How The Masked Singer’s odd couple formed
Exclusive: Dannii Minogue is no stranger to waging war with her fellow judges behind the scenes on reality TV shows like The Masked Singer.
Every time the stunning pop star would shimmy her way on stage for The X Factor or Australia's Got Talent, a headline would appear alleging she was embroiled in nasty fights with her co-stars behind-the-scenes.
It started with a particularly horrible stint on Britain's Got Talent, when the younger Minogue sister was hired by uber producer Simon Cowell to sit alongside Sharon Osbourne, without telling the feisty wife of punk rocker Ozzy.
Ask Minogue about it today, almost a decade after Osbourne threw her toys out of the pram and went for her jugular, and the 47-year-old still winces.
So when Ten signed her and notorious diva, Lindsay Lohan to its Australian production of the hit Korean singing show, Minogue admits the stiletto shoe was on the other foot.
Even before filming had started, Minogue fed the grapevine gossips, telling Kiis FM's Kyle and Jackie O breakfast show she was unsure whether she'd like Lohan "until I get there."
Lohan's reputation - in her private life and on set - preceded her.
Wild partying, stints in rehab, lesbian love affairs, dysfunctional parents, a stint in jail for DUI, and the almost inevitable Playboy shoot … La Lohan was the poster girl for wayward celebrities.
But as Minogue explains, "I went into it completely open-minded but she was probably thinking the same things about me."
"I didn't want to [dislike her] but you know … a few things crossed my mind, I just wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt."
Borne out of her experience with Osbourne, Minogue insists: "I never want to go through what I went through … ever again. That was just really horrific and nobody wants to go through that."
Besides, Lohan had a lot to gain escaping to the relative anonymity of an Australian TV show, Minogue opines: "I just thought it would be good for her to take a break from the rest of her life, being removed from it."
But soon after meeting the Parent Trap and Mean Girls star on the set of a marketing shoot, Monigue's fears were set aside in one gesture from Lohan that could not have been better scripted to win her over.
"Her hairdresser had brought along all these wigs and at one point she turned to me and said: 'do you want to try on some wigs?' and I was like," Minogue says, beaming, 'um, do you know anything about my life? Of course, I do!' We all put one on, including Dave (Hughes) … and it's now one of my most favourite moments of anything we did together."
Establishing a good rapport between judges and hosts isn't always a pre-requisite for ratings success. But in this case, viewers have taken to this off-the-wall format, which puts them on equal footing with the panel when it comes to guessing the guest singers.
Audience figures for the first few episodes genuinely shocked industry experts, averaging over the magic million viewer mark since it launched two weeks ago.
Embracing its "bonkers" appeal, even playing to it, has been the key, and that, argues Minogue has proved a comfortable fit for everyone, including their international guest.
"We were very welcoming to her, but she brought out a lot of great things in us too. She was really bonkers and I loved that. There were days you could see how scared she was … we all were. It was like we were about to step onto a rollercoaster together; but she brought out a fun side in us, and Dave too," she said.
In a genuine moment of sisterhood, Minogue tried to ease Lohan's nerves and make a connection with the fellow child star.
"I think the show has been a great opportunity for all of us, but I remember a conversation with her where I said, 'you know, it's less than one hand full of people that I know personally who started work around the age we did who are working now," she recalls.
"You don't get through that unscathed, you know."
She continues: "I've had life experiences, personal experiences come at me, during that time and no one's getting through 40 years without all of that, as work being up and down.
"It can be a messy affair and I said to her, 'I want you to know that I read that you started when you were five and I started at seven. Not many other people will have done that or know what you've been through,' " Minogue said.
"I just wanted her to know, 'hey, I totally get it and I'm not going to judge what's out there because I wouldn't want people to do that to me either; working out what's real and what isn't."
The genial approach was Minogue's way of reassuring Lohan she was safe.
"I just didn't want to even ask her [about her wild past], but say, 'this is me and who I am and I wanted to welcome you and we all want you to have an amazing time in Australia.'"
Reaching out to Lohan last week, while she was believed to be holidaying in Dubai, she describes Minogue's kindness as the key to her positive experience - touched by her co-star's efforts to "have my back."
"Dannii was like a big sister to me," Lohan said.
"We got along right away, straight off the bat.'"
She claims she was asked to appear as a singer on the US version, but had to knock it back because "at the time I was working with refugees in Syria, after opening a club that I trademarked and designed in Greece."
"Then I saw my friend Blake Lively's husband, Ryan Reynolds on the South Korea show and I thought, 'why not?'"
With Ten expected to renew the series for a second season at its 2020 programming launch this week, it's likely this unlikely sister act will regroup again.
And with reports Lohan is looking to use The Masked Singer to relaunch her own music career, she's got a fan in Minogue.
"Lindsay was playing me her new music that she's been working on and one of the songs she played to the audience during the last recording. It's awesome, incredible," Minogue enthuses, "I cannot wait for her to put it out."
The Masked Singer airs 7.30pm, Monday on Ten.