a seat at the table,” Conchita said.

It wasn’t just Conchita who was changed by the performance. Artists followed in Conchita’s footsteps who wanted to continue spreading the message of inclusion, which has always been a part of Eurovision, especially after groundbreaking acts like Dana International. For Conchita, one of the songs that celebrated this message in the 2023 Contest was Gustaph’s Because Of You for Belgium.

Conchita Wurst joins Official Eurovision Song Contest podcast host Steve Holden at a live recording in London Corinne Cumming

Gustaph joined the live podcast line-up too, and remembered how Conchita’s win impacted him. At the time, he was on tour in London with his band Hercules and Love Affair, and there had been a lot of excitement around Conchita competing in Eurovision. As the band came off stage, they were met with shouts of: “She won! It happened, it happened!”

“It was just a big moment because it was also for us, a queer band, we felt a bit like our little salute for the queer world. You know, that really was like a tap on the shoulder — we got this, we got this. It was a very important moment,” Gustaph said.

KEiiNO from Norway also joined the live recording, and one of the group's singers Tom Hugo shared fond memories of Conchita’s performance. He felt that the song meant a lot not just to artists, but also to everyone watching.

“I think all of us here on stage and also in the room know why this competition means so much for us,” he said. “I remember seeing it and I immediately went, ‘Ok, that's the winner.’ Because one thing is the song and the other thing is the vocals, but also connecting with the audience through the screen.”

KEiiNO’s Alexandra Rotan was a young teenager when she saw the performance, and she remembers wanting to be on that stage, just like Conchita. And in fact, she was so inspired by Conchita that she performed Rise Like A Phoenix soon after.

“I remember being there, this tiny event in a small island outside of Norway. It was 7 people in the audience and I was doing your song,” she told Conchita.

Sitting alongside some of her fellow Eurovision stars, Conchita explains why she so loves being a part of the Eurovision family.

“I feel like it's the best example for a functioning society. We all come together with different points of views and we're not agreeing on everything, but we can disagree in fun and peacefully and in harmony,” she said. “And in the stage you can be whoever you want to be. And also, this is the only bubble where everybody thinks I'm Madonna.”

You can catch new episodes of the official Eurovision Song Contest podcast right here. And all previous episodes featuring this year's acts (and plenty of Eurovision legends) are always there to be caught up on too.

You can listen to all 37 songs of Eurovision 2024 via your favourite streaming service or watch the music videos on our YouTube channel.

The Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Malmö, Sweden on Tuesday 7 May (First Semi-Final), Thursday 9 May (Second Semi-Final) and Saturday 11 May (Grand Final) 2024.

Don't forget to download our app (for iOSAndroid), sign up to the official Eurovision Song Contest newsletter, and subscribe to the official podcast!