“Be true to who you are. Be the most you that you can be.” -Betty Who
For bright blonde Australian pop star Jessica Anne Newham, a.k.a. Betty Who, standing at 6’1” with a deep affection for gummy bears, it is those distinct traits that give her strength. “Make two lists: one of all the things that get you heart wrenchingly, life-alteringly happy (songwriting, performing, gummy bears, Harry Potter) and one of all the things that make you ‘different’ (my height, my hair, my accent, my love of gummy bears),” she advises. “Now take the first list and do as much of all the things on that list as humanly possible. Now take the second list and start to love every single thing on that list, one by one.”
While she grew up in a musical household, playing cello from the age of four, it was Jessica’s time spent at Berklee College of Music in Boston where she found her voice. “As a young person I was desperately seeking my tribe, a group of people who loved the same things I did…I found that at performing arts school ten times over.” She rose to fame after her single “Somebody Loves You” went viral, spawning Glee covers and soundtracks to marriage proposals. “The song was initially a break-up song which is so ironic now…But over the last few years I’ve really been able to see how much joy and light it brings to people. I guess now it’s kind of just a sassy love song.” In April of 2013, her debut EP, The Movement, was released independently. In tandem, with the viral success of “Somebody Loves You”, she was courted by record labels, ultimately signed to RCA, and released her debut full-length in 2014.
She counts opening for Katy Perry on her Prismatic World Tour as one of her most valuable experiences so far. “It was the first time I’d ever opened for anybody and it’s a pretty high stakes situation to start in. All the little evil voices in the back of my head were screaming ‘You don’t know what the fuck you’re doing, who do you think you are, get off the stage…’ louder than they ever had before. Good news is I freaked myself out so much that the next night when I went back on stage I had so little expectation that the show actually went one billion times better!”
A fighter for equality, she has become a huge advocate for LGBT rights. “I think that’s just where I naturally ended up. I will always lend my voice to a cause I truly believe in.” With her new album in the works, Betty Who continues to be an inspiration and a role model. “I absolutely consider myself a feminist but I also think that men and women are fundamentally different, and that’s okay. We have different bodies and different ways of processing emotion. If we didn’t, my love life would be far less complicated…What I know to be absolutely true is that I will not tolerate being disrespected or treated as ‘less than’ simply because I am a woman, and no woman should ever have to tolerate that…Strong ladies make my world go round.”
Interview by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine
Photography by Jeaneen Lund
Stylist: Karen Levitt
Make-up by Tinna Empera
Hair by Katsumi Matsuo
This article originally appeared in The #GirlPower Issue of The Untitled Magazine (2015), pick up a print edition of the #GirlPower Issue today!