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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Across The Pond and Beyond: Kylie and Dannii Minogue

The vast majority of us know what it is like to have brothers or sisters around.  Sometimes, there may only be eleven months between siblings, while in other families there may be eleven years.  Nevertheless, any of us who have siblings know that sometimes sibling rivalry is a part of being a sibling to someone.

Most times, it's friendly competition between brothers and sisters, such as trying to shoot more free throws in basketball, or who can wear the better bathing suit to a summer beach party.

In extreme cases, brothers and sisters can end up becoming bitter enemies, and try to harm each other or embarrass each other in cruel and unusual ways.  Sometimes one sibling can even kill the other one.

It happened with Cain and Abel, didn't it?

Fortunately in most cases, siblings don't really have that much malice towards each other except on soap operas and biblical tales.

It's hard enough trying to manage sibling rivalry in the privacy of your own home.  It becomes an entirely different thing altogether when the siblings happen to be in the public eye.

Certainly we've seen our fair share of sibling stars.  Jake and Maggie Gyllenhall.  Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.  Jessica and Ashlee Simpson.  The Kardashians.  Sometimes they fight, and sometimes they don't, but they've all managed to make their mark in some form in the entertainment industry.

(Well...okay, Ashlee Simpson did a hoe-down on SNL following a lip-synching fiasco, but she still had that.)

Because this is the Across the Pond and Beyond day, I figure that I would do this blog entry on a couple of sisters from Melbourne, Australia.  A couple of sisters who found fame and fortune in their own ways, and who have had lofty career ambitions.  What makes this story unique was that quite often, both of them ended up competing against each other on the music charts, on the television, and well, just about every media outlet you can imagine, really.

These two sisters are the Minogue sisters.  On the left is Danielle (who goes by Dannii) Minogue, born on October 20, 1971, and on the right is Kylie Minogue, born May 28, 1968.

In North America, more people are probably more familiar with Kylie Minogue.  She had a couple of hits in the late 1980's and made a comeback in late 2001 with this hit.

I realize now that you probably can't get that out of your head right now, and for that I sort of apologize.

Now, Dannii on the other hand, is rarely known at all here in these parts.  The only time I ever remember hearing her name was when she was briefly engaged to race car driver Jacques Villeneuve.  So, needless to say, I had to do a little bit of research on her.

Not so much with Kylie, who I readily admit to having a celebrity crush on.  Hey, I may be 30 years old, but I'm not dead.  ;)

Just looking at both of their biographies, there certainly looks like there would be ample opportunities for both Kylie and Dannii to clash with each other.

They both got their careers started in Australian television when they were both young children.  Ironically enough, both of them appeared on the same shows!  Mainly on Australian dramas that never ended up airing in North America.

So clearly both of them decided that they wanted to have a career in the arts and entertainment sector by basically going after similar parts in similar shows. 

In 1981, there was a show on television called Young Talent Time in Australia (which I suppose would be like the Australian version of Kids Incorporated or the Mickey Mouse Club maybe), and Kylie submitted a demo tape to the program, hoping that the show would cast her on the program.  Kylie had decided that she had wanted a career in music, and figured that by getting on the show at thirteen was a good stepping stone.  Kylie appeared on the show once as a guest, but unfortunately wasn't cast.

However, her ten year old sister Dannii WAS cast.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall in the Minogue residence in 1981.

Kylie didn't let it get her down though.  As Dannii continued to have success on Young Talent Time, Kylie was getting involved in the world of Australian soap operas, and she landed the role of Charlene Mitchell Robinson on Neighbours.

After a few years on Young Talent Time, Dannii left the program, wanting to further her acting abilities, and it is here where something interesting happens along the way.

Let's follow the bouncing ball, shall we?

Kylie Minogue appeared on the Australian soap opera Neighbours.  She played Charlene Mitchell Robinson for two years from 1986 to 1988.  Charlene was best described as a rebellious teenager.

Dannii Minogue appeared on the Australian soap opera Home and Away.  She played Emma Jackson for a year from 1989 to 1990.  Emma was...also a rebellious teenager.

Think that's a coincidence?  There's more.

While Kylie was working on Neighbours, she went to a benefit concert for a football league along with some Neighbours cast members.  The cast decided to put on their own talent show where they entertained the crowds, but it threw Kylie for a loop, as she had nothing prepared.  At the last minute, she decided to sing a cover version of the following song.

The Loco-Motion.  Originally a hit for Little Eva back in 1962, Kylie managed to put her own signature on the classic hit, and it got her signed to a recording contract with Mushroom records.  Soon after, she was signed onto the successful pop music writing team of Stock, Aitken, and Waterman, where she recorded her first five albums with the team.  Her sudden success as a pop music artist in Australia and the United Kingdom was a key factor behind her leaving Neighbours and solely focusing on music.

Dannii Minogue, who seemed to be literally following Kylie in everything she did, followed suit.  She decided to leave Home and Away to record her debut album in 1990, and much like Kylie's debut single, Dannii's first song was considered to be mindless, bubble gum fluff.  Let's take a listen, shall we?

Just like her sister's debut, Dannii's 'Love and Kisses' has not aged very well, at all.  Yet, it was still big enough for Dannii to get her first top five hit in Australia.

Unfortunately for Dannii, 'Love And Kisses' was her only top five smash. 

Part of it could have been the fact that it was Dannii's first album, but Kylie arguably had better success with her debut than Dannii did.

It also didn't help Dannii that Kylie had released her third album the same year that Dannii released hers.  In fact, the albums were released six weeks apart.  Although Dannii had the edge with releasing her album first, Kylie had released the first single from her album six months earlier. 

Better The Devil You Know became Kylie's twelfth top five single globally (except in North America where it never charted), while Dannii was lucky to have had one.

As a result of the sisters releasing their albums so close together, it was a safe assumption that the Minogues would often find themselves on the charts at the same time.  Although Dannii had the success on Young Talent Time, Kylie had the success on the charts.  In fact, in Australia and the UK, the majority of Kylie's albums had terrific sales and had better critical reception as she matured.  Dannii on the other hand had a rockier road.

Before I started this blog entry, you probably could name at least one song by Kylie Minogue.  I bet you couldn't do the same for Dannii.  Some of you probably didn't even know who Dannii Minogue even was!

Okay, so if you're keeping score, Dannii may have gotten her first big break before Kylie, but Kylie was having more success than Dannii was on the charts.  Though both of them ended up having meaty roles on competing soap operas. 

The public kept comparing the two sisters, and the media seemed to have a field day constrasting elder Minogue from younger Minogue.  They compared their musical talents, their acting talents...some even went so far as to print polls asking which Minogue sister was sexier.

I guess in some weird way, I too am guilty of comparing Kylie and Dannii in this blog.  Though in my case, no maliciousness is intended, which is more than I could say for the UK tabloids at the time.

It was almost like the media was salivating over any reports of strain between the sisterly bond between Kylie and they wanted the sisters to have a relationship so dysfunctional that they ended up shoving each other into a fountain.

Here's the irony of the situation though.  Despite the competition between the Minogue sisters on the television airwaves and the music charts, the relationship between Kylie and Dannii remains stronger than ever before.

None of that was made more evident when both sisters experienced their own crisis points in their careers.

We will start with Dannii.

You'll see Dannii on the far right of this picture, and on the left is former American Idol judge Simon Cowell.  This is a picture of the judging panel of the UK show 'The X-Factor'.  You may have heard that an American version of the show is slated to premiere in a few months, which will reunite Simon with Paula Abdul.  The American version is based on this show, which works the same way as American Idol, only with a wider range of contestants.  There wasn't an age limit, and people can perform in groups if they wish.

Anyway, Dannii Minogue was a judge on that show for several seasons, and during her tenure as judge, it was rumoured that she had been involved in feuds with other judges.  Apparently, Dannii Minogue didn't get along with Sharon Osbourne.  When Sharon left the show to judge America's Got Talent, she reportedly didn't like replacement judge Cheryl Cole.  She was also attacked by other prominent musical figures, questioning her ability to judge the contestants fairly, and wondering if her credientials were enough.  And she got into an on-air verbal sparring match with fellow judge Louis Walsh over a contestant's song choice, which left Minogue in tears.

Dannii's time on the X-Factor was filled with controversy, and her having to try and deflect her critics, whether the comments were accurate or not.  To add insult to injury, Louis Walsh kept making comments that basically stated that she was inferior to her more successful sister.

And that's when big sister Kylie stepped into the ring to defend little sister Dannii by saying this about Louis Walsh's comments.

"It was so cheap. I’m just so proud of my sister and it annoys the hell out of me when comparisons between us are made in an unfavourable way to her. In England, you lot don’t know where she came from. She was on TV every week from seven years old. I think that makes it harder for her when she gets Louis Walsh’s rather pathetic jibes – one of which is she hasn’t had a hit record. That’s not true. He has no idea where she’s come from. No idea. And neither does England. And that’s quite hard." 

To me, it sounds less like sibling rivalry and more like a family uniting together to get the facts straight.  Sure, Louis Walsh may have been completely justified in what he was saying, but he should have acted more diplomatically about it...because then he had to face the wrath of Kylie.  And even though Kylie's only 5'1", I hear the small ones are dangerous when provoked.

Kylie herself had her own which could have been life-threatening.

2005 was shaping up to be a great year for Kylie.  Her latest album 'Body Language' was doing relatively well on the charts, and she had kicked off her 'Showgirl' world tour.  Approaching birthday number thirty-seven, she was at the height of her career, and it seemed like nothing was going to get her down.

That was until May 17, 2005, when she received the news that would end up being her biggest challenge yet.  Kylie Minogue was diagnosed as having breast cancer.

Her Showgirl tour was postponed indefinitely as a result, and she had to pull out of several appearances that she had pre-planned before the cancer diagnosis.  Four days later, she underwent surgery and endured chemotherapy shortly after that.

By 2006, Kylie's cancer went into remission, and in November of 2006, she resumed her Showgirl tour in Australia, where she gave some of the most emotional performances in her career.  She was still feeling exhausted from the chemotherapy she had undergone, and she had to take longer breaks in between songs to regain some strength from the performances.  She somehow found the strength to continue on with the tour as a thank you to her fans for supporting her through her battle, and on a personal note, I find that to be so inspiring that she cared enough about her fans to even attempt putting on a concert just eighteen months after her initial diagnosis.  In an era where concert tickets are way overpriced to mediocre performances at best, Kylie Minogue was determined to give back to her real fans, which was very cool to see.

And who else would support Kylie during her toughest time than her little sister, Dannii?  In this interview with Piers Morgan filmed in 2009, this is how Dannii explained it all.

I think if you're still questioning whether there's a sibling rivalry between Dannii and Kylie, this video clip should end all that.

Now, Kylie and Dannii's relationship is a unique one, as much of it has been seen in the public eye, but as we've learned, it really wasn't any different between any other sibling relationship out there.

Naturally, as a brother to two older sisters, we all had our fair share of disagreements and fights.  I remember my sister screaming at me to get out of her room, so I destroyed her Barbie dolls.  The other sister later retaliated by pouring a whole tube of Alberto styling gel on my head to give me the Miami Vice look.

(Yeah...that event happened in 1985, in case you were wondering).

The point is that yes, there are times where I have felt like I needed to compete with them, and there are some times in which I would find myself being compared to them in terms of where we all are in life.  It still doesn't mean that I don't love them any less.  They're my siblings.  They were there for me when I was getting my gall bladder removed, and I was there for them through their medical scares.

TRIVIA:  My two sisters and I all had surgeries on our mid-sections for three different medical problems, and as a result, we all have unique scars.  My oldest sister made the crack that if we all became victims of a serial killer they could use our chests to identify us.  Heh.

The point is that your siblings are people who you may have a close relationship with, or you may not.  They're still your family no matter what.

If Kylie and Dannii Minogue can find a way to have a strong sisterly bond with each other in the public eye, anyone can make that effort.  You won't know until you try.

Besides, at least Kylie and Dannii can poke fun at themselves with it.

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