How I Kissed A Girl’s Dannii Minogue helped make groundbreaking queer TV: ‘It had to be done right’

With a career spanning four decades, across TV, music, radio and fashion, Dannii Minogue is not someone you’d expect to get nervous.

The Australian star has survived the tabloid circus of her time on The X Factor, and endured a lifetime batting away comparisons between her and sister Kylie. But today, sitting in a meeting room in the BBC’s Broadcasting House in London, she’s on tenterhooks.

“I’m actually getting more nervous now thinking about [it],” she tells PinkNews.

She’s talking, zealously, about the new BBC Three dating show for queer women, I Kissed A Girl, which she hosts. It’s the first of its kind in British TV history, and follows last year’s successful I Kissed A Boy, for queer men.

Contestants in both series are paired up, and go in for a kiss before saying a word to each other. Then, the cast stay in a masseria in Italy, get to know one another, and work out whether they want to stay in their assigned pairs or get with someone else.

“It’s hot, it’s sexy, and they’re just uninhibited, very confident in themselves,” Minogue says of the cast.

It’s kiss at first sight for the cast of the ground-breaking dating show. (BBC)

It’s no wonder she’s been anxious about creating the show. As a star who has been an active LGBTQ+ ally since the start of her career, the success of this new venture rests on more than just viewing figures. In Minogue’s eyes, her entire relationship with the queer community was at stake. 

“There was a risk attached to it that was more about, ‘I hope the community we’re representing likes this. I hope they accept it, and I hope they embrace it’,” she says.

There are several reasons why “no one else put their hand up” to create a queer dating show before this one, she believes. First, as LGBTQ+ lives become increasingly politicised, networks have had to navigate having viewers who “don’t want to see queer lives and queer romance on TV”.

And then there is the fear that the show would somehow fail its main target audience. “You could be just as highly judged [by] the community who go: ‘Well, that’s not right, or that’s not me, or it could have been done better’,” Minogue adds.

Before she signed up to do I Kissed A Boy in 2022, she went all out to make sure BBC Three and production company Twofour were approaching a queer dating show carefully. “It had to be done right,” she says firmly.

“I mean, I absolutely grilled them.” She drags out the words, conjuring up an image of her in a boardroom somewhere, promising hell to pay should the show’s executives fumble the ball.

Dannii Minogue wanted to make sure the show wasn’t botched. (@DanniiMinogue/ Twitter)

“You could imagine what my life would be like, if I’ve had such a great relationship with the queer community, then suddenly I make [a] show that’s terrible or treated anyone badly,” she says. “I wasn’t gonna risk friendships and a lifetime of this amazing relationship with the community to do something like that.”

In recent years, viewers have become increasingly concerned bout how seriously dating and reality shows treat contestants – and their well-being. Some former contestants have alleged that The X Factor, on which Minogue was a judge between 2007 and 2010, did not.

With I Kissed A Girl and its male counterpart, she did her “due diligence” to make sure the cast were looked after properly.

She promises the show is “real” and none of interactions between the cast are “provoked”. There was a psychiatrist on board for every day of filming, and beforehand, when the cast was being selected. For both iterations, the crew were mostly queer too (although there were a few straight people involved, Minogue included – despite incorrect reports last week that she had come out as queer). 

Minogue appears the perfect host. While she only ever interacts with the cast while delivering announcements and staging the “Kiss Off”, where contestants choose if they want to remain in their current partnerships, she seems to be more of a cheerleader of the contestants than the presenter of the show.

She engages in a back-and-forth, appears genuinely interested in the relationships and looks as if she’s having as much fun as they are. She’s one of us, watching the drama and the steamy scenes unfold, with a glint in her eye.

Dannii Minogue doesn’t want the audience to be treated as stupid. (BBC)

“I care so much. It’s a brand and I want it to be looked after, loved, nurtured and it’s gonna grow,” she smiles. “I’ve always said with TV that the audience is not stupid, they’re really savvy. Whatever your intention is, and your energy, people feel it.”

During The X Factor, she says she genuinely wanted to impart her knowledge of the music industry to the singing hopefuls, and support them in the early stages of their careers. With I Kissed A Girl, “I want these girls to have the best time. I want them to be able to go back out in the world and say, this is a great experience. And if someone came up to them and said, ‘I was thinking of doing it, do you think I should do it?’ I want them to say yeah.”

Minogue’s history of supporting the LGBTQ+ community is extensive. Her first performance at Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras was back in 1998. She’s headlined three times since, attending the parade and watching it on TV when not performing. 

Dannii Minogue with Drag Race stars Bianca Del Rio and Courtney Act at Mardi Gras in 2015. (Getty)

The “Put the Needle On It” singer is far more clued up on LGBTQ+ history than most celebrity allies: During our conversation, she explains in detail how lesbian women supported gay men at the height of the Aids crisis in the 1980s, speaks at length about the safety and security role of Dykes on Bikes groups who lead Pride parades, and admits to crying while listening to The Log Books, a podcast exploring the notes of volunteers at the UK’s Switchboard LGBT+ helpline, which has just celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Last year, she donated all profits from her single “We Could Be The One” to the charity, and spent a day with some of the volunteers.

But her affinity goes well beyond knowing queer history. Long before I Kissed… came along, she was taking steps to support the community. She’s supported HIV charities, including the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation, in Australia, and the Terrence Higgins Trust in London.

In 2004, she marked World Aids Day with a photoshoot for the latter.

#TBT #WorldAidsDay 2004: wearing my ribbon for @THTorguk …We’ve come a long way but #ItsNotOver #stillfighting #stillcaring #WAD2016

— Dannii Minogue (@DanniiMinogue) December 1, 2016

“It was about trying to open up the conversation with younger people who only knew from their parents, Aids… scary… Grim Reaper,” she recalls. She wanted to bust myths that lingered on. “There weren’t many celebrities who were going to put their hand up and say, ‘I’ll talk about this’.”

Gay men’s love for her is well documented, but has she been showered with the same love by queer women? “I did feel it,” she says.

“Everlasting Night”, released in 1999, is dedicated to the community. The music video is laced with dolled-up drag queens, sweaty bodies and same-sex smooches. At one point, even Minogue kisses another woman.

“I’d never seen that in a video before, so I was like, I’d really like to make that,” she remembers. It’s her licence to host I Kissed A Girl. “People are like, why are you right for this show? And you go, ‘Already done it’.”

She’s learnt a lot through watching the show’s queer contestants, and is now adept in lesbian lingo. Let’s just say she knows her black cats from her golden retrievers.

“The most surprising and memorable, because it was the first time I heard it,” she reveals with a cheeky grin, “was ‘pillow princess‘.”

For those not in the know, a pillow princess is someone who prefers to be a taker, not a giver. “I could blush very easily,” Minogue laughs.

She is confident that I Kissed A Girl will be as big a hit as I Kissed A Boy was last year. But her nerves come from a place of care. “Being about the girls, it’s so particular, so underrepresented, that there’s this hunger for it,” she says.

Plus, she knows the series could propel the show to a huge new audience.

There is such little lesbian representation when it comes to dating shows around the globe that I Kissed A Girl is being discussed by social media users across the world. One TikTok about the show, by a US influencer, has been viewed almost one million times.

Dannii Minogue with the I Kissed A Girl love-seekers. (Getty)

“The girls have sparked something on social media that didn’t happen with the boys,” she says. “The boys opened the first door, the girls could smash it to a different level.”

Minogue may have had sold around eight million records, and starred in some of TV’s biggest shows, but it’s evident that I Kissed… is one the proudest milestones in her long career.

She talks about it with passion, sincerity and a genuine understanding of why it matters so much to the LGBTQ+ community. When it airs, she’ll be in London, watching with pride, surrounded by her gay and female friends.

“[It’s] like when you hear your record on the radio for the first time. It’s electric. That is your baby,” she says. “This is going to have a wide-reaching and long-lasting effect on people.”

The first two episodes of I Kissed A Girl are streaming on BBC iPlayer now. Following episodes will air on BBC Three at 9pm on Sundays and Mondays.

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