The return of Kylie

As the showgirl who recovered from breast cancer returns to the British stage tomorrow, writers, performers and campaigners applaud the most triumphant of comebacks
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The Independent Culture


Kylie came into the practice room wearing combats, kicked her shoes off, and really joined in. She was charming, lovely, and utterly gorgeous. She is a real working artist just like anyone else, with no reputation as a tantrum thrower, only her medium is songs that are three minutes long.

Like most art forms, contemporary dance has its audience, and Kylie, who is amazingly popular, was able to cross that. Stravinsky and Kylie can be a similar experience: it is the point of view from which you look. Young teenagers would be screaming at the performance, which we loved, because the piece was about the energy of the youth.

Whether you like it or hate it, the whole thing oozes charm. I went to see her at Earl's Court and the video screen of the audience showed a man in the front row in tears. "Don't cry, it's only me," she said. I suppose that in the pop world, which seems to be full of bad boys, she comes across as a good girl.

We take ourselves seriously, but why should we not have a cultural icon who is also a pop princess? I certainly hope to work with her again.


I get the Kylie-thing second-hand, through friends who understood her instinctively. Now that she has fabulous tours and costumes, performs the "La La La" song that can get any party started and is a great dancer (though I have never seen her on stage), it has become obvious.

But there is also something slightly elusive about how she got there. She was a poppet, but she was singing other people's songs and acting so she wasn't fully independent.

Then she became a devotional object and simultaneously a gay icon, and at that time there was something missing in me because, although I didn't think she was rubbish, I didn't quite get it.

She is part of everyone's 1980s history - as one half of Scott and Charlene - and a lot of grownups watched Neighbours at the time: it showed us how nice it was to live in suburbia, in Australia.

Then came the fabulous performances, and last year, her illness. People could really identify with her through her breast cancer. And now she is among us and we all care about her. And I think that's a good thing.


When Kylie announced that she had breast cancer, the number of younger women who contacted our helpline and website with breast health concerns rose dramatically overnight. She has played an important role in raising awareness of breast cancer, of the fact that it can happen to anyone and the need for women of all ages to be breast aware.

After her treatment, Kylie spoke about how difficult this period of her life had been, how her diagnosis had been a bolt from the blue and how hard it was for her family and those close to her. This resonated with thousands of people living with breast cancer and their loved ones.

Many found Kylie's frankness comforting and were reassured that they weren't alone in feeling confused and scared at times.

Like those we support, Kylie demonstrated just how important other people are in helping to deal with the experience. She has gone on to show that there can be life after breast cancer.

Life may not be the same but as many men and women tell us, emerging from the disease can give a renewed eagerness to live life to the full and a stronger sense of what is important to you. Kylie is a very visible symbol of this.


I think she certainly is a modern, popular, cultural icon. To a certain extent she is a pop entertainment phenomenon that transgresses a generation and sexuality. She's a doyen to the gay culture and she's someone that young girls look up to.

She's wholesome, she's fresh, she pushes sexual boundaries to a certain level and never crosses them. She's never vulgar and has a high sense of kitsch and style and, in a way, she has pushed the envelope to a new area where people are trying to catch up with her.

She has reinvented herself in every generation. She started off as a soap star and has grown from there. She works her publicity extremely well in the sense that she's never in your face and knows where the shadows are to retire to. She plays the media very well, she feels in control of it and her people are in control of it.

She chooses her moments with a huge amount of style. She is not someone who has used her private life. She chooses her marketplace to sell her image very well. There is a huge amount of sympathy for anyone who has been struck down with cancer.

It's an evil disease and she beat it. I think she's a great example to lots of people who have been in that situation. Someone in the public life is as vulnerable as anybody I suppose and I think there is a huge amount of sympathy. I also think there is a huge amount of sympathy because she doesn't seem to be particularly lucky in love either.

Her management handle her publicity very tastefully. They don't over-egg it and have called for privacy through the difficult time and they have achieved it.


I do think she's a cultural icon. When you compare her to Madonna she really strikes a harder note. She started out as a slightly frumpy girl next door on Neighbours and was unfortunate to launch her musical career in the late 1980s in a culture of leggings, headbands and frizzy hair and it was all a bit gawky.

But since her reinvention she hasn't looked back. She's never looked better, she's never looked sexier. I can't really see her stopping really. Her tour is going to be a huge biblical event. She's probably going to establish herself as probably the biggest female pop star in the world.

Madonna seems to be on a decline and is more interested in founding kabbalah schools and in Aids babies. Kylie's comeback is there for the taking. In terms of her sexiness, she's got a cheekiness about her and makes a lot of eye contact with the camera and in the videos. She's got a bit of a wink and nudge about her and you can tell she's quite a sexual person. She's got a genuine X-Factor about her.

Our readers are big fans and I'm sure everyone would love to wake up to Kylie Minogue. "Can't Get You Out of My Head" remains to this day one of the defining pop moments of the new millennium. It's as iconic as she is. She's a unique character and has managed to maintain this engima over the years.

We know we like her, we know she's sexy, we know she's cheeky, we know she's a great thing and we know she's got a sexy bum, but we're still intrigued. No one has ever had that interview with Kylie and got to know about her truly. You don't often have that enigma in pop music because there often isn't any personality behind the plastic sheen. People genuinely are as vacuous as they often seem. They're manipulated puppets and that's the last thing you could say about Kylie. She's all flesh and blood.


In mixed company, Kylie is completely overlookable, unlike Madonna, who talks better than she walks. I met her with Nick Cave, and thought, "Oh my God". She was the least engaging person in the room, just a toothy smile that's part of her theatrical and telegenic look.

In the media she works in, she appears huge, but you wouldn't notice that bottom in real life. And it is very easy to have a pert bottom when it is 18 inches from the ground. Kylie has worked hard to get that behind, but it is a tiny arse on a tiny woman. She is not going to make big girls happy; she comes up to my waist.

I don't know why she is a cultural icon. The gay community are so energetic in promoting things they like, but let's make it clear: we are not all standing around karaoke machines dressed as Kylie.

Kylie has apparently uttered a book over the years, and I was asked to write a chapter about what Kylie means to me. Eventually, I had to apologise and admit to the publisher that she means nothing to me.

I just hope she survives, she has had a really bad experience and is still not a free woman.


She just does what she does perfectly: she is a throwaway fluffy pop goddess who makes you forget all the problems in the world. Her tunes come on and you prance around with all the other gays and women, and there is no pretence of anything else.

We have grown up with her in Britain. I was the generation that was watching Neighbours when it was a big deal. We watched her transformation from tomboy to sexy. It is not simply a gay thing, and ironically, there are quite a few gay men who react against her because they are worried about having stereotypically gay taste. But my mum loves her, women in the street love her, men in the street love her. Even Madonna asked how she was when I interviewed her last year.

Kylie made her first public appearance at G-A-Y after her illness, performing "Jump to the Beat" with her sister as she was performing her greatest hits, and the atmosphere was hysterical. I'm sure Dannii knows she will always be upstaged by her sister now.

Similarly, when Kylie and Victoria Beckham had singles out at the same time, Victoria played G-A-Y alone. The audience started chanting, "Kylie,Kylie". You just cannot fight with her.


I have edited three magazines, in my time, Smash Hits, Sky and Heat. And if Kylie's on the cover sales go up. We put her on the cover the week after September 11 and that was our highest-selling cover of her. It was interesting that she had the number one selling album and single a couple of weeks later.

I think people wanted that kind of unashamed pop music to try to cheer themselves up and take their minds of what had happened. I think she embodies what pop music has been about for us, which is to be fun, glamorous, larger than life and also work well on stage.

Today, in an era when pop music is poor, Kylie is a pop star to cherish. She puts so much effort into what she does and takes her role as pop star very seriously. She makes sure that when she leaves the house she looks like someone who takes her job seriously.

You forget how much a pop star can mean to people. When you see those who are meeting her for the first time or seeing her in concert, it's almost a life changing experience for some of them. She inspires such loyalty and devotion partly because her live shows are now so brilliant. A Kylie live show is now the cool thing to be seen at.

I also think during her cancer battle, what she went through, we went through with her. We live in an age when people can relate to things through celebrities, so if we like someone, we will empathise with them.

People were very interested in how she dealt with what was happening. What we have seen since then is that she has surpassed the almost messiah-like status she already had.


I am from Wales and Kylie's mother is Welsh and the first time we met she joked that we must be related in some way. I was persuaded by an agent to do a Kylie tribute. I was trained as a singer so performing was not something new to me but I didn't think it would be very popular. I also have a degree in Psychology so I thought that if this didn't work out then I could always go into that.

Eventually, I decided to give it a go and within a month I was working with Kylie herself and contracted to companies such as Ford to help promote products that she was the "face" of. I have been doing it full-time for more than five years.

Some people are amazed by the likeness. On the way to gigs, I have had people in service stations drop trays when they catch sight of me. There was a huge fuss once when I was doing a job for Channel 4 and they filmed a fake kidnap attempt.

I didn't realise we were filming right outside Kylie's flat and the police arrived, sirens screaming. You'd think that people in London would be used to be seeing celebrities but they often stop in the street and point even when I'm just dressed as myself. I get embarrassed sometimes, especially when I'm in Tesco.

When I first met Kylie she was so excited. It was really fantastic. I have found it easy to do my job because I don't have to be that far from myself to be honest. She is so natural and so un-diva like. It's easy to be her.


The key thing with Kylie Minogue is her ability to continually reinvent herself, which is why I would never write her off as a pop musician. Considering how moribund pop music is at the moment I think people will be screaming out for her to come back to do something interesting.

She was cool last time she came back, whether she will be again all depends on the direction she takes. She seems to appeal to lots of difference audiences. People who consider themselves cool seem to be into her as much as out-and-out pop fans.

I think her broad appeal is down to the fact that she's one of the few people in pop music at present who has anything that approaches a personality and doesn't look like she has been manufactured to hell by the industry around her.

Over her career, she has always come across as slightly more approachable, slightly rough around the edges and less manufactured. You get a sense of who she is. She comes across as being slightly knowing when she does the outrageous dance routines.

Although she's taking it very seriously on a musical level and working with interesting producers, on the performance side she does seem to have a bit of fun. She puts a bit of joy back into pop music which a lot of the acts around don't seem to have.

If you take her career as a whole in the context of the British Isles she is a cultural icon. You can almost chart ages of popular culture by what Kylie was doing. I don't think she's one of the greats up there with Aretha Franklin. I don't think her voice or her material is strong enough. She knows her limitations and pushes all the way to make the most of what she's got.