In the video for her new single The Glamorous Life, a platinum blonde, micro-shorted Melissa Tkautz postures for the camera with all the assurance of a certified pop goddess.
Among a buff and beautiful supporting cast, Tkautz is a super-confident glamour puss who’s seemingly reached the pinnacle and is relishing the view.
The beautiful, dripping-with-success world The Glamorous Life depicts is mostly escapism. Except that, for its star, the video is also a vision of what might have been.
Now 31, Tkautz was riding high in the early 1990s as a teenage soap star-turned-pop sensation for whom entertainment greatness seemed a sure thing.
On the back of her starring role in soapie E Street, the 18-year-old Tkautz hit number one with her debut single Read My Lips. The follow-up, Sexy Is The Word, did similarly stellar business and a couple of ARIA awards ensued.
Suddenly, a few years after a certain Neighbours star had parlayed soap success into pop gold with her cover of The Locomotion, Tkautz had raised the stakes and was making a serious grab at the mantle of Aussie pop’s girl most likely.
Then came the fall. After a couple of other singles and the album Fresh made less of a splash, Tkautz’s pop career unravelled -“ the victim, she says, of mercenary management and her own na?t?/p>
At the end of the day these guys saw a girl that was on a TV show -¦ and I suppose they wanted to make a quick buck, she told Sydney Star Observer in the lead-up to a national promotional tour for The Glamorous Life and a new album, Lost And Found.
Even though I was 18, I probably had a 15-year-old mind. I had a very strict family, I wasn’t allowed to do much, and then all of a sudden you’re thrust into this world of music and you’re doing nightclub appearances. And I’d never set foot in a nightclub before.
I was very na? and innocent and maybe too much so.
To go from school to a huge show like E Street was just so huge for me. When I look back at that person who I was, I think, -˜Oh my God!’ I had no idea who I was. No idea whatsoever.
Tkautz’s response was to abandon pop entirely. She traded music for appearances in doomed soaps such as Paradise Beach and Echo Point and, more recently, lads’ mag modelling work and a regular guest spot on TV hospital drama All Saints.
The decade or so away from pop music has made Tkautz a more wary customer than the teenager who topped the charts all those years ago.
As an 18-year-old with a number one single, I just thought this is it. I’ve made it. This is my life, Tkautz said.
There are always moments of doubt.
Whatever happens will happen -“ you can’t control that.
But I think because I’ve -¦ come and gone and come again, I think I am mentally prepared for that.
The prospect of full creative input lured her back to the studio to record Lost And Found.
The dance-flavoured work is a shift from her pure pop roots, Tkautz said, even if its lead single, a cover of the 1980s Sheila E effort, has serious bubblegum appeal.
I didn’t want to do a stock standard pop album, Tkautz said.
It’s so nice to finally be able to listen to something that you have done and not cringe and not turn away.
Did her earlier efforts make her cringe, even as she was recording them?
Yeah, just because it wasn’t who I was.
These days, observations of this type -“ about how Tkautz has learned from the hard times and now knows who she really is -“ pepper her conversation.
You need to have highs and lows in your life to keep you grounded, Tkautz offered at one point.
Or: If you always be true to yourself and you always be who you are, then you can’t lose really.
It’s the sort of sugar-coated clich?articularly favoured by pop divas in search of a renaissance, with whom Tkautz shares another key asset: an unquestioningly loyal gay fan base.
Since performing at the closing party of the 2002 Gay Games in Sydney, Tkautz has played at Arq and, most recently, at Stonewall’s eighth birthday. She’s also booked in at Arq and Melbourne gay venue the Exchange as part of her The Glamorous Life promotional duties.
They make me feel good about myself. Their love for me as a performer just makes me feel amazing, Tkautz said of her gay fans -“ even if their allegiance took time to develop.
Because [at the beginning of my pop career] I was told what venues I was playing at, I didn’t do as many gay clubs back then, Tkautz said.
[But] over the years, in between that album to this album, the gay community’s support has been just fantastic. They have always been there for me. Always.
And the Stonewall gig I just did -“ I mean we were dancing on the bar, for God’s sake. I just had so much fun.
They’re the sort of fans Tkautz will be hoping make Lost And Found a more enduring success than earlier pop efforts.
But Tkautz the hardened realist is taking nothing for granted this time round.
I can’t predict what’s going to happen in the future and I can’t predict how I’m going to deal with [possible failure] when it comes, Tkautz said.
If it doesn’t go well -“ God forbid -“ I’ll face that when I come to it.
You sort of work on projects and you give it your all and you hope for the best. And if that doesn’t work then you tackle the next phase of your life.
The Glamorous Life is released through JRB Music on 4 September. Lost And Found is released in November. For more information visit the Melissa Tkautz website