May 12, 2014 8:05 am

Drag queen Conchita Wurst returns to Austria following Eurovision win

VIENNA — Bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst has made a triumphant return to Austria after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in what the country’s president called a victory for tolerance in Europe.

Wurst drew criticism from eastern Europe before Saturday’s show, with some blasting her as an example of Western decadence.

However, Austria won points even from Russia. Wurst told a news conference after landing in Vienna that shows “you can’t reduce a country to its tolerance or intolerance.”

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President Heinz Fischer congratulated Wurst, the alter ego of 25-year-old Thomas Neuwirth — telling the Austria Press Agency it was “not just a victory for Austria, but above all for diversity and tolerance in Europe.”

Other political leaders joined in the congratulations Sunday though the right-wing Freedom Party, the biggest opposition force, didn’t.

Wurst won the 59th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest in Copenhagen with a James Bond-inspired power ballad, “Rise Like a Phoenix.”

It is Austria’s second victory in the competition, which has kicked off the international careers of acts like ABBA and Celine Dion.

The winner was picked by juries and television viewers across Europe.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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