By Mark Eggleton
For many Australians Conchita Wurst is either the most famous European woman in the world or a close second to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The famous bearded Austrian drag artist who won the 2014 Eurovision contest will be packing her makeup and wigs for a second visit to Australia in six months when she headlines this year’s Feast Festival in Adelaide (November 14-29).
According to Conchita the festival represents “a beautiful opportunity to come back to your beautiful country” after a fleeting promotional visit back in May.
This time though she’s here for a week and Conchita is determined to have a good time.
Kicking off with the festival on November 15 she will give her first Australian performance at The Art of Drag – a Night with Conchita, where Australian drag artists will attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the largest drag queen stage show.
For Conchita the event won’t be about judging other drag queens but a night to celebrate the talent of other artists.
“I wouldn’t dare to judge anyone or tell anyone how they can do it better especially drag artists who may have been doing this for 20 years or more. I’m just so excited about meeting other drag artists and I must admit, I’m a nosy person. I like to know how they do their hair and makeup and maybe find out a few other little secrets,” Conchita says.
Hair and makeup is what it’s all about for Conchita. They’re the only things she really worries about when she travels because without them there would be “no Conchita”.
“They are the first things I pack. I don’t carry around teddy bears or family pics. I’m quite cold when it comes to personal stuff. Without these tools there is no Conchita.”
As for the character of Conchita, she’s the creation of Austrian singer Thomas Neuwirth and is the public face of a number of characters he has created in his mind over the years.
“I’ve been doing drag since 14 but never in a regular way and I’ve only really been doing it onstage now for six years. I will try other characters as my career progresses but right now this is the one I feel most comfortable with because my other characters aren’t created for the stage yet – they are for entertaining my friends and myself.”
On the entertainment front, at an exclusive literary event being held at the Feast Lounge on November 17 at Feast, Conchita is keen to sing and tell a few stories about how her career evolved
“I have so many stories to tell with the most obvious one being about my beard,” she says.
“It kind of happened by mistake. I received an invitation to host a burlesque show weekly and it sounded fun but I didn’t like my face without the beard. I thought ‘hey … let’s try the bearded lady’ and I stood in front of the mirror and thought I never looked better.
“Now I can never take it off – Conchita is a bearded lady.”
As for whether she might grow it out for Adelaide and try to embrace laneway hipster culture, Conchita is not so sure.
“I’ve tried it but it doesn’t look that nice,” she says with a laugh.
What she is keen on doing is singing, and isn’t about to start lip-synching to 1970s disco hits or Kylie Minogue anytime soon.
“For me I don’t like lip synching, I don’t get it. I always loved the big divas and wanted to be a big diva myself so now I have created one.”
When it was suggested her Eurovision winning song Rise Like a Phoenix gave her plenty of big diva credibility and that she was ripe to sing a James Bond theme song, Conchita says that sadly, tongue firmly in cheek, she just wasn’t asked.
“Absolutely I’d love to follow in the footsteps of Adele or Dame Shirley Bassey but I just didn’t get the call from the producers,” she says.
Besides being rather excited about chatting to her fans and visiting Adelaide for the first time, she hopes to get out into regional South Australia.
She will also speak up on the issue of marriage equality and LGBTI rights as she has done all over the world.
“There are no borders when it comes to this issue. I just don’t understand why equality is such a big deal. We just want to have everything like everybody else. We don’t want to start a revolution. We just want to get married like everybody else.”
But firstly she just wants to get out and have a great time in Adelaide and see a few things she has never seen before.
“Adelaide – I’m going to take that town.”