The iconic Kylie
Australia’s pop princess talks about acting, longevity and risky business with Fiona MacDonald.
Few of us can say we know Kylie Minogue, but just about all of us can say we grew up with her. We danced to “The Locomotion” at school discos, sang along to “Better the Devil You Know” during long car rides and, at some point, probably ended a night of bumping into sweaty strangers at a club while downing a pide to the sounds of “Can’t Get You Out of My Head”.
She’s an icon, one of the handful of singers recognised around the world by her first name alone. Ky. Lie. So pert! So zippy! Just like the woman herself. And yet despite becoming an international music superstar, style icon and honorary Brit, those two syllables still seem as Australian as the smell of eucalyptus or a barbeque on a hot day.
So waiting nervously to interview her over the phone two decades on was, to say the least, rather intimidating.
But as soon as she greets me I’m instantly put at ease. Betraying no weariness from her round of back-to-back promotional interviews, she sounds and behaves as if I’m the only person she’s wanted to speak to today. The feeling is entirely mutual.
Minogue, now 44, recently wrapped up a huge year celebrating 25 years in the business – K25, as she and her team dubbed it. It’s an impressive feat for any artist, especially in an industry that’s notorious for chewing up and spitting out (or simply never noticing) the girl-next-door soap actresses who’ve tried to cut their teeth in other mediums.
To mark the occasion, she released a stunning coffee table book, Kylie/Fashion (Thames and Hudson) with her long-time stylist William Baker, a chronicle of her career as told through her many iconic style moments. Late last year, she treated fans to The Abbey Road Sessions, an album that took her most-loved tracks and rearranged them with orchestral backing. Finally, to top it all off, she welcomed in the new year in Australia, serving as creative ambassador for the Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks ceremony and celebrating with the crowds on the harbor.
You would be forgiven for thinking her career (and derriere) are the results of meticulous planning. But Minogue admits that, while guilty of working very hard, a lot of her greatest opportunities throughout the years have come to her.
“It’s the $64,000 question, I’m still not sure myself,” she laughs. “I think you need the right songs, you need to be driven and take risks… you know, you can list the things that make it work but I also firmly believe that you need a bit of luck on your side – a bit of serendipity to be in the right place at the right time.”
For Minogue, that was the Neighbours audition she attended when she was 17, after leaving school to pursue acting full time. More recently, there was the chance encounter she had whilst getting her hair done in Paris. Though she’s made a smattering of film appearances over the years, at the time, she says, “I wasn’t actively pursuing acting.” But she met French director Claire Denis “while we both had a head full of foils. Denis, a good friend of fellow director Leos Carax, would go on to suggest Minogue for a key role in his most recent film, the hard-to-describe (and fantastically off-kilter) drama Holy Motors, which opened at the Cannes Film Festival to broad critical acclaim and also stars Eva Mendes and Denis Lavant.
The role of Eva Grace/Jean, a mysterious and haunting chanteuse who sings a gorgeous ballad near the film’s end, marks Minogue’s first serious role in decades. And it’s a compelling turn. “Holy Motors was a gift from heaven,” she gushes, noting that “Carax knew really nothing about me except for my duet with Nick Cave.”
The anonymity was a relief for Minogue, who is the first to admit that her film resume is littered with some “turkey” choices. “He must’ve seen what he believed he could extract from me, and trusted his gut instinct. It was an intense experience and I worked myself to the bone because I didn’t want to let him down. But God!” she lets out that famously breathy sound, “I loved every second of it.”
Last year, she also made a brief (and almost unrecognisable) appearance in risqué indie film Jack and Diane. “It has re-lit that fire for me,” says Minogue. “I would like to do more acting.” Fittingly, a few weeks after we spoke it was announced she would star in Walking on Sunshine, a musical set in Spain that will feature ‘80s hits and plenty of dancing – it sounds like a delightfully Latino, disco-fied version of Mamma Mia!
Really, for all her mainstream success, Minogue has never shied away from making some brave but questionable artistic decisions, such as leaving her original record label Stock, Aitken and Waterman in 1992 to take more control of her song writing or releasing 1997’s rock-inspired album “Impossible Princess” with the help of indie music legends such as The Manic Street Preachers.
“It’s funny, whenever I go down the independent path some people are kind of like: ‘Oh why?! You’re Kylie!’ But I’ve always been attracted to the more independent side of art and creativity.”
And it’s something her loyal and notoriously passionate fans have embraced. “I don’t take that for granted,” she insists. “Maybe some artists want to be a bit more chameleon-like but their audience want them to be a particular thing. My fans understand that I to do it, not just that I want to do it.”
See the full cover story in February's madison on sale January 16th.