Diminutive pop icon and showgirl Kylie Minogue shows her true character after a battle with cancer HALF-ANGEL, half-coquette, Kylie Minogue's face - looking lovelier than ever - on the cover of this month's Hong Kong edition of Elle says, unmistakably, that the showgirl is back. Having overcome breast cancer, the 38-year-old Australian pop-megastar's stock has rarely been higher. Her fortitude over the past 18 months has raised awareness of the disease and of the courage of less-visible breast cancer victims, usually women with far fewer resources with which to cope. Yesterday, she was merely one of the world's most iconic singers. Today the irrepressible Minogue is also a torch of hope. 'We may all be aware that breast cancer is no longer necessarily an automatic death sentence. Nevertheless, Kylie Minogue's 18-month 'sickie' from her job as our finest female pop star has been gratifyingly and impressively short. And she's back to work with a vengeance,' Simon Price of Britain's The Independent national daily, wrote after one of her first shows of the year. 'The atmosphere inside [London's] Wembley Arena is more emotionally charged than at any concert I can recall. Before romping into another song, she pauses on her hydraulic podium - for slightly longer than usual - smiles that foal smile and crinkles her nose. She knows.' Minogue first shot to fame in her teens, in the Australian soap opera Neighbours, which began in 1985, and featured Minogue playing the character of a sunny girl-next-door car-mechanic. Neighbours did well abroad, too, especially in Britain, where, at the peak of its popularity, it was watched by more Britons than the population of Australia. Minogue's music career began with an infectious recorded cover of Little Eva's The Loco-Motion. Nobody expected that her first single would become Australia's best-selling single of 1987 and subsequently a worldwide smash. But it did. Her debut album, Kylie, proved that she was no one-hit wonder. It sold more than 7million copies worldwide. In the mid-1990s however, Minogue's star started to wane. As she attempted to distance herself from her earlier 'manufactured-pop' style, she struggled to elicit interest in her more cutting-edge style. One notable highlight of this period though was Minogue's duet-recording, Where The Wild Roses Grow, with fellow Victoria State singer Nick Cave. The unlikely single became a worldwide smash before Minogue disappeared again. The new millennium brought a stunning change of fortunes. In 2000, Minogue reinvented herself as a dance-pop artist, and executed a comeback backed by a thrilling new sound, a couple of superb albums - Light Years (2000) and Fever (2001) - artful and provocative music videos and breathtakingly lavish stage shows. A highlight of this period was her stellar performance at the Sydney 2000 Olympics closing ceremony, when she sang to an estimated global TV audience of 3.7 billion people in 220 countries. Even America fell for Minogue - in 2003 she received a Grammy Award nomination for 'Best Dance Recording' for Love At First Sight. Two years later, the Ultimate Kylie greatest hits album was unleashed and Minogue hit the road for the Showgirl (world) Tour. Then mid-tour an announcement emerged from her hometown, Melbourne. The breaking news was almost unthinkable - the ever youthful-looking Minogue had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The Showgirl Tour came to an abrupt halt as her doctors decided to treat her immediately. Media coverage matched the huge outpouring of sympathy and concern, particularly in Australia and Britain. For both nations it seemed she was everybody's much-loved younger sister. Minogue occupies such a special place in the life of the Australian nation that Prime Minister John Howard was moved to issue a statement of support. Following surgery and chemotherapy, Minogue gradually regained her strength, health and her trademark joie de vivre. Then on November 11, last year, she resumed her tour with a stellar performance in Sydney, jesting with the crowd that she was merely 'fashionably late'. The Sydney Morning Herald described the show as 'nothing less than a triumph'. Kylie's had a number of captivating stage and recording personas, but the one that captures her loveliness more than any other is perhaps the brilliant MTV video for her 2002 hit Come Into My World. Minogue is filmed strolling down the sunny side of the street warbling away like the happiest songbird in the world.