Belfast Telegraph

Eurovision winner appeals for tolerance of LGBT community

Duncan Laurence wins the 64th Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv
Duncan Laurence wins the 64th Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv
The UK’s Michael Rice performs
Icelandic band Hatari hold up Palestinian banners during the show
Madonna performs

By Alex Green

The Netherlands' Duncan Laurence has made an impassioned plea for tolerance following his win at the Eurovision Song Contest.

The singer-songwriter and former contestant on The Voice Of Holland sent a message in support of the LGBT community, saying people should be seen for "who they are" irrespective of their sexuality.

Laurence, who is bisexual, clutched his trophy as he spoke to reporters following his win in Tel Aviv, Israel.

The 25-year-old won over the voting public and the international juries, securing 492 points with his piano ballad Arcade.

He said: "I think the most important thing is that you stick to who you are and see yourself as I see myself, as I see (fellow contestants) Sergey, as I see Chris, as I see you, just a human being.

"As a person who has talents, who, with this trophy, will in however many years stick to what they love - even if they have a different sexuality.

"Stick to what you love and make the best of it, and love people for who they are. That's the most important message. Dream big."

Asked how his victory felt, he replied: "First of all I get to meet (Israeli former Eurovision winner) Netta, that was the best present, and then I got this trophy from her.

"No words, this can't be described in words - and I can't write a song about this. I can't tell this in words. I am so happy right now. It came through, it really came through."

Meanwhile, the UK came last for the first time since 2010.

Michael Rice scored at total of just 16 points from the public vote and international jury vote. Hartlepool native Rice sang Bigger Than Us at the Expo Tel Aviv venue in Israel against a backdrop of a starry night sky and racing comets. But his performance failed to soar with the international crowd.

Despite the disappointment, Rice said he had enjoyed his Eurovision experience.

He said: "The main thing I wanted to do was come and sing my heart out and make my country proud. I'm so thankful to the fans who have supported me and the song, as well as my whole team who have supported me throughout this whole amazing journey.

"I've been able to travel and meet amazing artists from across Europe and beyond. I can't wait to see what's next for me and get back into the studio and bring you some new music soon. And of course congratulations to Duncan - he was amazing!"

The public votes made up 50% of the vote, with the other half determined by the professional jury in each country.

Gold glitter rained down as Laurence's name was called out before he was handed the trophy by last year's winner, Israeli singer Netta Barzilai.

Rice, who rose to fame after winning the singing show All Together Now last year, had hoped to improve the UK's reputation at the contest.

The UK has not won Eurovision in 22 years or finished in the top 10 in the past decade.

Both Coral and Ladbrokes gave Rice only a 150/1 chance of taking the title. He performed 16th, after Norway and before Iceland - whose techno-punk outfit Hatari were a favourite.

The finale was watched by a peak of 8.1 million viewers, according to the BBC.

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