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Absolutely Fabulous

It’s Saturday afternoon in London, and a scrum of 250 members

It’s Saturday afternoon in London, and a scrum of 250 membersof the international entertainment media has formed in the foyer ofthe Hammersmith Apollo theater. The occasion is a press conferenceto mark the global launch of Australian pop star KylieMinogue’s latest album, the techno-lite Body Language.To the thunderous flash and whir of cameras, the beamingfive-foot-and-one-half-inch pixie strolls onto a small platformwearing a floaty gray negligee. Parking herself behind a desk for a30-minute grilling by slavering inquisitors, she looks like ananchorwoman for the Playboy channel.

Romaniaasks Minogue to sum herself up in one word. “Changeable,” she replies,”and chameleon.” Sweden inquires: “Do you have a message for yourSwedish fans?” “Hello!” she says. “Wish you could all be here!” Denmarkis curious to know how the 35-year-old star stays looking so wonderful.Minogue gushes that she’s very happy right now-with her boyfriend,French actor Olivier Martinez (Unfaithful)-and when she feels good, she looks good. And everyonewants to know when Minogue will visit their country. “Our viewers arecrazy about you,” says the Middle East. “When will you be bringing somejoy to the region?”

Not many pop stars have the perceived ability to calmwarring nations, but that’s what more than a decade of hitmaking, ninealbums, and a No. 1 single in 21 countries get you. Sparkly disco popknows no language barriers. Nor does a famously appealing bottom.

Minogue has been a star since 1987, when she emerged from the Australian daytime soap Neighbourswith a teenybop version of “The Loco-Motion.” Gradually, thanks tobetter songs, skimpier clothes, and a confidence-boosting relationshipwith hell-raising INXS singer Michael Hutchence, Minogue became cool(she recorded a duet with Aussie goth balladeer Nick Cave and got Welshagit-rockers Manic Street Preachers to write songs for her). She wasthe mainstream star savvy enough to see the fun-and the inherentridiculousness-of prancing around seminaked, singing catchy popconfections.

In 2001, Minogue went stratospheric, selling six million copies worldwide of her ass-shaking album Fever,which featured the once-heard, never-purged singles “Can’t Get You Outof My Head” and “Love at First Sight.” Minogue was finally a properglobal superstar.

Two weeks after the press conference, over a pot ofafternoon tea in her favorite private club in London’s posh Chelseaneighborhood, Minogue ponders her success. She’s friendly enoughcompany, but all those years in the celebrity trenches have taught herthe art of giving away nothing in interviews. She is happy, though, tooffer advice to those who have followed in her footsteps. She sees”some of” herself in Britney Spears and feels for the troubled juniordiva after her recent bout of tears during a televised interview withDiane Sawyer.

“People forget Britney’s only 21,” Minogue says. “She’shuman. She’s probably just going through a really hard time, whichdoesn’t mean it’s going to go downhill-I can vouch for that! I feltquite maternal when I saw the pictures of her crying. What she needs isa good cup of tea.”

And what of Spears’ ex, Justin Timberlake, with whom Minoguesang a duet at last year’s Brit Awards? Though the Minogue backside is(marginally) less conspicuous these days, the man dubbed “Trousersnake”in the U.K. took the opportunity to cop a feel. “That moment onstageprobably lasted one second,” she insists, “but the photo of it repeatedand repeated. I don’t regret doing it, but we did think, ‘Hmm, okay.’ Ithink it would be too drastic to just take away from people somethingthey’ve invested a lot in-“

You’re still talking about your bum, right?

“I know we’re talking about that at the moment, but if I canat least broaden the subject! With the press I’ve been doing recently,of course people say, ‘So, you’ve decided to cover up?’ If I neververbalized it, the change would be subtle. You’re still getting whatyou want-you’re just getting it in a cleverer way!”

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