“SO what is it with gay men and Kylie?” a relative casually asks me over breakfast one morning.
It’s a question I have been asked countless times and I still don’t have a specific answer.
Everyone who knows me (and plenty who don’t) know there are two loves in my life: my husband Jason, and Kylie. It is obsessive, sometimes repressive, always expressive and, over the last 30 years, particularly expensive.
Sydney-based Adam Giles, who runs the fledgling Camp Kylie Facebook page believes it has a lot to do with standards.
“No other female star has been around for the amount of time Kylie has and remained classy, sexy and sophisticated,” he says.
“A lot of her female pop peers have resorted to tacky tactics to stay relevant or in the spotlight.
“I appreciate and respect that about Kylie, she doesn’t cross the line that some others do, like when they make controversial or political statements just to get into the headlines. Kylie keeps it classy.”
“Kylie is just a part of my life, after being a fan from the age of 10,” he says.
“That’s the majority of my life now and, in the end, why do I need to explain things I enjoy? It’s a tough one to explain why you like anything, but you often hear people say they have ‘grown up with Kylie’. That can sound like a cop-out answer, but it has some truth in it.
“As Kylie fans, when we were young we were loving great, carefree and sometimes cheesy pop, then we were rebellious and broke through the expectations of others at the same time as (Kylie’s sixth studio album) Impossible Princess came out (in 1997),” he continues.
“Then we found our feet as adults and that also reflects in Kylie albums like Light Years (2000) and Fever (2002).
“At each stage of our lives the music has been there and, for me at least, it’s been the perfect, fun soundtrack to forget your worries and smile. Don’t take yourself too seriously, enjoy life and stay classy.”
The idea that Kylie’s music provides a sparkle of positivity during times of immense challenge was a recurring theme among the fans I interviewed.
“She makes me happy and her music has gotten me through all the bad times,” Justin Ashley tells me matter-of-factly.
The 23-year-old’s love for the pop princess has morphed into what is now the biggest non-official Kylie group on Facebook — Kylie Minogue Universe, and the attached Kylie Minogue Universe Gold Club. There’s also a Twitter feed and SoundCloud channel using the same moniker.
“I started the Facebook page just as a kind of scrapbook to store all the photos I have collected over the years, but it got really popular very fast and it has turned into a communal page for fans like myself,” Justin explains.
“As the page grew I decided to create the (Gold Club) so fans had somewhere they could post and get involved in a personal level.”
While the Facebook site is certainly home to a mix of gender and ages (ranging from eight years of age to 80), there are an overwhelming number of gay members proudly flying the rainbow flag.
“I always try to keep (the site) fresh, current and easy for fans to get involved,” Justin says.
“I make all my own artwork and try hard to make it original. And I see my ideas and formats being used on other Kylie fan pages, and it makes me proud to see the impact Kylie Minogue Universe has had on Facebook.”
“I’m part of a private group of fans on Facebook called the Kylie Krew. The group primarily consists of Melbourne fans, but we have a few members from interstate too,” he says.
“We have met and formed our friendships while camping out for concert tickets and attending Kylie’s live shows. I’ve been friends with some of the members for well over 10 years.”
Owen, who uses the Twitter handle @owen_minogue, is firm in his answer about why Kylie holds such appeal for the gay community: he says she “oozes joy”.
“It’s the fashion and the music. She’s perfection — and the gay community have impeccable taste,” the 33-year-old says.
Clinical psychologist Dr Amy Lykins likens Kylie’s osmosis into gay culture to a more recent phenomenon, the internet meme.
“People like a person, then they introduce other people to that person’s work and their love of it — and it just takes hold socially,” the University of New England lecturer says.
“This would probably explain why people can’t necessarily pinpoint the exact moment this attraction began and why it feels like it’s always been there. Also, greater exposure to a person’s music will often help the attraction to it develop; so if you’re hearing someone’s music a lot — like on the radio or at clubs — you’re more likely to continue seeking more of it out if you like it.”
Dr Lykins also highlights a common trend among her gay male friends.
“The celebrities who often become the targets of these attractions tend to be quite powerful women, often very successful, talented — though that may be a matter of taste — and beautiful,” she says.
“These are often the same women that heterosexual-identified women develop crushes on. It seems to me to be an admiration that’s so strong it turns into an attraction, even though there’s nothing overtly sexual about it — or there sometimes is, which also highlights the fluidity of sexuality.
For Jason Barrett, “gay male admirer” is probably too subtle a phrase to describe his fascination with Kylie.
“I am obsessed,” the 44-year-old squeals enthusiastically.
“Love, adore, worship, ache for, cannot get enough of, so madly in love with her. She makes me so happy and I love her to bits, forever and ever.”
Jason says he has spent tens of thousands of dollars on Kylie merchandise and collectibles over the years because to him, she sits at the pinnacle of the pop music tree. He even owns a fork Kylie used to eat with at a Sydney restaurant.
“I borrowed it when nobody was looking,” he recalls.
“But why?” I ask him. “Why you? Why so many other gay men?”
The answer again comes back to Kylie’s ability to lift you up, to take you to a place where your troubles disappear.
“She’s the ultimate showgirl. She’s been beaten down and got back up… again,” Jason says.
“She beat that horrible disease and came back better than ever. She’s a survivor and an icon. We gays love that stuff. We heart Kylie.
“I can’t even get across to friends why I love her so much. I just tell them I love her and everything that she is and does for pop and music.
Stepping forward is exactly what Kylie helped Brisbane’s Jim Gaad do. The 30-year-old won two tickets to a backstage Kylie meet-and-greet during her Aphrodite Les Folies tour. Despite an ever-growing list of friends offering to be his plus-one, Jim took his mum along.
“Even though she had teased me about liking Kylie my entire life, I couldn’t think of anyone more special I wanted to share the experience with,” he reflects.
“My father had passed away earlier that year, and when I was given the opportunity, I believed it was a way of my father saying: ‘Everything is going to be alright, Jim. You’ve been through a lot this year and here’s something that’s going to make the journey worthwhile’.
“Seeing the two women I admire most in the world engaging on conversation was so magical.”
So what of the woman herself? Does Kylie hold some theory about her enduring popularity in the glittery world of gay culture? Wisely, she prefers not to dissect the relationship too much.
“I don’t know and I kind of don’t want to know; do you really want to know how a magic trick happens?” she told the Star Observer last year.
“There’s the music, the flamboyant costumes. It was just meant to be. I love to look out over my audiences and see a big gay and lesbian section complete with muscle marys and drag queens, next to grandmas and grandpops, next to boys and girls. It seriously fills my heart with love.”
But her unwillingness to unravel the giant pink bow that is her gay fan base shouldn’t be interpreted as indifference. She is a staunch advocate of the community and for marriage equality.
In 2012 she delivered a digital slap down to a Twitter follower that set mainstream media abuzz.
Follower Dom Coleman — who deleted his account soon after the incident — sent a tweet to Minogue which read: “Why have you not shown your support for equal marriage? Seriously, #popstarfail.”
Minogue was quick to respond: “Good God, have you been asleep for 25 years? You must not know me. Seriously. #followerfail”
Earlier that year at a Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras party, she reiterated her belief in marriage equality to revellers: “I always say, ‘love is love is love’. Hopefully, whatever hurdles or obstacles are in the way can soon be banished.”
So, it seems evident that Kylie makes people — gay boys particularly — feel good. But doesn’t that explain the core reason for the existence of pop music? If it isn’t making you feel good, then what is the point? Perhaps Dr Lykins, who is also a sexuality and gender researcher, sums it up best.
“Perhaps there could be a specific set of reasons that would help explain it, but at the end of the day does it really matter to either Kylie or her fans?
“I’d be worried about a person’s mental health if they were engaging in significant cosmetic surgeries to try and look like Kylie, or had every square inch of their homes decorated in Kylie memorabilia [*author makes mental note to redecorate].
“And I do think the media has a lot to answer for with regard to the cult of celebrity.
“That said, I think that what you’re describing is pretty harmless. People enjoy what they enjoy. So long as you’re not getting arrested because you’re stalking Kylie and you can live a fully-functional life in addition to your enjoyment of her music, whose business is it that you or anyone follows a specific person’s career?”
Kylie Minogue brings her Kiss Me Once Tour to Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane between March 14-21. Details and tickets: frontiertouring.com/kylie
Right Here, Right Now — Giorgio Moroder (feat. Kylie Minogue) is out now. Watch the music video below:
**This article was first published in the March edition of the Star Observer, which is available to read in digital flip-book format. To obtain a physical copy, click here to find out where you can grab one in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.