A bearded drag queen chosen to represent Austria at this year's (14) Eurovision Song Contest is facing an online backlash from anti-gay protesters in Russia, Armenia and Belarus.

Conchita Wurst, real name Tom Neuwirth, will perform the power ballad Rise Like a Phoenix at the annual ceremony in Copenhagen, Denmark next month (May14) and her entry has already become a top 10 favourite to win.

However, her participation has come under attack from conservative viewers in parts of Eastern Europe and they have launched Internet petitions calling for Wurst to be banned from the event or edited out of Tv broadcasts in their countries.

Armenia's contender, Aram Mp3, has already joked about Wurst's lifestyle, claiming it is "not natural" and insisting she should decide between acting like a woman or a man, but the Austrian singer, 25, is refusing to let the criticism faze her.

She tells Reuters, "The beard is a statement to say that you can achieve anything, no matter who you are or how you look."

Wurst won't be the first gay star to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest - transgender Israeli singer Dana International entered and won in 1998 with her song Diva.