Glitz, glamour, glitter... there’s always been something fabulous about the spectacle of Eurovision. In some circles it’s referred to as “the gayest event in the world”, which doesn’t just refer to the viewing parties and celebratory gatherings held by fans each year. Here are the seven most amazing LGBTQI acts to grace the Eurovision stage.
Iceland’s Paul Oscar was the first openly gay singer
We can speculate about the sexuality of performers who came before Oscar's eye-popping 1997 act, which came complete with American Psycho-referencing dance moves, but he was the first to appear at Eurovision as an openly gay man, having come out at the age of 16. Over the past two decades, he has written some of Iceland’s other entries, campaigned for LGBTQI rights in his homeland and appeared as a reality TV judge on the local equivalent of Australian Idol.
Dana International defied the fundamentalists to represent Israel
Five years after undergoing gender reassignment surgery, Dana International lived up to her stage name by bringing "Diva" to the world. There was stern opposition from the more orthodox members of her homeland, but she defied their prejudices to take out the title and become a European star. In 2011, Dana made a return to the Eurovision stage, but sadly "Ding Dong" didn’t make it past the semifinals.
Austria’s Conchita Wurst brought trans issues to the world stage (again)
"Rise Like a Phoenix" was the name of her Eurovision-winning tune, and the unmistakable combination of that hair, that dress and that beard conjured up the spectacle of a glorious bird emerging from the ashes. In addition, she completely changed the meaning of “bearded lady” from circus freak to international glamour. Since 2014, Wurst has spoken at the European Parliament and in front of the United Nations on behalf of the LGBTQI community.
Marija Serifovic suited up for a newly independent Serbia
Back in 2007, Serifovic performed Serbia’s independent debut, "Molitva", in a loosely worn suit and cropped haircut. But it wasn’t until 2013 that she officially came out, as part of a TV documentary series called Confession. Her speech is worth repeating: “I am a lesbian! I have been with a girl and it is a wonderful feeling. I know you all came here for this question. I can tell you that it is great to have a relationship with someone whose beard does not poke you.” Since then, she has been more active in local politics, fighting for LGBTQI rights in Serbia.
Krista Siegfrids advocated for marriage equality in Finland
Poppy, peppy and ridiculously catchy, Siegfrids' "Marry Me" was a definite highlight of the 2013 Contest – especially since it included a kiss with one of her female back-up dancers. This caused more tension than you might suspect, with Turkey refusing to show the semifinal at all and China censoring the kiss during their Eurovision airing. But does this one public kiss make her a lesbian? Worry no more, she addressed this on Twitter.
Sestre caused massive upheaval in Slovenia
Twelve years before Wurst took out the title, Sestre mounted the stage in glittery flight attendant costumes that looked better than anything Qantas has rolled out. Before the 2002 competition took place, a significant number of Slovenians who weren’t happy about being represented by a drag trio made their displeasure known with a series of demonstrations in Ljubljana, which led to debate in the Slovenian Parliament and European Union. Despite the furore, Sestre remained the Slovenian reps and sang their way to 13th place.
Denmark’s DQ said it all with "Drama Queen"
“I’m your drama queen tonight/Everything’s gonna be alright/When I get on the stage tonight...” When DQ belted out these lyrics in 2007, he did so as the first solo drag act in the contest. Copping less public condemnation from his homeland than Sestre did, DQ still didn’t win the Danish national semifinal, getting through to the final as a wildcard before scoring the international berth. Still a great tune no matter what the haters say. And that outfit!
The Eurovision Song Contest will be broadcast over SBS’s Eurovision weekend - Friday 12 May, Saturday 13 May, and Grand Final Sunday 14 May at 7.30pm on SBS with LIVE early morning broadcasts begin Wednesday 10 May at 5am on SBS.