Kylie Minogue


Kylie Minogue walks into the room, bright as a button as always, with a smile a mile wide, and I am immediately reminded of the perennial problem with Minogue – and with interviewing her.

She will be 32 in a few days, but the idea of trying to treat Kylie as an adult – as an experienced and actually rather grown-up thirty-something woman, rather than a winsome, effervescent child – seems almost impossible.

“The countdown has begun,” she announces, alluding not, as she should be, to the release of her comeback single, but to her birthday party.

“I’m not one of those women who pretend not to want people to be interested in the fact that it’s my birthday, no,” she grins. “Not at all. In fact, I can get downright excited. Eventually, a girlfriend will point out, ‘you know what you’ll be like if you don’t have something organised’.”

Minogue once admitted that she had enjoyed the most protracted adolescence since Brooke Shields.

She is tiny (5ft 1”. “I haven’t had a growth spurt, no”), with the body and bone structure of a 12-year-old.

When I ask her what she’s wearing she solves the problem of checking the label in her top simply by taking it off, which leaves her sitting there in just a Gucci slip.

Although as skinny as a rake, she doesn’t really work at it.
“I do the occasional spell of yoga, the occasional stint of snowboarding,” she says. “That’s that. I’m just small and nimble. I just run around, burn it all off. I love my food, actually. My problem is that when I’m working (a) there’s no time to eat, (b) I forget, and (c) it’s incredibly difficult to organise good food in the house. It just never happens. You’d think it would be easy to organise.”

So, here she is, as scantily clad and irresistible; a walking, talking, time warp.

Immediately the old image comes flooding back, the sunny, petite pocket tyro who stormed her way into the pop charts with ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ when Neighbours was attracting 20 million viewers, so endearingly taking her place at the heart of British culture that half the children in the country from that era are named after her.

Minogue’s appearance raises the question not when will she grow up, but how she will ?

The notion of tragedy – of loneliness or bereavement, personal fears or heartbreak – doesn’t seem to be a realistic proposition where Minogue is concerned. It just doesn’t suit her.

Through her energy, verve and sheer determination, she has, like a mini-Madonna, reinvented herself cleverly enough to prolong for some 13 years what was originally meant to be the most fleeting and fluffy pop life.

She has gone from cute to kinky, plastic pap to perfect pop, from duets with Jason Donovan to with Nick Cave. She has been Bubblegum Kylie, Sex Kitten Kylie, Indie Queen Kylie, Art Book Kylie, and most recently Minogue Does Vogue (Fashion Kylie).

And through all her various guises, the very name Kylie has remained some sort of byword for sweet, beaming sparkle, for good-natured, eager optimism and gust, and, above all, as something that just seems to signify pop. Kylie is pop music; pop music is Minogue.

So it is not something I have bargained for when I look up and see that I have committed one of the cardinal sins of music journalism: I have made Kylie cry.

One minute we were happily talking about her birthday; the next, her mood had burst.

I was teasing her that ‘the clock was ticking’, and that it was high time that she ‘settled down’. The mere mention of the phrase ‘long-term relationship’ seemed to bring her out in a stutter.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever be married,” she smiles, or tries to.

I beg to differ, but she insists that the “two primary relationships” of her life – “with Stephane and Michael” – were both only a couple of years long.

Her relationship with fashion photographer Stephane Sednaoui ended – amicably, she says – in 1997.

And of course, ‘Michael’ was Michael Hutchence, the INXS frontman who she dated from 1989 to 1991, and who died in mysterious circumstances at the end of 1997.

The world seems to accept Hutchence was probably the love of her life.
“They’re big characters, those two, just enough charisma to melt a room,” she says gamely. “Two amazing men that just inspired me.”

Even though it is Minogue herself who first refers to him, her whole face seems to light up at the very mention of Hutchence’s name.

“I remember New Year’s Eve, in ’98,” she says. “I was actually with Stephane – not as a girlfriend, as a friend – in Whistler, in Canada. And I’m standing on the snow, just by the apartment. New Year’s Eve, and, of course, Michael’s song came on – of course, because he’s like that, and he would be present.”

Watching her, I can see her thinking about it, thinking about him. I see her eyes suddenly flare up with tears.

“It was like a movie moment. You know, you see things in the movies when people talk to themselves and you kind of guffaw, but I was just in my own zone.”

She says she said out loud, to Hutchence: “Oh, of course you turn up now.”

She sounds frustrated and bitter and elated.
“Which he does a lot, I must say – turn up – which is beautiful.”

Although the tears are trickling down her face, she doesn’t seem to mind that much. Even now she is smiling, and her eyes are bright and shining with the look of someone who is obviously in love.

The possibility of Hutchence appearing like this – of suddenly seeing him in a magazine, on a TV screen – is as close to the sensation of having your own angel as you can get – a real-life Wings of Desire.
“I believe in all that. Absolutely !” she smiles.

Despite any transient tearfulness, the idea of his presence watching over her in some way seems to inspire her, to fill her with a surprising optimism.

“On New Year’s Eve, I just went into my own mantra. I said to myself: ‘Next year will be good, next year will be good’.”

To be reminded about him doesn’t upset or depress her. “It doesn’t make me think so much of the past,” she beams. “It is the present.”

And now, I mention, Minogue is at a crossroads in her life, approaching her mid-thirties.

“That’s the stock question I’ve had for 13 years ! ‘Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time ?’”

She leaps to her feet, squealing and shaking her hands in exasperation.
“I don’t know ! I don’t have a clue. I didn’t imagine I’d still be doing this.”

She seems ridiculously upbeat about growing older (“For last year’s party, I worked my backside off”) but, then again, given her image of perpetual adolescence, perhaps she would do.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, though, she admits to the clichéd sound of various clocks quietly ticking. “Those things are clichés for a reason. I have some girlfriends who are lying about their age already, and it’s all about the rings on the fingers, settling down, the babies… And I’m not like that. Maybe, it’s just because I don’t think I’m as old as I really am.”

Her 32nd birthday will be all the more significant, because her younger sister, Dannii, who has always had to follow in Minogue’s footsteps, has just got engaged to Canadian motor-racing driver Jacques Villeneuve.

“Before that the onus was on me. She used to say: ‘Babies ? Oh, no, forget it !’ She was the wild one, very headstrong. But yeah, I think she’ll be the first cab off the rank.”

Minogue was born in Melbourne on May 28, 1968, and grew up, along with Dannii, dreaming of being Olivia Newton John in Grease. She also has a younger brother, Brendan, who is a TV cameraman.

When she was at school, she was actually known as ‘Dannii’s sister’ – thanks to Dannii’s TV success singing and dancing on a show called Junior Talent Time.

By the age of 10, though, Minogue had a role in the Australian wartime soap opera The Sullivans and was playing Jason Donovan’s sister in Skyways. By 1986, when she started her two-year stint in Neighbours, she was a star.

Several of her aunts and uncles were in show business. Her mother, Carol, had been a dancer. Her father, Ron, was an accountant.

“They never hassle any of us about that stuff, like getting married or having children. They’re not nosey. They’re not pushy. There must be something wrong with them !”

At one stage in her life, Minogue’s mother had three children under the age of four.
“I have enough trouble getting my own shopping and making the bed in the morning,” Minogue smiles. “So the respect and awe and admiration, as you get older and realise what your mother’s done for you, are incredible. She was 22 years old when she had me.”

When I trawl through the sea of old interviews, it seems that all of them feature Minogue admitting that she is “quite maternal” and declaring that she “couldn’t imagine going through life without having a child.”

“Yes, that is the way I said it,” she smiles, her heart obviously sinking slightly. “I was adamant about that. You spout stuff when you’re young, and it is true that I used to say, ‘That’s the one thing I’m sure of in my life.’ I suppose now there is a possibility that maybe I won’t ever have children. There are no alarm bells going off. I’m an absolute fatalist about these things. I don’t think about it that often. If I had areas in my life that were unfulfilled or I had too much time on my hands, I’m sure I would be trying to spear Mr Right, but…”

One interview given by Dannii combined the three things Minogue probably dreads most about an interview: her sister shooting her mouth off, the subject of whether or not Minogue was getting broody, and an allusion to her most famous single. ‘I Should Be So Clucky’, the headline screamed.

But Minogue takes such irritants in her stride and even allows herself a wry smile.
“She’s got a lot to answer for, my sister.”

Despite what must be considerable professional sibling rivalry, and attempts by the press to stir things up between them, the Minogue girls are close friends.

“She still bosses me around. I’ve got this spider’s bite on my arm I got in LA, and she’s been mothering me. Her and Jacques are meant to be getting married, yes. All I know is that they’re madly in love, she’s dripping in diamonds, and they’re getting married one day. I don’t know when. Or perhaps she just hasn’t asked me.”

Minogue seems like one of those people destined never to marry – always the bridesmaid. She says she has never thought about getting married to anyone specific. “I’ve never even come close. Nobody’s ever asked me.”

She used to say that she went into relationships always expecting things would go wrong.
“That is probably why I don’t fall out with my boyfriends.”
But she seems to have realised that such an outlook might have contributed to the relationships’ demise.

Her love life seems at best to have been a string of one year relationships, but then the men she chooses (Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Jason Donovan, Green Shield Stamps heir Tim Jefferies, Lemonheads singer Evan Dando, Hutchence) are not exactly the kind you plan on settling down with.

“What I believed for a long time is that we’re all on our paths, and if and when a relationship ends, it doesn’t make it a failure. I just think it’s already written, and that’s the time you’re meant to spend together – whether it’s two weeks or two years.”

She was once linked with Julian Lennon when she’d only ever met him once, and more recently was said to be enjoying a fling with Hollywood star Jim Carrey.

“Apparently, we were whisked away together, with me brandishing a rose and him telling me all about his failed marriage,” she says, with a certain amount of relish. “The truth is, I met him in a restaurant that I was at with friends, and we all had dinner together.”

As an enduring icon, she has had to get used, over the years, to such apocryphal stories.
“Let’s see,” she says. “I’ve been an Ecstasy addict. I’ve been married. I’ve been divorced. I’ve been pregnant – pregnant by some Lord Snot-Somebody. I’ve had various mental breakdowns, I’ve been anorexic. I’ve been anorexic a few times. I’ve lived all over the world – Paris, mostly.”

At this point, her stomach rumbles, and she grins: “Good evidence for the anorexia story! I’ve had Ecstasy overdoses. I’ve been in Sydney hospital having my stomach pumped from alcohol abuse.”

She grins again.
“I’ve been an alien.”

In the end, fed up with all the stories, Minogue sued. “This story said I’d been to a hypnotherapist and had visions. They even had quotes. ‘My sister Mary, she’s crying. I can hear her.’ The weirdest quotes. The defamatory part was where they said I’d only paid the bill the first time. The headline was ‘My Tragic Life, by Kylie Minogue’, ha-ha !”

Her relationship with Hutchence was, of course, always good for juicy rumours.

She ‘confessed’ that he introduced her to Ecstasy, and once, when they were travelling together, she had a pair of handcuffs confiscated at Heathrow.

The ‘story’ of how she and Hutchence had sex on a plane shared by the Australian prime minister at the time, Bob Hawke, has entered rock ‘n’ roll legend.
“Not in the toilet,” one friend of Hutchence insisted. “On the seat just behind him. She was so small he just put a blanket over her.”

Minogue first met the notoriously raunchy rock star in a sleazy Sydney late-night bar in 1988.

She was 21 – a fluffy, super-clean Miss Goody Two Shoes, thanks to playing Charlene opposite her then boyfriend Jason Donovan in Neighbours and a string of such dire Stock, Aitken & Waterman hit singles as ‘Do the Locomotion’ and ‘I Should Be So Lucky’.

Rumour has it that Hutchence said to her: “I don’t know what we should do first – have lunch or have sex.”

“I couldn’t make any words come out of my mouth,” she said in an interview not long afterwards. “I was too taken aback. I couldn’t understand why he would pay attention to someone like me. I was so uncool and just a little thing, and he was Michael Hutchence.”

When they met again a year later, he openly started to pursue her, and they ended up going out for two years, during which Hutchence boasted that “corrupting Kylie” had become one of his hobbies.

At that time, she tended to frame their relationship around the idea that he was “a wonderful teacher and lover”.

“He was totally charismatic and intelligent and witty and funny and filthy. He changed my world from something very narrow to being almost endless.”

Obviously, there was something meaningful and life-changing about it for her.

“The amazing thing was, he really let me be myself,” she told Hutchence biographer, Vincent Lovegrove. “He loved me unconditionally.”

They broke up in 1991 because Hutchence had been seeing model Helena Christiansen, and he famously went on to have a relationship, and a child, with Paula Yates.

In November 1997, after what appeared to have been a massive drink and drug binge, he was found hanging from a hotel door, dead either as a result of suicide or of an auto-erotic sex game that went wrong. Minogue heard about it when a girlfriend in Australia called her at 4am.

“I wouldn’t like to say what happened to him,” she says simply, shutting the subject down. “It was… just a shame. You have to face up to it. He was the first person that I’ve been close to and loved who’s passed away. He was a first for me in so many ways that I almost cried to myself: ‘Oh, great, so ? My first funeral will be yours.’”

The love and exasperation in her voice catches her off guard, but she snaps out of it back to something more businesslike.
“Anyway, let’s move away from that subject.”

Like her love life, her career has been a process of constant change and image re-evaluation.
“I’m a Gemini,” she says. “I hate making decisions.”

You could argue that such shifts are a sign of confidence but with Minogue it seems more likely that they signify a search to find some. In many ways, she has always been a blank canvas.

“I’ve come to realise that I work very well with people. Don’t send me away on my own and expect me to be OK. I like to have that stimulation.”

Last year after she was dropped by her record label deconstruction, she spent 14 months collating an art-and-photography book about her image(s), a book that seemed nothing more than a quest for an identity.

“I envy people with a sound of their own,” she has said. “You hear a Manic Street Preachers song, or a Nick Cave song, and you know who it is. I’m more flighty, going from thing to thing. I watch other people – like the Manics or Stephane – get lost in their work, and sometimes I think I’d like to be more like that.”

While the name Kylie invariably features in the titles of her albums, her best friends call her Min.

Kylie is more of a concept; an icon and a commodity.
“I see myself as two people,” she once told the Mail On Sunday. “One is Kylie Minogue Enterprises Ltd. The other is me. I know my image is my lifestyle, but it is also my life.”

Way before the Spice Girls, Minogue was a one-woman dose of girl power. Billie Piper and Britney Spears have a long way to go before they can start thinking about catching up. ‘Spinning Around’ is Minogue’s 27th UK single. The previous 26 all went into the Top 20.

Minogue is still the only chart act whose first 12 releases were all Top Tens (her singles record went: 1-2-2-2-1-1-2-4-1-2-4-6-6), and for years she was one of the youngest female singers to have reached number one.

“I couldn’t tell you how many number ones I’ve had,” she grins. This is surprising, given that she comes from an era when number ones meant something.

With her new single, she has gone back to the pop concept that made her famous – disco – working with George Michael’s collaborator, Johnny Douglas, the Pet Shop Boys, and Robbie Williams and his co-writer Guy Chambers.

The idea of going back to disco was, she says, like a sudden blinding light.
“Doh ! When you do something that comes naturally.”

Her previous project (originally called ‘Impossible Princess’ because that was what she wanted to be. “I need diva lessons”), on which she collaborated with the likes of the Manics and Nick Cave, had bombed seriously, prompting headlines that her long career was finally in crisis.

“It didn’t upset me. I wasn’t losing sleep or anything. It was just slightly disappointing. I like to do well and I get really down on myself when I haven’t done something properly. I didn’t worry that my career was kaput. I probably should have. I couldn’t believe I wouldn’t have another opportunity.”
She has sold more than 30 million records, after all.

Remember headlines in which she was vying for the number one spot with Brother Beyond and Bros, and you realise how the fact that she has endured is to her credit.

And, as one of the guests on Jo Whiley’s TV show pointed out the other week – remarkably, considering the business Minogue is in – you never meet anyone who has a single bad word to say about her.

“It’s amazing to think I’m the sole survivor of those days. Someone else could do exactly the same as I did and it might not work. There’s a naïve quality to myself,” she says carefully, “that I don’t mind. I think there’s an honesty with my audience that people can relate to. And I’m still here – partly by making a lot of mistakes.”

But what, you wonder, is going to become of her. Can Minogue’s peculiar brand of pop life sustain her for much longer ?

She has tried movies (The Delinquents in 1990) and modelling (for H&M Hennes), but neither project worked out. Now, after commendable attempts to branch out musically, she has returned to more formulaic pop.

She still lives in Chelsea and admits, squirming with embarrassment, that she is enjoying a romance.
“It’s kind of new, though, so I can’t say anything about it, except that he’s in the photographic industry… He lives here and we met through a mutual friend. Actually, I’ve still kind of got him on me,” she blushes coquettishly.

Contrary to her reputation as a perpetual party girl, Minogue maintains that she doesn’t go out that much.

“I go through spells. Sometimes I just do not want to go out. You could lure me with jewels, cakes, men, anything, and I’ll just say no.”

Recent reverses in no way seem to have dulled her appetite for work. Despite her sometimes desperate attempts to keep up with the Zeitgeist, Minogue is in many ways quite old-fashioned.

She loves being in show business, loves being an entertainer, like a mini-Minelli. It is hard to imagine she will ever stop.
“I do love it,” she says. “It’s a constant challenge.”

As for the rest of her life, besides her pop life: “I think by the time I’m about 40, I’ll have my act together. That’s my plan. I am absolutely useless at projecting my goals or anything, but I just sense that I’m just – just ! –starting to know what I’m doing in some areas. And the rest of the time I’m flailing about and having fun.”

Which, after all, is what being Kylie Minogue should be all about.