THE SUNDAY TIMES
11 NOVEMBER 2007
KYLIE MINOGUE - LIFE IS A CABARET
The cancer has gone; so has the boyfriend. But there’s no stopping the pop princess. Style meets Kylie.
Kylie Minogue is thrilled. We share a birthday, which means we are both Geminis. "So you would know, then, it's not about having two different personalities; it's about having a whole committee in your head, right? And it's about having this discussion with the committee about something really important, and assuming it took place for real? Like, the other day, I was telling Willy about my next tour and what we're going to be doing on it, and he was looking at me, like, 'What tour, when?' And suddenly I remembered I hadn't actually told anybody I was planning to go on tour again besides myself."
It is Friday afternoon, and I have just pitched up at Kylie's management offices in a converted church in west London. The airy, sky-lit space is dotted with staff, mostly women, and the odd goodie bag left over from the premiere of her recent documentary, White Diamond. Filmed by the aforementioned Willy - that's William Baker, her longtime collaborator, stylist and all-round "gay husband", as she puts it - the documentary chronicles what happened behind the scenes on her last tour. The Showgirl Homecoming Tour started at the end of 2006 and was a resurrection of 2005's Showgirl Tour, which she had to cancel halfway through when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Some critics have panned the documentary for being a kind of In Bed with Madonna lite, for not being the warts-and-all portrait that Baker, the svengali-like figure responsible for Kylie's revamp from Charlene to club queen, had promised it would be. Meanwhile, rumours abound that, after watching it, Kylie had all the really juicy parts - such as the break-up of her relationship with Olivier Martinez (more of whom later) - taken out. Actually, parts of the film are terribly affecting, such as her omnipresent mum, Carol (who never misses touring with her daughter, but makes so little fuss that "most of the crew don't actually realise she's my mother"). Then there is the scene in which Kylie comes on stage, all dressed up in a pussycat suit and whiskers, and midway through performing has to announce to an audience of 12,000 that she is simply feeling too ill from a respiratory-tract infection to carry on. What must that have been like? Didn't she immediately assume that it was a reprise of what happened two years ago? That the cancer had come back?
''Oh, absolutely," she says, carefully sipping a Starbucks cappuccino and widening those crystal-blue eyes as an assistant passes round a plate of mini chocolate brownies. "I was fresh out of treatment when we started that tour. I was terrified that, because of all the drugs they made me take, I wouldn't fit into any of the costumes, and I was really doubting whether I had made the right decision to go on the road in the first place. I relaxed as time wore on, but, yeah, that was scary, that moment. And there have been moments since then. Your body, your muscles have a memory of the way it was when you were sick, and there are definitely times when I float back to that place. Like, I had migraines a few weeks ago, and I just went, 'Yeesh - no, please.' "
Two years on from the dreaded diagnosis and in remission from the disease, Minogue, 39, is as luminous and tiny and plain old knock-your-socks-off beautiful as ever. Today, she is wearing a white shirt from Oxfam, Stella McCartney pinstripe trews (heavily altered, as always, to fit her tiny frame) and a pair of vintage, handmade Eva Peron-style heels she magically found in a size 4 while shopping in Buenos Aires.
Meanwhile, the couple of ounces that have crept on, courtesy of the drugs, suit her, as does the new head of hair that has grown back after all those gruelling stints of chemotherapy. "Just look at it," she exclaims, pulling the band off her sweet, stumpy little ponytail, bending at the waist and generously inviting me to cop a feel. "It was never this thick and curly before it all fell out!"
In other words, like many cancer survivors, she feels even stronger, fitter and more up for it than she did before. Take the DJing stint she recently did for Gareth Pugh (who will be designing inflatable sets for the next show) at BoomBox, down in Hoxton Square, during London fashion week. What a night that was - Kylie cutting a swathe through the crowds in a black slashed-leather minidress straight from Pugh's catwalk, then bopping till dawn with her fellow platinum blonde Agyness Deyn on the bar.
"Yeah, well, put 'DJ' in inverted commas, please," Minogue murmurs modestly, "because, to be honest, it was a lovely man called Princess Julia who did most of the actual work."
Take, as well, the ultra-catchy new single released tomorrow, 2 Hearts - or the "big gay pop record", as it is otherwise known by one of her songwriters, Calvin Harris, the 6ft 5in 23-year-old from Dumfries whom the tabloids doggedly insist she is seeing at the moment, even though she says categorically she is not.
As for Martinez, the rat, no, Kylie has definitely not got back together with him. She was absolutely mystified when she heard "all this stuff about summit meetings and crisis talks in French cafes". She assures me: "No, no, we've definitely split up. But I can't tell people enough how amazing and supportive and, er, instrumental he was in getting me through that period and back on stage. I don't usually use my website to tell people to stop being rude about those I care about, because if I did, I'd be, like, bip-bip-bip, on there the whole time, but in this case, the things that people said about him - it wasn't, er, right, y'know. And I did love his dog, Sheba. Oh, Sheba, she was the love of my life."
Dogs, children - Kylie loves them, and they just love her, too. Which rather raises the question: why invest all the time and effort into putting on yet another mega-monster, immune-system-depleting show when she could be, as it were, going out on a few dates? Does she not realise that the zillions of adoring fans out there would like nothing better than for her to settle down with a nice man (and that doesn't mean Willy, nice though he is), in a country house with lots of doggies around and, yes, here we go again, kids?
"Yeah, well, I'm working on it," she says, with one of her Polly Pocket smiles. "Like, I did hold a duck in my hand the other day - yup, a duck, would you believe - and I've started to look for a property in the country, too.
"I've also just done a cookery course. Brendan, my brother, and Dannii are both great cooks, and I've got this fabulous La Cornue kitchen sitting at home, so why not? It was great. Raymond Blanc himself turned up and taught me all the basics in five and a half hours flat: three types of soup, soufflé, omelettes, crepes, roast lamb, and then, for pudding, ice cream and sorbet. Not that I've had time to practise on anybody else yet.
"The point was, I did all these things to reclaim myself. For a while there, I was beginning to feel a little two-dimensional, that I was being photographed way longer than I needed to be photographed by people I didn't know, that I didn't feel whole.
"I hated having Willy point that camera at me for his film, but I let him do it because I trusted him, and he had a point: it is important that people see me as a human, a three-dimensional being. When you've been in the business for as long as I have, you're in danger of becoming detached from reality and also of being perceived by your public as not quite real. Well, God, if nothing else, I think I've proved to people with this film that, yes, I'm very, very human."
In a way, yes; in another way, no. We never see Kylie cry in the film; we never see her lose it over the Martinez crisis; we never see her get angry or steely or icy. One wonders, too, if there is a man out there who will be able to cope with her enormous fame and wealth (estimated at about £30m) and the gladiatorial approach she takes towards her career. Could she, for example, ever define herself by anything other than work?
"Look, I can never give up performing," she goes on, in that dainty antipodean way of hers. "Going on tour is the most incredible part of what I do. That's all I've ever done, so why stop now? But, yeah, I do have this need to reclaim myself a little bit, to do things to make me feel whole, which is why I'm doing all these things such as horseback riding and taking walks in the country and looking for a place outside London to chill. I've been talking and talking for years about getting balance and harmony in my life without actually doing it. Now I'm doing as I say, which is exciting. There must be a poem that describes the feeling. We need to find it, now!"