Kate Ceberano was in a reflective mood. As we sat in the plush surrounds of her manager’s office, she picked idly at a plate of muffins piled in front of her and cast her mind back some 25 years, to when she first burst onto the scene as a singer with Australian pop-funk band I’m Talking. As befits her fiery personality, she’s still got a few issues with her first band, a quarter of a century on.
One of my biggest beefs with I’m Talking was that I was the lead singer, and I invited Zan [Abeyratne] on as a backing singer -” then they brought her up front as a co-lead singer, she told Sydney Star Observer.
Instantly my nose went out of joint but I never felt like I was in a position to say so, because it would’ve felt like I was having a diva spat. To add insult to injury, [1986 hit] Holy Word was given to her, when that was gonna be my fucking song -” that was gonna be my hit!
Now I’m actually going to sing it in concert. I’m going to cover my own band’s song. Zan is a beautiful singer -” she sang it better than I was going to sing it back then -” but now I’m reclaiming it.
Ceberano was doing so for the 25 Live tour, a victory lap of the nation that saw her wander through the choice moments of her long career. After leaving I’m Talking in 1986 (I was just screaming to be a star. Megalomania does that to you, she quipped), her 1989 debut solo pop album, Brave, provided the first not-so-subtle indication that she had an appreciation for the camper side of life: Bedroom Eyes anyone?
I am very camp; I suppose because I see art and music to be almost asexual. It’s beyond sex, it’s about beauty and aesthetics. And a lot of my gay friends live in that world, they really honour what is beautiful in life.
I feel like I’ve dedicated my life to trying to illuminate what is beautiful to me. Like Pash, which is dedicated to suburban Melbourne -” only when you peek within it do you see the beauty in it. Even the word, pash! I just love it. Kids hanging out in arcades, smoking cigarettes and pashing on… she squealed in delight, lost in the beautiful dagginess of it all.
Has she felt the appreciation from her gay fan base over the years?
I have a wonderful community of fans, but with the younger gay boys, I just don’t look -” it’s too tempting, she said.
Tempting?
There are all these beautiful handsome young gay men who I see at my shows, but I just can’t look for too long. Young Boys Are My Weakness, like I’ve said.
Since Brave, Ceberano has experienced her share of career highs -” the multi-platinum success of her 1999 greatest hits collection, or her season-winning stint on Dancing With The Stars -” and lows, such as the relative commercial failure of her 2003 self-penned master work, The Girl Can Help It. I asked her which projects stand out as her proudest moments.
I actually think I’m most proud of the fact that I’m still doing it. Particularly when I was so recently inappropriately spoken for by a certain journalist [the Herald Sun’s Nui Te Koha] in regards to Kylie Minogue, which was total crap [in an interview last year, Ceberano described Minogue as more of a performer than a singer -” a throwaway comment the newspaper then used as fodder for several articles].
In actual fact, we are of the same kind, me and Kylie. We endure. We outlast all criticism. She and I, and others like us -” what we all have in common is a genuine love for being on stage, and a genuine desire to deliver great art to people. It’s for that reason I think we’re all bonded.
Had her career gone down a different route, Ceberano may have shared another bond with Minogue. In the late ’80s, she received an offer to work with the hitmaking Stock Aitken Waterman trio, the team behind such mammoth hits as I Should Be So Lucky and You Spin Me Round.
I turned it down, like a complete fucking dickhead, she laughed.
To be completely honest, they were looking for two singers they could package as a new Mel & Kim, and I didn’t want to be in a duo. I wanted to be a star! Who knows, maybe we would’ve sold a shitload and then been forgotten overnight, and that would’ve been the end of my career.
Aside from her music career, Ceberano is also arguably Australia’s most well-known Scientologist, which means she’s often asked to explain her beliefs in interviews. Like many other religions, the Church of Scientology seems to have a chequered past when it comes to views on homosexuality. Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard’s 1950 book Dianetics: The Modern Science Of Mind Health included a passage describing homosexuality as a sexual perversion, and stating that such sexual perverts are far from normal.
So how does Ceberano reconcile such homophobic statements with her own views?
My view of gay people is that they are spiritual beings. We are all spiritual beings of great beauty and power. I would never want to be a spokesperson for the church -” but me? I love people. And I see beauty in people. Beauty is beauty, she said.
It’s hard. How do you justify something of value to you? It’s like me asking you to justify your love for your boyfriend -” you wouldn’t bother, because it is what it is and you don’t have to justify it to anyone.
The best way to describe it is that my life is my religion -” my religion helps me to overcome adversity all the time. How do you recover? How do you pick yourself up and try again? That’s how it helps me.
The chanteuse was looking forward to taking her catalogue of hits on the road. 25 Live, which she brought to Sydney on August 21, included a mix of songs, stories and videos -” giving her an opportunity to reflect on some of her more suspect career choices.
I’ll talk about the times when it all went wrong. Like [1991 hit] See Right Through: I’ll explain that I wanted to write an uplifting song about humanity, an anthem for people to come together -” and then we’ll show the video and it’s me in a bra on the beach with a beautiful black man, dancing my ass off! I wanted it to be this hugely spiritual song, then I reduced it to me dry humping a guy on the beach in my knickers, she laughed.
Oh well, you learn from your mistakes.

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