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Austria's bearded drag queen wins Eurovision song contest

Austrian won this year's Eurovision Song Contest early Sunday with "Rise Like a Phoenix" sung by bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst.

COPENHAGEN: Austria won the Eurovision Song Contest early Sunday for the first time in 48 years with "Rise Like a Phoenix" sung by bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst.

The 25-year-old performer, whose real name is Tom Neuwirth, took the Eurovision crown in Copenhagen despite initial expectations that the eye-catching performance would be too controversial in socially conservative countries.

"We are unity, and we are unstoppable," she said after winning the glitzy competition with 290 points compared with 238 points for runner-up the Netherlands, in what Eurovision fans had anticipated would be a more closely fought race.

When asked what she would tell Russian President Vladimir Putin -- who last year signed a law banning "gay propaganda" -- she said "I don't know if he's watching, but if so, I've made clear, we're unstoppable."

The win was also a victory for all people who believe "in the future of peace and love and tolerance," said Wurst after the live broadcast, where she cried in front of the cameras.

"I said to myself just this time please just let me be the one with the gold," she said.

The Eurovision winner secured most of her "douze points" top scores from western European countries including Britain, Sweden and the Netherlands.

However, she underlined that she also had fans in countries perceived as being more conservative.

"It doesn't depend on a country, there are people ... also in eastern Europe who believe what I believe," she said.

Austria last won Eurovision back in 1966 with "Merci Cherie" by Udo Juergens.

Since the contest was launched in 1956, voting has often been tied to politics and the 2014 event was no exception, with the audience jeering countries that announced giving points to Russia.

Azerbaijan and Belarus both gave top marks to Russian entry "Shine" by the Tolmachevy Sisters.

Austria's Wurst didn't become one of the bookies' top candidates until Thursday's semi-final, amid reports that the drag act had prompted shocked petitions in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

Even in Austria, the leader of the right-wing FPOe party had called the act "ridiculous".

"I have very thick skin. It never ceases to amaze me just how much fuss is made over a little facial hair," Wurst told AFP on Friday.

Half the points awarded in Eurovision are compiled through televoting and the other half come from professional juries in each country.

Danish public broadcaster DR had transformed a disused shipyard into a purpose-built arena for the event, creating a spectacular stage for a fraction of the price some host countries have spent.

The growing size of Eurovision, and a desire by some countries to use it as a national showcase, has led to soaring costs, and DR's 190 million kroner (25.5 million euros, US$35.4 million) budget was considered relatively modest.

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