‘I’ll be foolish again’ Kylie Minogue on heartache, her greatest fear and turning 50

After last year’s split with fiancé Joshua Sasse, Kylie Minogue is back, ‘giving it everything’. She talks frankly to Chrissy Iley about heartache, her greatest fear and – who’d have thought it? – turning 50.

Christian Vermaak

For me, there will only ever be one Kylie.

By that I mean forget Jenner, I’m talking Minogue – the girl from Melbourne who bounced on to our television screens at 18 playing Charlene in Neighbours and dazzled us with her charm and energy. And she’s gone on dazzling us ever since – through the reinventions, the break-ups (Jason Donovan, Michael Hutchence), the bad hairdos and her 2005 breast cancer diagnosis. The perennially youthful pop princess has taken it all on and is still the sweetest, smiliest diva you’ll ever find in The Royal Suite at The Ritz, which is where we meet, near her Knightsbridge flat. Her complexion is flawless, her hair longer and more golden than ever – I can’t believe she’ll be 50 next month.

Kylie with her
ex-fiancé Joshua Sasse. ‘Once it was over it was a relief to both of us because it’s hard to let go’ Image: Getty

Last year Kylie split up with her fiancé, actor Joshua Sasse, 20 years her junior. It was a heady, crazy love: they met when she made a guest appearance on his musical comedy show Galavant, he proposed after six months, but just over six months later they’d fallen out of love. All kinds of rumours circulated: that she’d changed her mind days before the wedding, that he’d had an on-set romance. The truth, of course, was more subtle and more painful, and the only way to release it was through songs from her heart. So Kylie’s latest album, Golden, is her most personal ever, her deepest thoughts set to music in a mixture of seamless pop and hypnotic country. Her voice is perfect for country – pure and empathic – and the lyrics are soul-baring, as she reveals…

Was I really going to get married? I had the ring on the finger, didn’t I? But we hadn’t actually planned a wedding. It was a beautiful moment and I loved it, but then, you know, as time goes on… What happened? It’s complicated. To try to put it in a nutshell would not only be too difficult but unfair.

Actually, I never thought I was the marrying kind. In my song ‘A Lifetime to Repair’ I say, ‘I thought I’d settle down, a happy-ever-after princess…’ I know for a lot of people that’s where they want to end up but, for me, it never was. I guess I thought, ‘That’s what people do, maybe I’ll give it a try.’ But either it isn’t for me or I was with the wrong person. I was swept up in the moment and I’m not afraid to admit that.

Christian Vermaak

I’m not giving up on relationships, though, and I’ll probably be foolish again. Otherwise I might as well stay at home and get lots of cats. No offence to multiple-cat-loving people who stay home, but my greatest fear is loneliness, even though sometimes I crave to be alone. I just want some quiet. Some days I want to date, other days I think I just don’t want a boyfriend right now. I’m not looking for a cat either.

Making the decision to end the relationship was the hardest part. After the break-up people were saying, ‘I hope you’re OK’, and I thought, you know I am OK. I’ve coped with the help of laughter, friends, music and family. Once it was done it was a relief to both of us because it’s hard. You hang on to what is good and it’s hard to let go and you feel strangely embarrassed, thinking, ‘Oh, are we supposed to try to make this work?’

I sing ‘I’m Broken Hearted’. Actually, I was broken. Because for a long time I was in a relationship that we both knew was ending, and that takes its toll on you. So going into the studio and getting all that stuff out of my system was a way of dealing with it.

In the beginning the album was very much a Dear Diary… Now I’ve moved on, and the songs have, too. It’s about me, my relationship, where I am in my life. I reached a point where I thought, more than anything, I’ve got to be honest with myself, so I wrote about relationships and love and the usual culprits.

The great thing about country music is that you can put more of a story in the song. You can work some humour in. And the beautiful thing about the really sad songs is that as well as being hauntingly sad they are upbeat. It was my A&R guy Jamie Nelson’s idea to give them a country edge. We started in the UK and then went to Nashville where I worked with English writers who live there.

Christian Vermaak

Nashville had a profound effect on me – people there seem so emotionally connected. There’s such a different feeling about the place. It’s not like London, LA, Melbourne or Sydney. I loved seeing an audience of all ages at The Bluebird Café in stetsons and cowboy boots. I would love to go back to Nashville. I feel I’ve just scraped the surface and I want to get to the next level. It really helped me believe in the songs. That’s the energy: you go to performance rooms there and the songwriters talk about how the song came about. I felt I could fall in love a million times.

I didn’t know this album would be called Golden. But I was sifting and chipping away [at it] for such a long time, and I thought, I just need a nugget of gold… Songwriting can be a bit like therapy, so it was the style of my healing. And I liked the idea that we’re all golden – not old, not young, but golden.

You can’t make yourself younger. I’m always asked how I feel about being my age in this industry, and such questions perpetuate the myth that you can’t be older. You are who you are. People also used to ask me how it felt to be 18 when I was starting out. I didn’t know because I had nothing to compare it to. Men don’t get asked these questions. They don’t get told they look too young, too old, not good enough.

But I’d be lying if I said I never think about getting older. Just today I was looking in a magnifying mirror, putting on mascara, and I said to the guy doing my make-up, I think I need to do something. I’m not pro or against [surgery]. One of my absolute idols is Jane Fonda, and the way she has handled it is admirable. I remember her saying something like, it’s 80 per cent genetics, ten per cent taking care of yourself and ten per cent a good surgeon. So if, and when, the time comes I’ll be taking a leaf out of Jane Fonda’s book.

The heels come off as soon as I get home. High heels and walking down stairs – my knees make sure I know about it. They’re saying, ‘How much longer are we going to be doing this?’ A lot of people I know are turning 50 and one thing that seems to ring true for all of us is: this is me, I feel better within myself now – I’m turning another corner of who I am. And a lot of things start to make sense. Things that you can’t have known when you were younger.

I have to go through the menopause twice. I’ve done it once already. The first was medically induced when they suppressed my oestrogen for my cancer treatment. So at least I know what it will be like. You are flummoxed, you are hot and you forget what you’re saying. So I’ll be back in the fridge! I remember a friend of mine a bit older than me used to open the fridge and stand in front of it. I’m ahead of the game with that experience.

I felt a lot of guilt for my family when I had cancer. I was in that moment, trying to get through, and they felt helpless. They weren’t, because their strength was important to me. It was tough to see them hurting so much and putting on a brave face. I don’t know how much they cried because they just couldn’t show that hurt to me then. Now I’m going to say clichéd things: you take a look at the bigger picture, what’s important to you, who is important to you, what you want to do differently – although I didn’t want to do anything differently. I just wanted to get better and get on with it. But I did realise that I love what I do and sometimes the good things come from beautiful moments of connection. I’ve got pretty good fans. They’re really kind.

Christian Vermaak

I don’t know how I became a gay icon. When Istarted out I hadn’t had a lot of real tragedy in my life – apart from bad hairdos. Perhaps it was playing someone who goes against the grain: Charlene was a tomboy mechanic. And then when I tried to release a single people said, ‘You can’t do that, you’re an actress not a singer,’ and I had to overcome that. I campaigned for gay marriage in Australia. I was in London during the voting process last November, and I remember texting my sister Dannii and saying, ‘What if it doesn’t happen?’ It’s a modern country and we want to feel that we are forward-thinking and liberal, so it was kind of shocking that we were so far behind in that. I did wonder if people are sick of celebrities talking about it, but the irony is you’re more likely to be heard if you have the platform of celebrity.

I’m really unfaithful to beauty products – I use whatever is in the cupboard. But I always cleanse my face and I could probably count the number of times I’ve gone to bed with mascara on: I have to get everything off. I’m currently using Charlotte Tilbury because I worked with her recently and she generously gave me a ton of make-up, but I also love exploring. I swear by using a muslin face cloth for exfoliation because it’s never too harsh, and I like a good sunblock. You can’t really stay out of the sun in Australia, and I love the vibes of the sea, so I get myself a bit of vitamin D. But I reapply sunblock all the time, and I’m under the tree with a hat, fully covered, swatting mosquitoes!

My body clock wakes me up early, at 5 or 6am. But then I tell myself to go back to sleep, and that’s my best sleep. I’ll wake up again at 9.30, although that varies with where I am and what I’ve got to do that day. Breakfast at home is Illy coffee and a bread called pain Poilâne – you could break a tooth on it – with goat’s butter or almond butter or avocado, or maybe toasted with an egg.

I like to get fit by working as opposed to having a regime. I’ve been very lax on exercise, but I do like yoga. When I was about 19 I went to a retreat. I was the youngest person there, the smallest and the thinnest, but everyone goes for different reasons. It’s the kind of place where you wake up at 6am and they tell you that by the end of the week you will abseil. Everyone goes, ‘No, we can’t do that’, but sure enough everyone does it. I liked that empowerment thing.

If you don’t give it everything, you may as well not be here. I took a cab the other day – I had an appointment but I really wanted to take a detour to get a coffee on the way. The driver said, ‘Hey, of course. I want to thank you. You sent my daughter a picture.’ I remembered I’d been in that cab before and he’d said it would be such a thrill for his daughter. He said, ‘We got it, we framed it and wrapped it up, and she opened it on her birthday and burst into tears.’ It was a beautiful moment.

Kylie’s Kicks

TV Feud, the TV drama about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.
FILM Baby Driver and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
LISTENING TO I like mellow stuff. I love Nick Mulvey. And Dua Lipa.
MOST ANNOYING HABIT Probably being indecisive. I do a lot of panic-ordering in restaurants. It’s a pressure to have to choose.
BIGGEST FEAR Loneliness and the fact that I might have to get a cat one day – but I don’t want to upset my friends with cats.
DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN THREE WORDS Caring, indecisive, a clown.
IF YOU WERE A POLITICIAN… I’d say, let’s all sit down with a cup of tea and work it out.

Kylie’s new album Golden is out now through BMG