Jessica Mauboy: “Self-Worth Is Definitely A Journey And It’s A Work In Progress”

The singer opens up about stage fright, taking control of her life and why she wants every Australian woman to know her worth
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Since she shot to fame on Australian Idol 15 years ago, Jessica Mauboy has become one of Australia’s most loved and recognised entertainers – a dynamic female triple-threat who transcends genres and leaves audiences spellbound with her talent, beauty and charm. Yet while Mauboy’s super-star status has enabled her to become a role model for many Australian women, the singer’s path to fame hasn’t been immune to vulnerability and challenge.  

As the cover star of marie claire’s April issue, Mauboy is proud to support the marie claire x L’Oréal Paris Know Your Worth campaign, alongside an ensemble of other fearless females including domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty, celebrity chef and TV presenter Poh Ling Yeow, athlete Elyse Perry, model Jessica Vander Leahy and TV presenter and writer Phoebe Burgess.

Mauboy reveals her recent decision to take control of her life, resulting in her parting ways with her record label of 14 years and long-term manager: “I knew I needed to do things my way and take the reins,” she says. “Last year was probably my lowest and also my highest because I gained so much strength.”    

A shocking 94 per cent of Australian women experience low self-esteem and nearly 70 per cent say self-doubt is their biggest block to success, according to new research commissioned by L’Oréal Paris1. A further 79 per cent of women think they are not good enough.

We all know a beautiful, accomplished woman who is crippled by low self-esteem; a talented over-achiever who second guesses her every move at work; or a hilarious, inspiring and warm woman who gets stuck in the never-ending Instagram scroll and comparison trap. We know her because we are her. But no more!

As the L’Oréal Paris slogan “I’m worth it” turns 50 this year, we asked Mauboy to share her journey to confidence, reflect on what it means to have self-worth and divulge her strategies for creating positive self-talk.

Jessica Mauboy marie claire
(Credit: Image: Darren McDonald)

Was there one lightning-bolt moment where you realised your worth, or has it been an ever-evolving work-in-progress?

“My family are the reason I entered music in the first place. They really encouraged me and always had wise words when I felt fearful about getting up on stage. Although in the back of my mind, I knew I had this ability to be able to sing; I was confident when I was by myself. Other people felt it too – whether I was singing a cover or making up my own tune.”

“I think [my self worth] came from how I built myself and my values. Both of my parents gave me mantras when I moved away from home at the age of 16: [they said] don’t forget where you come from and always respect the opportunities that come to you.”

Can you tell us one moment you experienced crippling self-doubt and how you overcame it?

“My first ever audition was in the Northern Territory; my mum and her sister drove me to Adelaide River. I was 11 years old. We got there and I looked around and there was nobody my age – everyone was in their 20s.”

“I didn’t have an instrument to play – I only had a backing track on a CD. [When I got up on stage] I pictured the backyard where my family would get together and we’d have a dance. I put that image in my head and I sang, and until halfway through, my eyes were pretty much closed. By the end of it, all of a sudden, I just heard this grand applause. I took this deep breathe, I exhaled and I held my head high and walked off the stage.”

“I won. I received two trophies and a $500 cheque. From that moment, I knew this is something that I’m going to do.”

Jessica Mauboy marie claire
(Credit: Image: Darren McDonald)

How do you feel now? Do you still get nervous before performances?

“I always try to remain as humble as possible. I’m happy with what I’ve got. [When I feel uneasy] I think of other who might be feeling the same at that exact moment. It’s something that I’ll do forever, working through that fear. I always tell myself to be completely present in the moment. If I’m really there with that audience, it’ll be okay. I’m not quite sure how it’s going to end, but if I’m present, we can work this out together.”

L’Oréal Paris commissioned research showing that 79 per cent of women think they’re not good enough. Do you have any words of wisdom for women who are struggling with low self-esteem?

“It’s important to acknowledge your thoughts. If I’m getting too much into my own head, I speak to myself a different way or make sure I’m choosing the right words.”

“One of my greatest experiences was when [Australian Idol judge] Kyle Sandilands said, ‘that dress doesn’t look flattering on you’ and that it needed to be ironed. He made me feel really self-conscious in front of millions of people. I just went backstage and looked in the mirror and said, ‘you’re okay, you are who you are.’ You can only learn from those experiences. It makes you kind. I’d never want to treat someone like that.”

“Remember who you are and where you come from – that’s something that has really resonated with me throughout my whole music career.”

Jessica Mauboy marie claire
(Credit: Image: Darren McDonald)

Why did you want to be involved with the marie claire x L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth campaign?

“For me, it was a no brainer. When I was growing up, my mum used L’Oréal Paris products. But this campaign is not just about the product, it’s about relating to different faces from different places and hearing women out – their struggles, their obstacles and helping them get to a stage where they feel the most free.”

“Seeing that 79 per cent of women have low self-esteem is scary. It’s the constant comparison [that affects out sense of worth]. I’ll probably be there forever. But if we really work on that and share those feelings, the more we understand that we’re not alone. We’re all strong in our own way and we’re all soft in our own way. I think it’s really about unveiling and creating big support networks.”

It’s the 50-year anniversary of the ‘Because I’m Worth It’ tagline. It’s still so relevant today; why do you think that is? And what does it mean to you?

“It’s amazing that the L’Oréal Paris tagline ‘Because I’m Worth It’ is 50 years old. It’s like a declaration to myself to be confident and proud of every part of who I am.”

“Self-worth is definitely a journey and it’s a work in progress. It’s about looking into myself, finding the beauty and remaining confident – I think that’s the best way to look at beauty for me.”

Brought to you by L’Oréal Paris.

1 Source: Bastion Insights survey with n=701 Australian women aged 18 and over, November 2020.

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