Review: Being Conchita (Conchita Wurst)

One does wonder just how much material a twenty-six year-old Eurovision winner can fit into an autobiography published at such a young age. ‘Being Conchita’ has recently received its’ English-language release, having previously been available in German and French. It details, with frank and refreshing honesty, the transition not only from rural Austria to international stardom, but from a life where freedom of expression and personal identity was confined and curtailed. It is Conchita Wurst who receives the writing credit, but there’s no attempt to hide the fact that she is an alter-ego of Tom Neuwirth.
It is quite clear that early life in Bad Mitterndorf was not at all easy, but this isn’t something that is overly dwelt on. There aren’t multiple individual accounts of bullying, but we certainly are aware that life outside of the home really wasn’t comfortable. Family played a pivotal role in supporting the young Tom – his mother and father agreed to send him, alone, to fashion school in Graz at the age of only fourteen –  and his grandmother, a remarkably no-nonsense ‘sage’ of a character – seems to rule the roost with a warm matriarchy. It is the impact that ‘coming out’ will have on his family that seems to concern Tom the most, rather than any real sense of personal consequence.
Much of the book beyond Conchita’s win at Eurovision is anecdotal, and covers the aftermath of the victory. This is when things begin to border on the overly self-indulgent, with many of the factual elements – while noteworthy achievements – delivered in a rather self-congratulatory tone. Perhaps, as someone who has followed Conchita’s career for a while, (both pre- and post-Eurovision), I already know too much. Yes, she has modelled for Jean-Paul Gaultier in Paris, attended numerous galas across the world and appeared on television talk shows throughout Europe, and they were all fabulous. The casual reader may not, of course, be familiar with all this, so may find the detail more interesting. I can’t help wonder if there’s also an attempt to make more of the ‘Conchita phenomenon’, so that people realise that there is more to her – and her message – than a single song, a single win and a single ‘concept’.
Two galleries of photographs make for interesting viewing; the highlight for me is one which features a young Tom at his First Communion, where he appears to be far more interested in the gown worn by a friend than any element of the ceremony.
Those who might be expecting insightful revelation or opinion from this autobiography might find it lacking. That’s not to say such elements don’t feature – but this is in no way any kind of manifesto. Certainly, more of a work for the fans – of Conchita, of Eurovision, of both – who will undoubtedly enjoy the tales of a distinctly interesting life.
‘Being Conchita’ is available now from John Blake Publishing, at £9.99.

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