Nikki Webster, the young star of the 2000 Sydney Olympics opening ceremony, has revealed she copped so much criticism following her performance she almost left Australia for good.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the now 28-year-old said she was driven out of the country after dealing with being “the punchline of everyone’s joke”.
“It was dark,” she said, likening the experience to tall poppy syndrome.
“People were telling me how I needed to change my career and break through like Britney and change my image and I was thinking, ‘is this me?’. It was confusing.”
A then 13-year-old Webster kicked off the Sydney Olympic Games 15 years ago, after being picked out from 500 other young girls.
She flew across the Olympic stadium in a pink summer dress, her blonde ringlets tied back with a pink ribbon, an image she says she struggled to shake as she tried to build a career.
She began working hard on building her music career and released a single, Strawberry Kisses, but says she wasn’t getting the wider reception she’d expected for her work.
“I was just this young naïve artist trying to make a go and work hard.
“I’d worked damn hard and I wasn’t getting the reception, I couldn’t understand it.”
Webster admitted the criticism was harder to deal with because she had been so young, saying as a performer she understood audiences would judge her, but didn’t expect the backlash she received from the media.
“To have media judge you, and have people who have never met you judge you was a hard thing for me to cope with as a teenager,” she says.
“It was quite dark and I think that’s why I went to Los Angeles, because I thought, ‘I need to do this by myself’.”
In the US, Webster found she was able to live under the radar and questioned coming back to Australia at all.
She is now married to Qantas flight attendant Matthew McMah, and last year the couple gave birth to baby girl, Skylah.
The family live in Sydney and Webster runs two dance studios.
“I remember standing watching Cathy Freeman light the cauldron and I was counting,” she said.
“I was going 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004 — where will I be? I don’t think I ever thought I’d be a mum in 15 years, that’s for sure.”
Via Nine News
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