The showgirl

Reinvention has kept Kylie Minogue in the public eye. David Stringer reports on the career of the pop diva.

TRANSFORMED from a tomboy soap star in Australia to one of the world’s raunchiest and richest singers, Kylie Minogue has won a legion of fans and admirers in a career that has spanned more than 20 years.

The 36-year-old actress and singer has followers across the generations and is now better known for her catchy tunes and daring costumes than for her early television role as a feisty Melbourne mechanic.

A continual reinvention of her music and fashion style - and a string of high-profile romances - has helped keep Kylie in the public eye since her teens and seen her amass an estimated fortune of €50 million.

But when the pop star began her showbiz career, she was overshadowed by younger sister Dannii, 33, who had been regarded as most likely to achieve international acclaim.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1968 and the eldest of three children, Kylie and Dannii first found fame on a string of children’s television shows.

Kylie won parts in The Henderson Kids, The Sullivans and Skyways and gave a first vocal performance on Young Talent Time in 1983 before she was offered the chance of a part in the soap opera Neighbours.

It was as mechanic Charlene Mitchell in the long-running show that Kylie won over her native Australian public and later captured the hearts of British viewers.

Both countries watched in their millions to see her blossoming on-and-off screen romance with fellow actor Jason Donovan.

The storyline culminated in a record audience for a 1987 episode in which their characters married.

Kylie became the first actress to win four of Australia’s TV Logie Awards and was named the country’s Most Popular Performer, courting similar success in Britain.

It was while at a charity event with fellow stars from Neighbours that the actress returned to her love of singing, spotted by a local record label as she performed Little Eva’s The Loco-Motion.

Within months she released the song as a single, and spent weeks at the top of charts across the world.

The star was whisked away from Australia to London by famed pop producers Stock, Aitken and Waterman and rapidly set about securing her status as Britain’s best-loved female performer.

Kylie left Neighbours in 1988, the year she released her first album and enjoyed huge success with her British number one hit I Should Be So Lucky.

Though some critics panned her as the Singing Budgie, Kylie went on to score a string of early hit singles and recorded a duet with Jason Donovan - the romantic ballad Especially For You. With her ability to appeal to all generations and the brains of Pete Waterman behind her, the singer dominated the British and international pop charts.

It prompted her local newspaper, Melbourne’s Herald Sun to write: “Ditch the snobbery and face facts, the kid’s a star.”

With the video to her 1990 single Better the Devil you Know, Kylie cast off her younger image to refashion herself as a sexy adult.

It coincided with her embarking on a relationship with INXS rock singer Michael Hutchence, who later claimed his favourite hobby was “corrupting Kylie”.

The love affair was to have a huge impact on her life - most crucially when the turbulent star died in an apparent suicide in a Sydney hotel room in 1997.

By 1991, Kylie had become the first recording artist to have her first 13 singles reach the British top 10 - but her career was about to slip into an unexpected decline.

Frustrated with the regimented style and lack of creative input she was afforded with Stock, Aitken and Waterman, Kylie left the production team to forge a new musical direction.

Collaborations with the Pet Shop Boys and M People for a self-titled album brought some critical success, but when her new singles failed to reach the top of the charts, Kylie’s career was considered at an end.

Australian singer and writer Nick Cave offered her support, casting Kylie as a murder victim in their duet of the chilling ballad Where The Wild Roses Grow.

It gave her a new found artistic confidence and led her to poke fun at her pop hits at London’s Royal Albert Hall, reciting the lyrics to I Should Be So Lucky at a poetry reading.

But her commercial flops continued with a badly received role in the Street Fighter action movie - based on a computer game. The Washington Post was so appalled by her efforts its critic dubbed her “the worst actress in the English-speaking world”.

Another flop album followed in 1997, with many loyal fans left puzzled by an indie-rock single co-written by the Manic Street Preachers.

Again considered to be at the end of her music career, Kylie switched record label and plotted a renaissance.

Inspired by the great disco acts of the 1970s - and helped by a pair of minuscule golden hotpants picked up on a market stall - her 2000 comeback single Spinning Around became the singer’s first British number one in 10 years.

Critics raved about the sheer joy of the accompanying album and Kylie went on to make a euphoric performance at that year’s Sydney Olympics, playing to 180,000 people.

A duet with Robbie Williams and a run of phenomenally popular singles followed, with 2001’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head selling more than four million copies - her best ever - and cracking the US market.

Her tours again packed out arenas across the globe and won new acclaim for their lavish sets, theatrical costumes and clever reinterpretation of Kylie’s earlier pop hits.

Cult film director Baz Luhrmann, charmed by her onstage persona, cast the singer as Absinthe, the Green Fairy, in the Hollywood blockbuster Moulin Rouge, starring compatriot Nicole Kidman.

By the start of 2005, the former soap star had sold 40 million singles and 25 million albums. Her current tour, Showgirl, The Greatest Hits, was planned to be the most gruelling and extensive Kylie had ever attempted - with an expected audience of 700,000 people worldwide.

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