Betty Who Interview: “Blow Out My Candle”, “The One That Got Away”

It’s a Midtown morning like any other, with tourists, financial offices and personal assistants forming a bustling mass of bodies on Fifth Avenue in New York City — except on this day Betty Who cuts through the crowd. When she makes it to STYLECASTER’s block, it’s impossible not to miss: She’s wearing chunky silver jewelry, sunglasses, her signature platinum blonde locks and an electric blue half-sleeve shirt so bright it lights up the sky. she is buzz. And it’s not just because of the iced coffee she arrives with in hand (though maybe that has something to do with it). “It’s the size of my fucking face!” she exclaims, presenting the half-finished drink like a trophy as we walk inside.

After checking in at reception (using her real name, Jessica Anne Newham), Betty Who, or Jess as her friends and family call her, reveals why she’s so excited. The Australian-born singer-songwriter attended a Tony’s after-party over the weekend and visions of the star-studded night are still fresh in her mind. “I got the dance floor going. I take full responsibility for that,” she says and grins as we take the elevator. “I was like that cool first cousin who gets drunk at the wedding. He’s the first on the floor and everyone’s like, ‘He’s crazy, isn’t he?’ That’s my energy,” she jokes. For a moment, Newham looks like she’s ready to break out the moves, but the four cramped walls surrounding us just wouldn’t give her enough room to shine, so she decides against it. It’s probably the right call. She doesn’t care about shrinking herself to fit in a box these days.

For Newham, the past two years have been an exercise in creating and occupying space—not just as a performer, but as a woman, wife, and friend in the spotlight. Following the release of “I Remember”, the fifth and final single from their title album, betty, In 2019, Newham took a hiatus from releasing new music. During this time, she married photographer Zak Cassar, who starred in the HBO Max film not pregnant and spent countless hours realizing things about her life and career (“Thanks, Kylie Jenner,” she quips) before she turned 30.

I can be myself And that is enough.

Like so many of us, the pandemic provided the necessary, if sudden, nudge to reconnect with parts of herself she hadn’t been able to examine in years. There were the typical excursions into chores and hobbies – Newham, a self-proclaimed one Great British Bake-Off Superfan, “fell in love” with baking and nailed the show’s flaky Portuguese custard tarts, pastéis de nata — but mostly there were other, more existential things to talk about. “I was pretty helpless for the first eight months. I didn’t know what to do with myself,” Newham recalls from our office library. “Who am I without this thing I’ve been doing for ten years? I didn’t know what the answer to that was.”

Newham, who originally rose to fame after her song “Somebody Loves You” was featured in a viral video about a gay couple’s engagement, has spent the better part of the last decade hitting a steady roster of singles, EPs and release albums the world. It’s inevitably a lifestyle that calls for distraction. “Being on the move is such an intense lifestyle, and it gives you so many reasons not to engage with the things that live inside you,” says Newham. In hindsight, she was always “caught up” on too many things to take stock of the present. “I’m still working on knowing that it’s not about the carrot on a stick in front of you,” Newham muses. “This story never ends. If you are constantly chasing the next one, you will always be dissatisfied. Now I’m really trying to figure out how to be grateful in this moment, regardless of the outcome — which is a lot easier said than done.”

Sometimes, when staying present, it feels like slowing down to bask in the fun stuff – hello baked pastries and after parties! — but for Newham, it also means meeting yourself exactly where she is without judgment. “I let go. If something doesn’t feel quite right, I don’t have to feel guilty about it. I don’t have to feel ashamed. I don’t have to feel guilty,” she explains. “If I didn’t like an outfit, then no, because I’m a disgusting monster. It’s just like, ‘Oh! I just don’t feel like it me.’ So what does that mean?

I just feel like I’ve been playing dress up in a woman’s world all my life.

“There’s a part of me that always wants feathers on my head, like Carrie Bradshaw,” adds Newham, in true Libra fashion (Newham later confirms she’s a Virgo Moon and a Sagittarius Rising). “It’s just trying to balance the glitz and glamor while still living my truth and being who I actually am on stage. Do I want to be this otherworldly creature? Or do I want to be myself?” At this point in her career, Newham is choosing the latter, trading sequins for jeans at a recent show. “I can do less,” she says. “I can be myself. And that is enough.”

Aesthetically, Newham espouses an image of comfort—but that doesn’t mean she sacrifices style. At six feet tall, she’s still finding new ways to defend big queens in a way that works for her. “I’ve spent my entire career looking at my peers and idols – women who are 5’10” and 100 pounds – and knowing that I don’t look like them,” she says. “I have to find a way to do things my own way instead of pretending I’m something I’ll never be.”

The key? “Men’s clothes,” reveals Newham. “I just feel like I’ve been playing dress up in a woman’s world all my life. I’m letting go of all that stuff. Now I’m concentrating on what makes me really cool and really comfortable. And the way people react to me is so interesting. People will say, “Oh, I wish I’d worn that.” Well, ladies, I’m on to something here!”

Betty Who,

Image: Courtesy of Betty Who.

Newham’s next chapter reflects that shift in style – both as a musician and as the host of a new Prime Video dating series. The one that got away, which features a mix of queer and straight couples looking for a second chance at love. “I’m preparing for a change in my career, however that manifests itself,” she says of her new role on the show, which will mark the first time many viewers will encounter her on their television screens. Regardless of the response – which, judging by the trailer, will be overwhelmingly positive – Newham is ready for the ride. “I got zero. If everything goes away tomorrow or I become the biggest star in the world overnight, then that’s it,” she says, before mimicking a meditative perspective. “This is my coffee cup, for example. This is my husband. This is my dog. This is our couch. This is our house. This is the life I am thankful for.”

Musically, Newham turns inward on her fourth studio album, which fans can expect to see in late 2022. Her first single from the album, ‘Blow Out My Candle’, is a triumphant pop ballad that slams the haters and encourages confidence via nostalgic 80’s synths, just in time for Pride 2022. While the track takes Newham to a new ‘level of Vulnerability,” she reveals that the rest of the songs on her forthcoming album dive even deeper. “When I listen to the album’s title track, it makes me think of me as an 11-year-old, who I really wrote it for,” teases Newham. “Nine times out of ten, I get really emotional.”

It’s perfectly okay to change your mind.

“I try to be as vulnerable as possible, even if I stumble or if I do it right. Either is valid,” Newham continues. “I talked about it a lot in my music, but maybe I never really felt it myself. And now if I’m going to try to make people feel safe and comfortable, I have to be most comfortable on stage and make space for that.” It took Newham most of her career to realize that this kind of open-book -Art suits her more authentically – and now that she’s found it, she has no intention of letting go.

For her fans, many of whom are members of the LGBTQ+ community, Newham hopes they can give themselves the same space to be exactly who they are, with no boundaries. “Give yourself some mercy,” she says. “Give yourself a little time. Know that it’s perfectly okay to change your mind. You can be one thing one day and something else the next.” At the end of the day, she says, “You have every right to do so.”

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New entertainment newsletter Betty Who Interview: “Blow Out My Candle”, “The One That Got Away”

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