It seems an unlikely start to an enduring friendship: One party, an aspiring pop star competing with thousands of others for a spot in a new girl group. The other, a judge who would decide her fate.
But that’s exactly how former Bardot singer Sophie Monk and radio veteran Jackie O met – and 20 years later, their bond is tighter than ever.
In a new joint interview with Stellar magazine, the pair reflect on their first impressions of each other – and Jackie O insists there was never a power imbalance, despite the fact she was one of three judges tasked with choosing the members of girl group Bardot for the first season of Popstars back in 2000.
Barely older than the girls she was auditioning, Jackie O said she knew she lacked the experience of the other judges. Her expertise “was more marketing, and there was no-one more marketable than Sophie. And I was right, she’s lasted 20 years later. People are still talking about her and people still love her.”
The pair admit their relationship drifted during Monk’s years in LA – she now admits she “got caught in a bubble for a while” – but they became close again when she returned home to Australia. Now, they talk on the phone “almost every day.”
Which made Monk’s recent appearance as a contestant on The Masked Singer quite tricky – there she was again, 20 years later, singing for her supper while Jackie O sat on a judging panel. But this time, she had to keep her identity a big secret.
Monk tells Stellar she had good motivation to keep the secret: “I just thought that if I told her, it wasn’t going to be as fun.”
And with Monk’s star turn as the Dragonfly reminding viewers why she found fame in the first place, she’s preparing to dip her toes back into the music world once more. It just won’t involve her old girl group Bardot, who split acrimoniously in 2002 and had a brief three-piece reunion earlier this year to mark their 20th anniversary (Monk and former bandmate Sally Polihronas opted not to take part).
Monk’s unmasking as the Dragonfly caused a minor scandal as her former Bardot bandmate Tiffani Wood fired up on social media.
“I thought Sophie was too busy for a Bardot reunion. I mean she’s wearing a dragonfly costume singing on a stage while I have to try and get six kids to sleep before the show comes on …” Wood wrote in the first of several since-deleted Instagram stories.
“Think I’ll go one step further and predict a new single release. Coming to a radio station near you and played by her besty Jackie O first,” Wood contined.
Speaking to Stellar, Monk makes it clear there’s no love lost between her and the members of Bardot more eager to reunite.
“I haven’t spoken to the girls for 18 years, aside from one. The reunion wasn’t actually the big deal that everyone made it out to be. I’m working on a music direction that is much more aligned with where I’m at in my life and I’m excited for everyone to hear it,” Monk says now.
And it seems like in the ongoing Bardot reunion saga, Jackie O is very much siding with her friend.
“It was so long ago, and like you say, you haven’t kept in contact with them, and I haven’t either. Which is a bit odd, to just go, ‘Hey, let’s get back together.’” says Jackie O.
Read the full interview with Sophie Monk and Jackie O in the current issue of Stellar, available in the Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Herald Sun, on sale Sunday, September 20.