Since the beginning of her career Kylie Minogue has been the ultimate gay icon. Kylie numbers are a staple in the repertoire of any drag queen, and some performers have built their careers on mimicking the star.

But there are Kylie wannabes and then there is Millie Minogue. The Melbourne-based performer has been entertaining crowds all over Australia for years as perhaps the world’s most uncanny imitator of the pop princess.

Millie started out years ago at Seventh Heaven with perfomers now considered legends of Melbourne’s drag scene.

“It was with [Miss] Candee and Rita [La Coque Eater] and Paris and all that,” she recalled. “I just went in one night and did a number and the rest is history.”

Millie has been doing Kylie impersonations since she started out, but said there was nothing in particular that drew her to the singer.

“She was big at the time and I just picked a song. I didn’t like doing Shirley Bassey or all those old people, so I just chose her.”

Since those early days Millie has refined her performance considerably, and now finds getting “into character” a simple process.

“There’s no ritual I do or anything like that,” she told the Star Observer. “I just have to be in a quiet room for a second, just to be calm, no noise around me, but I’ve done it so much now it just happens.”

It’s obvious Millie puts a lot of thought into her head-turning appearance, but like any true starlet she doesn’t reveal the secrets of her beauty regime.

She has certainly come into close quarters with her on-stage alter ego, and she recounts her first meeting with the international pop princess several years ago while on Commercial Rd.

“[Kylie had] just moved to London and she came back for a quick second. She was out with Peter Alexander, the pyjama king, and they went to 3 Faces on Thursday night, and there was a show on and I was there.

“We had some photos done and just after that she phoned me to be in her book.”

Millie described her inclusion in the best-selling coffee table book Kylie as a career highlight. However, she casually explains that her relationship with Kylie has changed and grown over time.

“Yeah, I’m friends with her, friends with the whole family throughout the years, which is nice.

“I just caught up with her recently while she was here at Molly [Meldrum]’s house and did an interview that was on Foxtel.”

With the paparazzi’s gaze still firmly fixed on her, Kylie’s star seems unlikely to fade any time soon. In fact, it’s difficult to think of a bigger gay icon in Australia, if not the world. And Kylie has embraced it.

“She knows what to give the gay people,” Millie explained. “Camp feathers, lovely boy dancers, all those ingredients make the perfect recipe.”

However, over the years Millie has become somewhat of an icon herself, a status which she enjoys.

“It’s fun. It comes in handy. It’s good on a plane because you get free things. There’s always a steward who goes to The Market or has seen me in Sydney, so I get upgraded or free drinks on the plane.”

But she is quick to deny that people mistake her for Kylie.

“No, I have my own identity now. They recognise me as me and say things like, ‘You look like a sister of hers.’

“I don’t parade around trying to be like her 24/7. It’s just a job and that’s it.”

It’s a job that has brought Millie success over the years, and she fondly recounts some career highlights.

“I did shows with [Australian drag icon] Carlotta and her beautiful boys for three years and that was amazing, going around Australia.

“We did a different town every night and all the major casinos.”

Millie learned a lot from the legendary perfomer, such as how to survive in a tough industry and passes on this advice to anyone starting out.

“It’s not easy, it’s hard. You’ve got to be serious about it and it doesn’t happen over night,” she said.

“People want to see an entertainer and not just the person up there in a wig and a bit of make-up. They have to see a theatrical character in front of them to hold their attention.”

But in the end Millie explains that she’s grateful to be able to do what she does.

“I do appreciate it heaps and I love doing it so I’m glad it’s so greatly received. “I wouldn’t be any other place or do any other job.”

info: Millie performs weekly at a number of venues in Melbourne, including Saturday nights at the Greyhound and SummerHouse Sundays at the George’s White Room in St Kilda. She will celebrate her birthday on Dec 26 at The George from 4pm.

— Benjamin Riley

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