Let’s call it the Mel C phenomenon. Sporty Spice Mel C was the Spice Girl dykes loved -“ short-haired, tattooed, sports-clothed and hot. She was also the most talented, the best dancer, the best singer, and the critics agreed she was the girl-most-likely-to.
Australia’s own girl-band experiment Bardot had a similar member -“ Katie Underwood, the ex-Adelaide singer and dancer who looked like she might be a dyke. And now Katie is the ex-Bardot member to go on to the biggest and brightest things (yes, yes, Sophie Monk is in the Vanilla Diet Coke ads) -“ a mega hit with Disco Montego, a singing career all of her own. Sydney Star Observer caught up with Katie last week to ask her about solo singing, dyke fans, dancing between a couple of dudes in the video for her new single Danger, and -“ most importantly -“ her plans for this year’s Sleaze.
SSO: So, Katie, how’s it feel to be out on your own?
Katie Underwood: It’s great. I really feel like I’m just taking the next step and moving onwards and upwards -“ I hope. Working with Disco Montego was a way of me getting out there without really having to put myself on the line, which is what I’m doing this time. But I’m more confident about it, I’m proud of what I’ve done. Although I still have my nervous moments.
SSO: How did you come up with the ideas for the Danger video?
KU: It was a joint effort. Initially the director came up with the street-style concept -“ [me] walking through alleyways and laneways in Melbourne, half-singing the song to myself, half-thinking about it, half-projecting it to the camera. And that was his whole concept for the clip, which I loved. But I thought there is also a sexy concept here which we need to capture. So I just said, Look, what if we get a tight shot, club bathroom, me, two guys?’ I wanted to keep it suggestive and sensual without being sexually explicit.
SSO: Working with Disco Montego cemented your status as something of a gay icon -“ how do you feel about having so many gay fans?
KU: I really enjoy it and I found that I had it even in Bardot, having short hair and glasses and a spiky collar -“ it was a lot of fun. There was this one fan and she was 16 when we were in Bardot, and she would be hyperventilating. Now, there are fans who are into you, but she was really into me. And I so picked it and I’m like, Oh, she’s so gay and she doesn’t even know it yet, the sweet little thing. It was so cute. And then two years later, I met her girlfriend, and she’s gone from this nervous alternative chick to realising she was gay, and it wasn’t just me she was in love with. And three years later she’s still with her girlfriend. It was so sweet to watch her grow up through that.
And I’ve had friends go through it as well. I first experienced the gay scene back in Adelaide -“ I had a friend who had always been camp. Then he went from camp to bi, and from bi to gay and he’s never looked back. And I sort of skipped around with him, and from there it’s just always been part of my life.
SSO: The Adelaide gay scene’s not up to much though.
KU: No, it’s not. And quite frankly that’s one of the reasons I left. At that age I was jumping all over the fence, and trying it out, as I’m sure a lot of young people do. And I started to talk to a few of my friends about it -“ maybe one or two of them were fine, but others would just look at me like I was an alien. In Melbourne and Sydney we’re really lucky, people are really accepting, but Adelaide, it’s still quite closed in that sense. Obviously in the scene it’s not, but publicly, you can’t so much as walk down the street holding a girl’s hand or guys with their arm around each other -“ I mean in Oxford St or Chapel St you wouldn’t think twice about it. But in Adelaide it really is an issue. I can’t say it was the main reason why I left but it certainly was one of the factors.
SSO: You did the DIVAs last year, but you missed out on the Bardot show at the Mardi Gras. Have you got any plans for this year’s Sleaze?
KU: For reasons out of my control I can’t do it this year, but there may be perhaps a Mardi Gras option next year? I’d love to do Mardi Gras next year. You know, I’ve never been -“ I’ve been to Sleaze twice -“ but the last few years I’ve tried to go. One year Bardot were due to go overseas -“ we left the day before Mardi Gras. The following year Mardi Gras was on the same night I was singing at an event for Bill Clinton. And I wasn’t going to knock back Billy Boy -“ I figured, well, Mardi Gras is there every year. But again, I missed it. And then this year I was away writing. So the last three years have been a bad run. But -“ whether I’m there as part of the party or onstage -“ I’m definitely planning to get there next year.