The Portrait of Kylie Minogue

Joey Levenson
7 min readFeb 19, 2021
Kylie Minogue at the World Music Awards in Monaco, 2002 (Image: Getty Images)

I remember the first time I put on lipstick. I was five years old, sitting in my parents’ bedroom with a light piercing my chin and a mirror sitting approximately arms length on a rustic dresser. My mother was on the other side of my nose, carefully applying the red wax to my lips with a heavy breath. Perhaps most distinctly, I remember it was New Year’s Eve, and exactly an hour before guests were to arrive.

“And if anybody asks you what shade of lipstick this is, you can tell them it’s Cherry Red,” My mother said, knowing full well nobody was going to ask a five-year-old-boy what shade of lipstick he was wearing.

She helped me a lot that night: from picking out a red top of hers to become a dress over my lithe body, to selecting a belt which both complemented the top and suitably cinched me, to finally deciding which glittery socks I was to wear as the illusion of ankle boots. I looked over to the mirror when she was done, and smiled. Truthfully, I couldn’t tell what exactly I was happy about. My mother’s smile was more distinct, plastered across her face from ear to ear like a cut . She clapped once, maybe twice. In my mind, I looked beautiful, but I could not reasonably comprehend the level of transgression to which my mother and I had crossed in that moment. My mother, on the other hand, not only comprehended the transgression, but aided and thereafter celebrated it.

“Do I look like Kylie Minogue?” I said, peering over my shoulder. Truthfully, that was the objective, for having watched her perform Can’t Get You Out Of My Head live on television earlier in the year I had — for all intended puns — been unable to get it out of my head. I wanted to walk like her, sing like her, move like her, wear like her.

“Yes, of course you do,” my mother replied whilst fixing her hair.

When the guests arrived, of course nobody asked me what shade my lipstick was. But, having been so proud that my mother had shared with me what I believed to be such secretive information to the shape of her own glamour, I decidedly went round the whole party telling everyone exactly what Cherry Red was. Reactions were plentiful: shock, laughing, compliments, astonishment. If there was any hostility, I don’t recall it, or it was otherwise kept under suitable wraps. All I can recall is having to explain…