On May 8th 2014, I was in B&W Hallerne in Copenhagen when Conchita Wurst took to the semi final stage to sing Rise Like A Phoenix. The atmosphere in the arena when Conchita appeared on the stage was electric. It was clear the fans loved Conchita. She sang faultlessly and on finishing, the crowd went wild. People were chanting her name and stamping their feet on the surrounding tiers of seats. It was at that point I knew, despite all the doubts people had about gaining wide enough acceptance to take the trophy, Conchita could, and probably was going to, win the Eurovision Song Contest.

On May 10th 2014, it happened. Conchita had won the Eurovision Song Contest, even receiving points from Russia proving there are tolerant people living under some of the most intolerant regimes. I rarely pay that much attention to the artist receiving the trophy, but when Conchita spoke, she said those wonderful words.

This is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom, you know who you are. We are unity, and we are unstoppable.

-- Conchita Wurst

Those words gave me goosebumps then and they still give me goosebumps now. To know that Conchita had appeared on screen in front of over 195 million people and delivered that message made me wish more people in the public eye used their platform to deliver such important messages.

It was my respect for Conchita, and what Tom was doing as Conchita, that made me genuinely excited to read the book, Being Conchita: We Are Unstoppable. I sat down in bed to read it Thursday evening and read the whole book in one sitting. I finished the final words of the book respecting and liking both Conchita and Tom even more.

The book starts at the beginning, by giving us an insight into Tom’s childhood. While his childhood was, as you may (sadly) expect for a young boy who had some, what you might perceive as feminine qualities, not filled with happiness. Tom doesn’t dwell on the negatives though. They happened and they clearly had an effect on him, but they also shaped the person he is today. Tom was also surrounded by a loving and accepting family and close friends who let him play in dresses and accepted him for who he was, and it’s this I took away from the early part of the book. Was Tom’s childhood easy? No. Did it have a positive effect on his life and future? Yes. 

At just 14, Tom moved 2 and half hours away from his hometown and support network. It was primarily to go to fashion school but also because he felt there, he would be able to stop hiding who he was. I think a lot of LGBT people can relate to that. I couldn’t imagine doing it at 14 but when I was 18, I picked a University that was suitably far enough away so that I could go there and be who I really was all of the time, not just with my close friends.  

The book goes on to cover how Tom started to move into the public eye. Playing some gigs, doing some magazine interviews. We get the obligatory coming out tale, and Tom’s was pretty public! It then starts to get into the stages of Tom’s life that a lot of us are probably aware of in some capacity. Tom’s appearance on StarSearch (coming second to 2011 Austria representative Nadine Beiler) and later involvement in failed boyband “Jetzt Anders!”. The most interesting part of this section of the book for me was learning how Conchita Wurst came to be.

The truth is, Conchita was always there in Tom. She just didn’t have a name yet and I particularly enjoyed learning how Conchita got her name and what its meaning is. I’ll let you learn that for yourselves if you don’t already know! Conchita started out at humble beginnings, compering at friends’ parties. Then Conchita perfected her performances in underground revues before appearing on “Die große Chance” and coming sixth. I enjoyed this section of the book a lot. It gives a real insight in to how hard Tom has worked as Conchita to become successful. He doesn’t expect things to be handed to him. He has a very strong work ethic and works really hard.

Enlisting René Berto as Conchita’s agent and planning how to become a household name around the world, is what begun to bring Conchita to a wider audience. René, having already managed Alf Poier and entered him in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2003, knew how powerful such a platform could be and that’s how we got to see Conchita in 2012 singing “That’s What I Am”. At the time, I (probably like a lot of other people) was incredulous that Trackshittaz won. I mean, how could that even be possible?! Obviously now we all know that was for the best. 2012 was Loreen’s year and Conchita couldn’t have stood in the way of the juggernaut that was Euphoria. 2014 was the right time with the right song to catapult Conchita on to the world stage. 

The book doesn’t spend too much time on the 2014 contest because we all know about that already. During the last section of the book I found myself becoming more and more endeared to Tom and Conchita. Tom doesn’t just use Conchita as an act on stage. Conchita is a person in her own right and Tom fully understands and respects the power and platform Conchita has. He’s not just using Conchita as a money train. Yes, Conchita is a singer and performer and Tom is clearly having a wonderful time and enjoying every moment of it (whilst also displaying the strong work ethic I mentioned earlier). However, Conchita stands for unity and acceptance. She challenges people’s perception of what is “normal”. Conchita is a force to be reckoned with! Tom doesn’t see his life now as “me” and “I”. He sees it as “we” and “us”. He knows that when he transforms his physical form into Conchita, he is speaking for those that can’t be heard. Conchita is making powerful friends and becoming a political activist that the LGBT community can be proud of.

Conchita at pride

Overall, the book is well written and flows quickly and effortlessly through a long time span. It gives a genuine insight into Tom as a person and who Conchita is, what she stands for and what she is trying to do. Large parts of the book will be relatable for many people and I finished the book feeling inspired to keep pushing myself to achieve my goals. 

If you haven’t already read it, then I definitely recommend that you do. It’s just £4.99 for the hardcover edition on Amazon (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Being-Conchita-We-are-Unstoppable/dp/178418649X) and I will definitely be displaying it proudly on my bookshelf. 

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