I wore their names on my shirt, emblazoned in glitter across my chest.
Everyone assumed that it was about mockery, about me being a bitch again, while I told the press it was about female solidarity, divas sticking together, how much I respected them, how professional they were. In reality it was about conquest.
My daughter adored Britney, insisted on playing her CDs on the car stereo, would sit for hours enraptured by the music videos, copying the robotic dance moves, learning lyrics by heart, mimicking that braying voice.
At first I was dismissive. Yet another teen princess whoring herself to the record companies, the sponsorship deals, marketed as the faux-virginal fantasy of middle-aged men. Britney wasn't the first and certainly wouldn't be the last.
But there was something about her. She reminded me of my younger self. That hungry, determined glint in her eyes could've been me twenty years ago in the underground dives and disco venues of Detroit, though Britney was far more commercially astute.
She was the kind of girl who always got what she wanted. I'd had to work harder than that, had got my hands dirty along the way.
Her plastic porn star veneer was simply that. But with those glossy lips, the provocative way she stared into the camera, the grinding of her hips, she wasn't as wholesome as her Southern upbringing would have the world believe.
Slut or virgin - I wanted to know which archetype fit most snugly.
It was easy to arrange a meeting - she was in London doing promotion. I had my people contact her people and we met for lunch in an exclusive hotel, minimal security and without entourage. Less chance of being spotted by the slavering British tabloid newspapers and their paparazzi lapdogs that way.
She was nervous, flashing her expensive orthodontics as she laughed demurely at my deadpan jokes that I don't think she truly understood. I wondered if she was curious as to why I'd initiated this meeting. Maybe she'd heard about my proclivities - always had an eye for pretty girls - and, frankly, who would pass up an offer from Madonna? Or maybe she believed that I genuinely admired her work (and in some ways I did). I knew she was a fan of mine.
Didn't matter. She hid the jolt of surprise very well when my bare foot slid up the length of her shin beneath the table. She looked over the rim of her coffee cup with her slightly cross-eyed stare, mascara heavy lashes batting once in comprehension, twice in acknowledgement.
I leaned across the table, my gaze lingering on plump surgically-enhanced cleavage before resting on naturally full lips. "I reserved a room."
A statement of fact. It hung in the air between us and slowly she replaced her cup on the saucer, a series of carefully measured movements. Everything about her was meticulously choreographed. I wondered if she fucked like that too.
She smiled, dipped her head slightly. "Let's go then."
The sex? They say a lady never tells. Lucky for you, I'm not a lady.
She was so eager to please, would've done anything I asked. I was a goddess to her, the reigning queen of pop. She'd fantasised about meeting me, being me, ever since she was a precocious child with posters of me on her wall.
This was one step better: she had the taste of me in her mouth, her fingers buried inside me. Pop consumerism at its ultimate level, its logical conclusion.
She whispered my name into my neck as she came, as if in that one breath she gave possession to me. I wore it proudly for the world to see.
Kylie hadn't registered on my radar until the mid nineties. I'd seen her on MTV one sleepless night while staying in an anonymous hotel room in an anonymous European city. She was a little girl playing dress-up in sexy clothes, not very different to Britney, though a few years older at the time. As for her music, well, it could be summed up in one word: disposable.
I forgot all about her, like most of the world. Female pop singers are dime a dozen, very few last the distance, or are able to make that transition to reach an older, more loyal audience.
Throughout my career I always had to stay one step ahead of the competition, the detractors and critics. I changed my image so many times, as if with every chameleon-like transformation, I gave a little something new, something fresh. It was a question of survival and I hardly expected a tiny, toothy Australian girl to manage that.
Of course, I was proved wrong.
The Millennium rolled around and maybe people were ready to embrace their pop roots again. Everyone in the music industry was talking about Kylie's comeback and not least her spangly gold hotpants that showcased her perfect little ass. She was a disco diva reborn and suddenly brimming with self-assurance, so secure in herself that she could flaunt this tongue-in-cheek image.
It was fun, sexy, everything that pop music should be. I wanted a piece of it.
I'd been trying to orchestrate a meeting for months but our schedules didn't coincide until we met, by chance, backstage at an awards ceremony.
She was flushed, fresh from performing her new single on stage. The audience was still screaming for her minutes later and her smile of delight appeared genuine.
There was a hive of activity around her: dancers, personal assistants, sound technicians, PR men, but they parted like the sea as I approached. She watched me, eyebrow arched, one hand poised on her hip as her people and their sub-people slinked away. I half expected her to give an ironic curtsey but she simply sipped from a bottle of Evian that had been thrust into her hand.
I came close enough to detect the zesty scent of her. My eyes focused on the slight sheen of glistening sweat above her upper lip and I wanted to lick it from her, wanted to push her against the wall in front of these nobodies and touch my lips to her skin.
Actually, I was remarkably restrained (for someone who once got her breasts out on the catwalk for Jean Paul Gaultier). I congratulated her performance, and gave my stock compliment that my daughter loved her work - not exactly high praise considering Lourdes had the musical tastes of your average 4 year old but it always disarmed people. Then I put myself out on a limb.
"I have to confess," I said in my most confidential tone, my fingers rising to touch her arm. I noticed that she leaned into it. "Lourdes would kill me if she knew I'd met you and hadn't asked for your autograph. Do you think you could...?"
That secured a laugh and an invite to Kylie's dressing room
- and as
dressing rooms went, there was barely enough room to swing an ostrich
feather. Beyond the closed door, the hustle of backstage activity could still be heard.
I leaned against the door while Kylie disappeared behind a screen, unravelling her stage costume in silhouette. My eyes were burning with the desire to see her but I kept my voice steady as I spoke. "I'm afraid I told a little lie."
She stopped undressing briefly, the rustle of fabric ceasing. "Oh?"
"Yes, I'm here under false pretences."
Kylie emerged from behind the screen, wrapped in a red silk dressing gown, hair loose around her shoulders. There was clear amusement in her eyes as she feigned surprise.
"You do realise that autograph routine *sounds* like a line, don't you?" she smirked.
"Nobody ever accused me of being a good actress." I took a step towards her. "How's this sound? I want to fuck you so bad that I'm prepared to risk making a complete ass of myself."
Kylie's eyebrow arched. "That makes two of us." Her hands reached for the snug knot at the front of her robe, tugging once, and I watched the rapid progress of the material as it puddled at her dainty feet.
She was elfenly slender, hips slim, breasts firm and high. She looked like a schoolgirl but held herself like a woman. Maybe that was what Britney had been missing - she'd been faking it, whatever it was. Sex appeal, maturity, that indefinable X factor. But Kylie had it, even in this squalid little dressing room.
I think I nearly stumbled in my haste to touch her. I was supposed to be cool. The bitch, the icon, the woman who'd seen and done it all. It was supposed to be a brief distraction, something to humour me, but at some point it'd crossed over into something else.
She undressed me slowly, peeling off my expensive suit and exposing my gym-flattened tummy and breasts ripe and heavy with age and child-rearing. Though she was only ten years my junior, the difference between us was obvious no matter how many lotions and potions, therapies and physical trainers I'd prescribed to. Her hands were smooth, her skin soft and mostly free of wrinkles.
But I didn't think of that when her full lips encircled my breast, as we drifted blindly until my back was once more pressed against the door. I didn't think much of anything when she dropped to her knees, except to dimly realise that somehow the tables had been turned.
And when I wore her name, in glitter, across my shirt it was about ownership. She had conquered me.