Kylie on The Voice UK

Read the interview from our archives

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We love Kylie so much (who doesn’t?), she’s been on our cover seven times. So we’re thrilled that she’s joining the judging panel of BBC One’s The Voice UK tomorrow.

Along with fellow mentors Will.i.am, Sir Tom Jones and other newcomer, Kaiser Chiefs singer Ricky Wilson, Kylie will choose her team based solely on their vocal talent before coaching them to win the competition.

We can’t wait to see her Spinning Around in her specially modified chair (it’s had a step added to help the 5ft star), so we decided to share her most recent ELLE cover interview, from our January 2013 issue.

See Kylie’s style file

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Watch her behind-the-cover video

Interview by Louise Gannon

‘I’m doing all this work but where am I going? I’m speeding up and I’m going faster and everything’s great but I just want to know who I am. You know, not see a mirror for a year. Not present myself, not even care about appearance or perception because that’s been on my shoulders for so many years. If this was to end I don’t know what else I’d have. And I don’t know what I’d feel like without that.’ — Kylie Minogue, her first-ever interview for ELLE, October 2001

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There aren’t many women who can say they’ve been on the cover of British ELLE seven times. Kylie can. But then there aren’t many women who can say they’ve sold 68 million records worldwide, have Brits, Ivor Novello awards and a Grammy, or are celebrating 25 sparkling years in showbiz. But Kylie can. Of course ELLE loves her; everybody does.

She’s so good at making it look effortless, a quarter of a century at the top of her game can seem like coincidence, or down to good luck. Her fears about the end of her career, as she spoke about to ELLE nearly 12 years ago, were never founded. Because the truth is Kylie always knew where she was going.

‘I didn’t fall into this career by accident,’ she says, as we sit across from each other in a London hotel suite. ‘This was what I always wanted.’

But that’s to move too fast. When I first encounter Kylie 20 minutes earlier, she is standing in her hotel room holding a newborn baby. She is wearing a black lace Yves Saint Laurent peplum dress, sky-scraper heels and her huge D&G hoop earrings flutter as she rocks the tiny bundle.

It is an image any paparazzi would kill for and a scene many a female star would not want witnessed by a journalist. After all, miles of print has been written about whether Kylie will have a baby and here she is cooing over a baby girl (which, it turns out, belongs to her friend). ‘Isn’t she gorgeous,’ she breathes.

In a snapshot this says everything you need to know about Kylie. For someone who has lived her whole adulthood in the public eye and whose private life has been endlessly scrutinised, Kylie, 25 years on, remains remarkably unjaded and true to herself.

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Despite years of unwanted focus on her womb, it’s not an issue studded with thorns and ‘don’t ask questions’ warnings. She shrugs, ‘I do think about it. I’m still hopeful to have a family. But being an older woman I’m realistic, you have to think about it, you can’t say you will or you won’t because ultimately it isn’t up to you.’

‘It’s all an image, not reality… When I get home the stilettos come off, the slippers come on and I become a complete nana.’ — ELLE, november 2002

Kylie is somehow, unbelievably, 44 years old. Does she find it incredible herself? ‘Yes and no. Sometimes, I forget and think, “I must get those hot pants out of retirement…” and then some mornings I look in the mirror and I see 94 not 44. That is the reality before the make-up. And midriff tops are definitely out for good.’

Over the years Kylie and I have met many times. The first was in 1989. Kylie, then 21, was everything a girl-next-door celebrity should be: cute, perky, eager to please (I remember her stopping mid-sentence for a remarkably long time as one hapless hack changed the batteries of his tape recorder) and effortlessly upbeat.

She laughs and shakes her head, ‘The truth was I didn’t have a clue what was going on. It was actually a pretty scary time. No one can tell you what’s going to happen, you don’t have a mentor and all you do is work and travel, work and travel. Even just how to stand on a stage to sing was something you have to work out as you go along.

‘I can’t say it wasn’t exciting but I don’t miss all the angst I had back then. I had hits but I had a lot of critics. A lot of it was really vicious and I was just a kid and I did get completely trampled by it.

‘I had a kind of breakdown where I just wanted to go away and hide. My family knew what I was going through and the thing was that I agreed with a lot of the criticism about me, I just didn’t know quite how to deal with it.

‘In the end I dealt with it by carrying on, getting through the next day, the next project, hoping things got clearer, hoping that I’d get better and better.

‘I think that’s what you do in life. In a lot of ways I’m still doing it, get through one day, one project and on to the next – then you look up and 25 years have gone past and I sit there and think, “But I’m just supposed to be a one-hit wonder.”’

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‘I think I’ve hit my stride, finally after 20 years. Some things have just clicked. It’s ridiculous that it’s taken that long.’ — ELLE, june 2010

Kylie smiles. There is steel in her smile. No-one gets to survive a quarter of a century in the ruthless business of entertainment without steel. At five foot nothing with size-three feet, Kylie Minogue is tougher than she looks.

The eldest child of an accountant, Ronald, and former dancer, Carol, she grew up putting on plays with her younger sister, Dannii, dancing at local schools and auditioning for roles in soap operas.

‘My parents didn’t push us but they supported us. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. When I left school I signed on the dole so I could focus on getting parts, I was prepared for the long haul and then almost straight away I got a part in Neighbours.’

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Charlene Mitchell became a sensation and the rest is history. But due to a glitch in the public consciousness, for a long time Kylie remained trapped like Peter Pan in her 1980s’ incarnation of child woman. Critics reviled her and that inner steel was more important than ever, until finally in 2001, she came back from the wilderness with her biggest-ever hit, Can’t Get You Out of My Head.

Throughout all of it, she’s never lost either her poise or her sense of humour. It is part of the reason she has survived for so long. She refers to herself as a ‘show pony’ and as any trainer will tell you, those ponies are the toughest and most driven of the lot.

She nods, ‘It wasn’t by accident I was cast as Charlene. There’s a bit of her still lurking inside me. You can’t be sweet and nice all the time – that would be insane – I can be hard when I need to be.’

‘My greatest fear is loneliness, although I don’t think I will end up alone. A husband? Kids? It just hasn’t been my time yet.’ — ELLE, may 2004

There is so much about Kylie we don’t really see. Over the decade she has been an ELLE cover girl, she has loved and lost many a dark-haired handsome man, she has gone through breast cancer and recovery; she has stood by her sister Dannii after her public disagreement with Simon Cowell (he talked about their secret affair in his recent biography) and the breakdown of her relationship with the British model, Kris Smith.

Throughout all of this she has smiled. ‘You have to. It’s important to keep smiling. If in doubt, smile.’ In a way it has been her best form of defence. She nods, ‘I think it’s true that a lot of people have this very two dimensional perception of me.

‘In the craziest of ways I am completely aware that when I was diagnosed with [breast] cancer it suddenly made me human. People saw me differently and I became touchable.

‘It was a really awful time for me, but it changed me hugely. I got unbelievable help from all sorts of people. What you learn you pass on to the next person. Women come up to me in the street and just start talking to me about what they are going through. I stand there and I just hug them because we both know what they are feeling. I feel close to them and I think they do to me. It’s not about anything else but what we’ve all been through.’

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Behind that glittering, shiny showbiz smile, Kylie is a woman you want to talk to, listen to. She’s cultured, she’s sophisticated, she speaks decent French and Spanish (thanks to her ex-love Olivier Martinez and her boyfriend of the past four years, Andrés Velencoso), she knows good clothes (Dolce & Gabbana remain her friends and favourite designers), she knows good places to eat (‘It’s one of the things Andrés and I like to do, eat really good food’). She also promises that, ‘If you sat in a bar with me you’d see another side. I’m a proper Aussie, I can swear like a trucker.’

She is also thoughtful. In getting what she wished for she has also had to make huge sacrifices.

‘I love, love work… But I have neglected a degree of my personal life and I berate myself for that.’ — ELLE, november 2002

A decade on, I ask if she thinks her relationships with men have suffered because of her career. She shakes her head slowly, ‘I honestly don’t think so because everyone knew what they were getting into. It wasn’t like this just happened during a relationship.

‘I am a serial monogamist. I’ve dated a lot of guys – some very good-looking, some not so, but I don’t have any regrets. I think there are relationships I should have ended earlier, but you live and learn and I think I have been very lucky with the men I have known.’

She has never married, but insists, ‘I think I’m actually very unconventional. I’ve never been that person who was all about getting married. I love being in relationships but I love my freedom.’

It is clear she is happy with Andrés. You can tell it more from her casual comments. ‘I came home from a show, I was exhausted, I had flu, I just flopped down on the settee and it was like: “Oh hello boyfriend,” and I fell asleep.’

The fact they both lead busy lives suits her but I ask whether there is a danger that she still puts work before her man. She smiles, ‘I know that can be easy but Andrés and I are both fully aware of the reality of going away for too long, submerging yourself in what you are doing and then forgetting you are in a relationship.’

‘For all time women have wanted to look their best. It’s just that what we have available to us today is… what it is today.’ — ELLE, may 2009

As we talk, we move onto the subject of surgery. Kylie looks amazing but admits to creeping insecurities.

‘I’m not going to lie about this. There are lots of times I look in the mirror and I see that gravity has taken hold. Or I suddenly see my face on a phone or on Skype and it’s like a Spielberg special effect and you just scream, “Who is that?” I am not against surgery, I haven’t gone down that route yet and I don’t know whether I will but I’m not against it. The only time it isn’t amazing is when it’s not well done or someone takes it too far.

‘But I look at someone like Jane Fonda. I’m a superfan of hers. She doesn’t apologise [about her surgery] and she shouldn’t have to.

‘We put make-up on every day, we tint, pluck, wax, we do anything to make ourselves look as good as we can and I think it’s pointless being hypocritical about something that if it’s done well can be really good.’

‘I started out as the girl next door and people can still see that. One of my favourite sights on the last tour was all these gorgeous twentysomething girls in the audience, who were all eight or nine when I started.’ — ELLE, october 2001

Kylie’s new album, The Abbey Road Sessions, is the ultimate way to mark her 25 years. Embracing every era, she has included all her greatest hits, but performed in a way you just don’t expect. A particular highlight is a slowed down version of Better the Devil You Know and Never Too Late. ‘This is something I’ve wanted to do for years and I’m glad I have finally got there,’ she says.

The question of regrets is met with a thoughtful purr. ‘Definitely some films I shouldn’t have done and a few performances that I wouldn’t like to see again but apart from that life is a learning curve and if it wasn’t hard it wouldn’t be worth it.’

About 20 years ago she told me she couldn’t ever imagine performing when she was 40. She laughs, ‘But you know what, I just saw Barbra Streisand [she is 70] do a show and it was amazing. You honestly can’t plan, you don’t know what’s around the corner, you just have to do what feels right at the time.’

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