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EXCLUSIVE: How heartbreak inspired Dannii Minogue’s new outlook on life

''Being 50 is a joy, not a crisis''

By Helen Vnuk
Dannii Minogue's son Ethan is a huge fan of The Masked Singer. But this year, with the show filming in Sydney as the latest COVID outbreak took off, Dannii decided that the 11-year-old should stay behind in Melbourne rather than travel with her.
"I just had a really deep feeling in my tummy, as a mum, before we started filming," she tells TV WEEK.
"I'm like, 'I feel like this isn't going to be a short thing.' I didn't want to put him through the stress, and his dad's in Melbourne and his school's here, so he didn't come up this year. He was gutted."
Dannii returns to The Masked Singer for its third season. Image: 10
That didn't stop Ethan from catching up with 10-year-old Kitty, the daughter of Dannii's fellow judge Jackie O.
Ethan and Kitty met during the filming of the show's first season.
"They stay in contact," Dannii explains. "They're now older kids, they've got mobile phones, they can message each other. Jackie and I were melting, seeing how this friendship was evolving."
Now back home in Melbourne, Dannii is chatting to TV WEEK from one room of her house while Ethan is in another, inside a fort, doing his school work.
"Yesterday, we just got really creative," she explains. "You have deliveries to the house, so there are boxes, so it's box fort time! He's literally doing his classes in the fort he's built."
But not every day of lockdown has involved fun with cardboard and tape.
Dannii is 'getting creative' in lockdown. Image: TV WEEK
"It's definitely been ups and downs, a roller-coaster," Dannii admits.
"One minute I'm baking and doing a workout on Zoom, and then I'll have three days where I feel I can't even get out of bed. You try not to be too hard on yourself."
Dannii's 50th birthday is coming up next month, but with COVID, she's not sure if it's worth trying to organise a celebration. That's left her feeling like a kid whose party has been cancelled.
"When it's a big birthday like a 50th, I'm that kid," she says. I'm like, 'Why aren't I having a party?' I just have to work out how to do something fun, whatever it is."
Apart from COVID putting a dampener on the celebration, Dannii is looking forward to turning 50.
Her older sister Kylie being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 at the age of 36 has helped her see a "whole other side" to getting older.
"In honesty, going through the whole cancer journey with my sister, not knowing if she was going to survive that… and then shortly after that I lost my best friend to cancer and she was really young. So I know the words might not resonate with everybody, but the lucky ones get to age and get older.
"It's a joy, especially as a parent, being around, getting to see my kid grow up."
Dannii likes to think of her 50th birthday as a "mid-life celebration".
"You always hear 'mid-life crisis' and it's doom and gloom, but why can't it be a mid-life celebration? My grandmother is 101, so it [50] really is, if all goes well."
Dannii says her sister Kylie's cancer battle put ageing into perspective. Image: Instagram
It's been more than 40 years since Dannii first appeared on TV in soaps such as The Sullivans before becoming a household name on Young Talent Time. For her, working for six years on the iconic music show was "like going to Disneyland every day".
She also has happy memories of the year she spent as Emma Jackson in Home And Away, a character created for her following the "hilarious" audition she did for the role of Marilyn Chambers.
"I was so bad!" she says with a laugh. "I'm saying the first line and I can feel the camera recording and I'm thinking, 'This is horrible!' I just wanted to run straight back out the door.
"But it was fantastic for me that they just said, 'Well, this character isn't right for you, but how about we try something completely different?'"
Dannii and Kylie have long been fan-favourites of Australian TV. Image: TV WEEK
Back then, teenage Dannii could never have imagined she'd still be working in television three decades in the future.
"I didn't expect to be on TV much past maybe 35, definitely not into my forties," she says.
She remembers how it felt to be pregnant at the age of 38 to ex-partner Kris Smith and to be appearing as a judge on Australia's Got Talent.
"I had the easiest pregnancy – I never had morning sickness or anything – so I was feeling great and running around," she says. "But it felt like a real moment.
I was like, 'Wow, not only am I still working, but here I am, seven months pregnant, and everyone's fine with it.'"
Dannii says it's "a joy" to turn 50. Image: TV WEEK
Not only is Dannii still on TV at 49, she's more in demand than ever. Busy with her Petites fashion label and a '90s music show on LiSTNR as well as The Masked Singer, she's knocking back opportunities, including acting roles.
"I just can't stretch myself that much," she explains. "I love being able to be around and make dinner and school lunches and check homework and that kind of stuff."
To be doing what she's doing at this point in her life, on a show that's as much fun as The Masked Singer, Dannii feels "totally lucky".
"If people enjoy me doing it, I'm up for it," she says. "This is the only thing I've ever wanted to do. How could I not feel like the luckiest girl in the world?"

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