Monday night isn’t usually turn-up time, but on June 6, Kylie Minogue brought a double dose of her effervescent energy to Manhattan’s intimate Café Carlyle. Not only did the Aussie pop icon reimagine a handful of her dance-pop classics for the stripped-down, chic cabaret setting, but she officially popped the cork stateside on Kylie Minogue Wines, which is now hitting American markets after making a big splash in the U.K.
If the crowd of friends and fans (including Lucy Liu, Christian Siriano and Dion Lee) was a touch starstruck to be feet away from Ms. Minogue when she began cooing the familiar la-la-la’s of signature hit “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” Kylie herself was a bit awed by the whole experience.
“It was a genuine pinch-me moment,” she tells Billboard the next day, relaxing on a sofa in the Carlyle Hotel in an elegant floral print dress (while she offers wine to guests, her glass – with a Watch What Happens Live guest spot just hours away – is filled with water). “I have those moments where I think, ‘you’re just that little kid from Melbourne who fantasized about doing something, anything in the industry one day.'”
Minogue, of course, has enjoyed quite a varied career, acting in everything from hit soap operas to Moulin Rouge while racking up sales to the tune of 80 million records worldwide and earning 14 No. 1 hits on Dance Club Songs. And like any self-respecting pop star, she’s dabbled in the world of branding – although she readily admits that not all partnerships are created equal.
“I won’t say (what), but some things I’ve done, at that point in time, it made sense or I needed to do it. But – if I could turn back time,” she sings, putting some Kylie flair on the Cher classic. “But hey — you win some, you lose some.”
In the win category, inarguably, is her pairing with the London-based Benchmark Drinks on her own rosé. In less than two years, she’s sold five million bottles, seen her rosé prosecco become the top-selling branded prosecco rosé in the U.K. and won a Golden Vine Award for entrepreneurship. She attributes the runaway success of the brand – which first crossed her mind when a beam of sunlight caught a glass of rosé she was enjoying in Nashville while recording 2018’s Golden – to the fact that this partnership draws on her genuine affection for drink in question.
“This is not just a collab with whatever. We believe in this brand growing,” she says. “People can sniff authenticity. They just know it. There would have been zero point doing it if I wasn’t really invested in it and felt like it could do something and reach people.”
With a rosé-favoring palette and a “detail obsessive” approach to business matters, Minogue worked with Benchmark’s managing director Paul Schaafsma to select her wine brand portfolio (three of her nine rosés are available in markets that include California, Florida, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Texas and Ohio), saying it was “kismet” that brought them together.
While Minogue owns that she’s a newcomer to the wine industry, her decades in the entertainment world taught her not to “bowl into an industry” and expect to be treated like a star just “because you’re famous and respected in another industry. Pay your respects and earn your stripes and open yourself up to learning about something else.” (With a smirk, she acknowledges that immersing herself in the world of vineyards and winemakers is “not the worst day at work.”)
But even with all the research and planning that went into this venture, Minogue cops to having some trepidation about launching it in the U.K. back in 2020, just as the pandemic was taking hold. “With [my 2020 album] Disco and the wine, I thought, ‘Is it insensitive to release anything that represents joy in that time?'” Minogue did, of course, launch both the wine and the album that year, and fans’ response to the Disco album mirrored the British consumer response to her rosé; during uncertain, stressful times, a bubbly burst of excitement – be it in a glass bottle or three-minute dance-pop anthems – was a welcome release. “The Disco album, it turns out, touched a lot of people. Every time someone tells me that, it means a lot to me,” Minogue says.
As for new music, she says she’s getting back into the studio this July, noting that an unexpected upside of lockdown was learning how to self-record on equipment at home: “It means I can record late, which I like to do,” she adds. And whenever the next tour comes, might bottles of Kylie Minogue Rosé be on hand at the tour stops? “It’s like you took the words right out of my mouth,” she laughs.