We’ve had our fair share of dating shows in the UK. From impossibly manicured Love Island contestants and the stark-bollock post-watershed knobs of Naked Attraction, to the ’90s classic Blind Date and the raucous celebrity editions of Ex on the Beach, we thought we’d seen it all. Leave it to the BBC to prove us wrong.
Considering all the odd characters who have graced our screens on British dating shows – undercover Cosmo journalists, minging dinner dates – there’s one fundamental group that has been overlooked. Never have we witnessed a gay dating show, would you believe it? “It’s shocking!” says popstar Dannii Minogue. That’s all about to change, though. This Sunday, Minogue will play Cupid as the presenter on BBC Three’s new show, I Kissed a Boy.
Zooming in from the BBC’s London office, wearing a pink strappy halterneck, with wavy hair and a bronzed tan owed to her time living in Australia, Minogue is eagerly chatting away about her latest venture. The show sees 10 single gay guys take a shot at love in a camp Italian villa. The second they meet their initial match, they kiss – no chat, no Grindr, no flirting. If it’s instant attraction, they’ll share a sloppy snog. If not? A prudish peck. And they say us gays are shallow.
Minogue, of course, has had a stellar career producing some of the ’90s and early-’00s sexiest dance tracks, and later enjoyed a four-year stint as an X Factor judge. But this new role feels particularly special.
The singer has been an ardent supporter of the LGBTQ+ community since the beginning, from being the first performer at London’s newly-reopened G‑A-Y Club in the ’90s (when other straight popstars steered clear) to loudly supporting gay marriage in her home country. In 2004, she became an ambassador for The Terence Higgins Trust, an AIDS awareness organisation. The community’s fallen at her feet ever since.
“I’m at home amongst the gay boys,” Minogue says, lighting up. “Give me a gay club anytime. We love the same things – fashion, music, the humour!” For Minogue, signing up to I Kissed a Boy was a no-brainer. And thank God. She shines like a flamin’ disco ball in the first episode. Let’s get the lowdown…
Dannii, I’ve got to tell you, me and my best friend listen to Who Do You Love Now? whenever we go back to hers after a party. It’s our ultimate sesh song.
Oh, man. There are the funniest whip sounds in that one. It whips you into a frenzy!
Did you feel well equipped to play Cupid when you first got the call to present I Kissed a Boy?
I recorded the theme tune for the show with my friend [and producer] Air Master Sun, and he met his husband when he was on tour with me. So that’s a full circle moment, being a real life Cupid. I’m like, OK, I didn’t exactly introduce you, but I’ll take that!
What were your initial thoughts? The first ever gay dating show… you must have been buzzing.
First of all, it was the shock of reading “the first ever gay dating show”. I mean, I just had to reread it so many times. I was thinking: surely this has happened by now? Because there hasn’t been one, there’s a lot of pressure. For me, I had to be aligned with the values of the show. There were a lot of conversations before I signed on. Of course I wanted to be Cupid, of course I wanted to be part of the first gay dating show, but not if it wasn’t treating the community well, and not if they’re not treating the boys well, and not if it was going to make any spectacle out of anybody. I was really happy to know that most of the crew were going to be from the community. That was really important.
Do you feel the pressure?
The show’s going to be pressurised – everyone’s going to have their opinion. “I would have done it this way or that way” – whatever. Someone has to make a show and just keep the door open. I wanted to be on one that showed a cross-section of the community, was about conversations and people really looking for love. With all of my friends, some have been with their partner for a long time, but the ones that are single are like, “Oh, it’s exhausting out there.”
It’s a jungle out there. While the show is very glam, there are some guys who had a really tough time coming out. One of the contestants had only recently come out to his religious family and had never kissed a boy.
There are so many stories to tell, visibility for different people. For anyone who doesn’t have a clue about the community, there’ll be like, “Oh, there’s different types of people within the gay community?!” Yeah, go figure. All the different backgrounds they come from – religion, family support or no family support, who their friends are, what jobs they have – and how new they are to the community is really interesting. The ones that have been out and about in the community and are more comfortable, they help the newer guys – I love that. I’ve seen that, over the years.
You’ve always been such a massive supporter of LGBTQ+ people. Surely the gays saw you as a mother figure?
Yeah, they called me Mama Minogue! They know that I’m there with a big hug and I want to love them, support them and [for them] to find love!
Can we expect a lot of drama in the upcoming shows?
There’s no drama that’s manufactured. There are conversations where people have very different views and opinions, and how they navigate that is up to them. I mean, it definitely gets tense because you’re in one place with all these people. If you say something, then you’ve got to expect that person will have a reaction to it.
That’s what makes great TV, though, right?
Yeah! A whole lot is going to happen and there are a lot of cliffhangers to come…
Some of my favourite songs of yours are from [1997 LP] Girl. Were you a big clubber in the ’90s?
Oh yeah. In the ’90s I went out clubbing a lot. I would go to the gay clubs in London. A record company that Kylie was working with had Cream in Liverpool, so we would go there. I would be in Ibiza working, partying, and got to meet quite a few of the DJs. It was good time for clubbing. These days, I’m at home in bed quite early.
You’ll always be a party girl at heart, Dannii.
Oh, totally. A few drinks and I’ll be like, “What time is it?” The launch party [for I Kissed a Boy] will be hard to leave, but I know we have to work the next day.
What song gets you on the dancefloor, then?
I love everything. I was actually putting together a song list this morning and it was going from Dolly Parton to Kim Petras. Kim is probably the highest rotation on my playlist for sure. I just love her voice so much.
As the dating show is called I Kissed a Boy, when was the first time you kissed a boy?
I was at an under-age dance party – we used to have these in Australia and they were called a “blue light disco”, run by the council and the police for teens between 14 and 18. Super sweet. So I kissed a boy there. I knew him from the swimming pool. He was more like a skater, surfer type.
Last question: what are your secrets to romance?
Communication, surprises and making sure you have time for just the two of you.
Thanks, Dannii. Mwah!
I Kissed a Boy airs Sunday 14 May at 9pm on BBC Three