"We all make drag," says Tom Neuwirth. © Meiko Herrmann for ZEIT ONLINE
Tom Neuwirth just turned 31 years old. At 17, he reached the second place in the Austrian talent show "Starmania" and was a member of the boy band for a short time now different !. In 2012 he took part in the Austrian preselection for the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) for the first time in the guise of his art figure Conchita Wurst. The protest was big: Should a woman with a beard represent the country? Two years later he tried again and won the biggest singing competition in the world for Austria. Now Neuwirth has gotten rid of the long hair and released his third album "Truth over Magnitude". As of November 14, he will appear on the screen of the casting show "Queen of Drags" alongside Heidi Klum and Bill Kaulitz on ProSieben. Since the announcement, there has been strong criticism of this broadcast format - especially from the queer community. How does Neuwirth handle it? We meet him in October in a hotel in Berlin, he sits down and hums a happy fanfare.
ZEIT ONLINE: Mr. Neuwirth, you have the hair short and now appear as a sausage, without Conchita. The press release for your new album, we take that is now your "masculine-edged" contrast program. Does it always need an art figure that embodies a certain facet, or at some point you can sometimes say, "My name is Tom Neuwirth and that's all"?
Tom Neuwirth: I have the feeling that I am now as close to my private person as never before. Maybe last when I was 17 and at Starmania . I constantly get the question: Is it him or her now? I then always entice myself to open a drawer to explain to people what is actually going on. In the end, it's just me, and sometimes with a wig, sometimes without, sometimes masculine, sometimes feminine.
ZEIT ONLINE: Without this glamorous costuming you are probably much more approachable, even on the fans.
Neuwirth: Of course, I notice that without the wig the situations in which people recognize me become more and more frequent. And I'm not sure how funny that is. Barbara Schöneberger once said that she would not be recognized on the street if she did not wear make-up. I'm trying that too. (laughs out loud)
TIME ONLINE: Not really, right?
Neuwirth: Of course it's a double-edged sword. I have understood in recent years: The lightness and the world in my head are not always compliant with a First Lady Conchita in a pencil skirt and well-shorn second hair. What I'm doing now is part of my personality that I have not lived up to now in a female appearance. I've always danced to electro music privately and thought to myself: Why do not I make music that I like?
ZEIT ONLINE: Does Truth over Magnitude mean a musical cut or is it more in your production?
Neuwirth: I had created a President's wife and worked and lived according to this protocol. I lost myself after the song contest. Musically, of course, it's a different sound, although on my first studio album, I already had numbers that were relatively electronic. But they did not get that much attention. And so, yes: optically it was probably the larger cut. It was the bald spot. She freed me.
ZEIT ONLINE: With this bald head you were in February at the side of the Austrian Minister of Justice Josef Moser (ÖVP) at the Vienna Opera Ball. When you won the ESC as a bearded lady five years ago, especially conservative politicians made a derogatory remark. Heinz-Christian Strache, Vladimir Putin, Jarosław Kaczyński ...
Neuwirth: Everyone was there. Thanks for the attention. (laughs)
ZEIT ONLINE: How do you assess the situation of trans people and homosexuals in Europe today? Could you do something with your presence?
Neuwirth: I think that something has changed in the media mainstream. Even though I talk to teenagers, I notice a sensibility that I did not know before - that's when I'm being reprimanded when I say something wrong. And that, I think, is a beautiful development. But I tend to forget that I too live in a bubble.
ZEIT ONLINE: We have to talk about the great mustard yellow lacquer stilettos you are wearing right now.
Neuwirth: You can tell that I'm from Los Angeles. I looked at myself today and thought: Ah, there is a bit left over!
ZEIT ONLINE: You were in California to shoot with Heidi Klum and Bill Kaulitz the new ProSieben show Queen of Drags . This is a format inspired by Ru Paul's Drag Race , a talent show for drag queens that is very successful in the USA.
Neuwirth: Let's say what it's like: Ru Paul's Drag Race has shown a growing generation that individualism is great. This has been consumed in my community for ten years. And that has also made us a bit stronger. But when I see a couple of two women or two men in Vienna, I think it's nice, but I still notice how special that is. And I believe, as long as that is still the case, we can not say that there is equality.
ZEIT ONLINE: The German audience knows Dragqueens so rather in the form of Olivia Jones, Lilo Wanders or Mary from the jam advertising. They called them Tunten and always liked to bring them as birds of paradise in front of the camera, if it should be colorful or even slippery. So, if you've only seen this before, you may be wondering, what is Drag?