Last year Conchita Wurst was an incredible role model, showing Eurovision fans that regardless of who you are, you can be happy, successful, and loved. As Conchita has said many times, she may have a beard but she “deserves a fabulous life.” At Eurovision 2015 we met several more role models who gave us a dose of inspiration. Here are four of my favourite.
1. Monika (Poland)
In the 60 years of the Eurovision Song Contest there had never been a physically disabled contestant until Monika, who emerged from a car crash as a paraplegic. At Eurovision Monika placed 15th in the televote (let’s ignore the juries). Equally important, she presented a song of joy and love with a message that transcended her handicap. She is an incredible example to everyone that a physical handicap is not a limit to succeeding at Eurovision or in life.
2. Genealogy (Armenia)
Their song carried an amazing message about the need to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. Despite the rules that say no songs may be of a political nature (they appear to have changed the name of their song from “Don’t Deny” to “Face the Shadow” to skirt that issue), this was a brilliant way to recognize history. They embraced the Armenian diaspora by recruiting singers from around the world, which was really beautiful. The video carried you from the loss that resulted from the genocide through to the present-day, which saw the members of Genealogy come together. It was a deeply moving message for all of us: remembering is the first step in “never again.”
3. Voltaj (Romania)
The pop-rock band chose to highlight the unfortunate side effects of economic migration: Parents leaving to go work abroad in order to secure a better future for their kids, and having to leave the kids behind in the process. The message of their song “De la capat (All Over Again)” is not just about leaving the children behind and about reuniting families. “De la capat” is also a project aimed at improving the lives of migrants’ children. It was born long before the band decided to compete at Eurovision.
4. Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät (Finland)
After winning their national final, PKN made an impact in Austria, not just as the first act with learning disabilities to perform at Eurovision, but also the first punk band. Their abrasive song wasn’t for everyone, but when they took to the stage and lead singer Kari expressed his frustrations at life as an adult with Down Syndrome and autism, it had a strong impact. The raw punk of “Aina mun pitää” might not have impressed the jury, but it did well with viewers, placing 10th in the televoting of semifinal one. PKN proved themselves to be four men who weren’t even close to letting their learning disabilities get in the way of delivering one of the most memorable performances of 2015.