Since finishing as runner-up on Australian Idol at the age of 16 back in 2006, Jessica Mauboy has not only had a thriving music career but enjoyed success built upon a specific image of her as an artist and person.
But that all changes now, according to the 32-year-old who has released a new single Glow, a refreshing track that "exudes confidence" and "sexiness".
"What has been projected out there has always been the smiling, good girl type of thing," Mauboy told Refinery29 Australia over Zoom as she reflected on the past 15 years.
"Meanwhile, I'm like clubbing or you know, I'm doing something naughty," she laughed.
The singer said that she had to compromise when building her career in her late teens and throughout her 20s. While she says she was "always comfortable and okay with that", she's grateful to now be able to redefine her direction, especially after realising she did have moments of discontent.
"It does get to you at some point that you know, you can't really be yourself," she explained. "Sometimes I'd go to bed going, 'I just wish I just said it'. You have these moments where you just like, "I should have but I didn't."
Mauboy, who signed with Warner Music following her split from Sony at the end of last year, said that reinvigorating her image and music style "was always a work in progress behind the scenes" after 15 years of "just kind of playing it cool and being comfortable and being okay."
"It takes great courage and bravery to be like, 'Well, no, I think this,'" she said. "It takes great courage to say no and it just takes some time... it was a journey for me to understand how I needed to develop personally to get where I am now and having a song like Glow is a dream come true for me."
Mauboy intends for Glow to be a summer playlist topper, perfect for various moods, whether it's played on the dance floor or on a cruisy road trip.
"The vibe totally just exudes confidence, motivation, sexiness and personality," she said. "It's about being a bit cheeky and literally being in love with yourself and your surroundings and the people that you love."
Changing her tune has been an overriding theme over the past year, not just in terms of the ARIA Award winner's music career, but on screen as well.
"For me, taking up that role... it means everything," she reflected. "It speaks diversity, it speaks culturally," plus it's also diversified her ventures as an entrepreneur.
Acknowledging there were no First Nations judges on the Australian Idol panel back when she competed, Mauboy said that it was a different time.
"Timing is everything," she said. "I think about what it would have been like if I had someone who really understood culturally what that means and what that feels like [to be on TV singing]," she said.
"But I don't know if we would have made a major difference," she then added, citing Indigenous women such as actor Deborah Mailman, singer Christine Anu and athlete Cathy Freeman being sources of inspiration for her growing up.
As for being a role model herself, Mauboy said she's "always" been one for her community over the years, especially younger community members back in her hometown of Darwin.
"It is exciting because for them to have that same kind of identity, it's important for them and I know how that feels," she said.
"So continuously stepping in that role always helps me celebrate and bring me back to the reason why I love music in the first place. Music is a powerful being. It's alive and it keeps us alive and keeps us going and it tells stories.
"So if I can keep doing that, then I am the happiest person in the world."
Jessica Mauboy's single Glow is out now and tickets to her 2022 The Boss Lady Tour are available here.