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Saturday, 6 October, 2001, 08:35 GMT 09:35 UK
Kylie Minogue: Still so lucky
Kylie Minogue
From pop puppet to self-assured siren, Kylie Minogue's career has taken her to the musical wilderness and back again. In the week she sits once again at the top of both the UK album and singles charts, Caroline Frost of the BBC's News Profiles Unit examines the enduring appeal of this diminutive diva.

In 1988, a pop phenomenon swept both Britain and Australia. The word Kylie entered the UK's national vocabulary, babies were named after the Australian star and now, 13 years later, it seems it may just happen again.

She may only be five feet in height, but Kylie Minogue is walking tall this week. The song Can't Get You Out of My Head has become her biggest worldwide-selling single to date, and with her eighth album, Fever, she once more takes her place at the pinnacle of pop.

Kylie with Jason Donovan in Neighbours
Love thy Neighbour: Kylie and Jason's on-screen wedding
She made a cameo appearance in the recent hit film Moulin Rouge, and last year sang in front of an audience of billions at the Sydney Olympics. Not bad for someone who came to the public consciousness from the underside of a broken-down car.

As the dungaree-clad, grease-streaked mechanic Charlene in hit Australian soap Neighbours, young Kylie proved an unlikely superstar. But with her big, blue eyes and bigger bubble perm, she captured the late 1980's zeitgeist.

When Kylie and boy-next-door Neighbour Jason Donovan walked up the television aisle to the strains of Angry Anderson, international celebrity was assured for both. Revelations of their off-screen affair did nothing to hinder their popularity.

The young couple were both signed to formulaic hit-makers Stock, Aitken and Waterman. They had no control of their own music, but the collaboration capitalised on their fresh-faced appeal and spawned a catalogue of hits.

These days Donovan has been consigned to performing to indifferent audiences, but Kylie's career has long exceeded the usual shelf life of a teenage icon.

Kylie with a more torrid image
A hint of Hutchence: Kylie's new image
If Kylie felt constrained by her squeaky clean image, she soon turned it on its head by starting a romance with the bad boy of Australian rock, the late Michael Hutchence.

Kylie's music and appearance became dramatically less innocent, and heralded her gradual divergence from her fan base. According to Kylie, however, Hutchence didn't corrupt her. "He wasn't as bad as everyone thought," she said, "and I wasn't as good. We met somewhere in between."

Her fans remained equally nonplussed when, in 1992, Kylie changed record label and made an attempt at musical reinvention. Collaborations with Nick Cave and the Manic Street Preachers followed.

Kylie reportedly found "singing at the Jazz Café with Nick Cave more important than having a number one single" - just as well, as her newly-found credibility didn't exactly make for a host of hits. By 1998, Kylie Minogue was without record label and, apparently, a future.

Kylie Minogue performing at the 2000 Olympics
Glamour at the Games: Sydney 2000
Like all real divas, Kylie came into her own when the chips were down. Her ability to hit the high notes and camp up her own outrageous glamour had long earned her a loyal gay following, and so in 1998, she went out on the road, dressed like a trapeze artist, and played to the gallery of these appreciative audiences.

And now she's back, a fully-formed doyenne of disco, happy to live with the contradictions that her career have brought her. Australian to the core, Kylie is regarded as a British national treasure and a straight lads' fantasy figure. Her performances are flirtatious, but she's sharing the joke.

What has always been beyond doubt is that Kylie can actually sing, and her talent continues to pull her through. In a business that has seen multitudes of grinning starlets fall off the branch, Kylie is back at the top of the tree, better for the years in the wilderness.

Kylie Minogue
Kylie: Her luck's holding out
She says, "You can't manufacture a relationship with your audience. If you're pretending, you can't get away with it."

Gay audiences can spot a phoney from the back of Hammersmith Palais, and they all adore her. She has travelled a musical odyssey, and come back to what she does best.

Kylie Minogue remains an unashamed pop puppet, but this time around she's pulling her own strings.

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