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Unmasked as 'Alien' and casting for Dance Moms: What Nikki Webster's life looks like now.

This article was originally published on September 25, 2019. It was updated on December 4, 2019.

Update: Nikki Webster was revealed to be Alien on The Masked Singer Australia on September 30, 2019.

The publicist makes it clear before my interview with Nikki Webster starts: “NO questions about The Masked Singer”.

Okay, got it. But if anyone would be perfect for the show – which is all about getting audiences to hear your vocal skills without knowing who you are – it would be Nikki Webster. She’s 32 years old, but most people still think of her as the little girl who flew at the Sydney Olympics, and then had a hit the following year with “Strawberry Kisses”. 

In fact, Webster tells Mamamia that when she meets new people, the conversation almost always starts the same way. 

“Most people sing ‘Strawberry Kisses’,” Webster says. “That’s the test – if I’m going to be offended, or if I’m going to laugh with them. Then if I’m laughing with them and singing along with them, it goes to a conversation.”

The song went to number two in the Australian charts, when Webster had just turned 14. So how does she feel, as a mum-of-two, running a string of dance studios, that people still remind her of “Strawberry Kisses” almost every day?  

“I love it,” she says. “I’m very proud of the song. It’s rewarding as an artist to know your song’s lived on for 18 years.

There was even a recent dance remix, Strawberry Kisses 2017, which proved its catchiness holds up almost two decades later.

Like a lot of kids, Nikki dreamed of being a performer. But unlike a lot of kids, Nikki’s dreams came true. At the age of five she was cast in her first musical theatre production. Then, when she was 13, she scored one of the biggest gigs in the world: starring in the opening ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympics. 

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Webster says during the ceremony, she “just forgot” that the eyes of the world were on her. 

“I was enjoying it as much as people at home watching it.”

She still has the pink dress she wore that night. 

“I’m never parting with that! And I’ve still got the little bag I walked out with, and some confetti that I threw.”

After the Olympics, opportunities came Webster’s way. She got to travel the world, to record albums, to design her own clothing range.

“Anything I dreamed of as a kid and wrote in my diary was coming true at a very young age,” she remembers. “I was going, ‘Oh my gosh, this is crazy!’”

Mamamia’s daily entertainment podcast The Spill discuss Nikki Webster bringing Dance Moms to Australia… Post continues below.

At the age of 13, she was choosing her own musical direction. She remembers the first time she heard “Strawberry Kisses”, when she was going through possible songs to record. 

“It was just an automatic ‘yes’ from me. I remember going, ‘I want this song.’”

But there was a downside. Not everyone was happy for her success. 

“When you’re a child star and you’re at a performing arts school, you’re living everyone’s dream. So there is going to be jealousy and there are going to be people that think they could have done better or been better or whatever. I think that happens in every school but mine was on a global scale.” 

Then there was the media. Webster struggled to deal with the stories that were written about her – both by journalists that hadn’t met her and those that had.  

“I’d spend a great afternoon with a reporter and then they’d flip the story into something else, so that’s hurtful. I was like, ‘I thought you were my friend!’

“Now I realise they had a job to do as well. But that was hard to deal with as a young kid.”

 

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Webster says there were also “a lot of opportunists” hanging around her, but she’s saving the stories for a book she wants to write one day. 

“But it made me stronger, that’s for sure,” she adds.

Throughout her teens, Webster had a string of singles that charted, including “Something More Beautiful” and “Dancing In The Street”. But none came close to the success of “Strawberry Kisses”. 

In 2005, Webster turned 18 and was officially no longer a “child star”. She marked the occasion by doing a sexy shoot for men’s magazine FHM. She agrees that it had “shock value”. 

“It was an interesting time,” she reflects. “I think all 18 year olds go through that time in life where they’re like, ‘Who am I? What am I going to do?’ It was a tough time to work out who I was. I did Dancing With The Stars and then FHM and it was a moment to show, obviously in a very classy way, that I was getting older, and it was okay to think of Nikki as getting older like everybody else.”

Webster knows that there are people who still can’t see her as having moved beyond the Olympics and “Strawberry Kisses”. 

“There’s people that don’t take me seriously because I was a child star, but they’re still singing my song, so it still made an impact. And then there are people that do take me seriously. I think a lot of people in my industry take me seriously.”

Just over a decade ago, Webster opened the first of her dance studios. She calls them her “escape”. 

“I don’t mind what people think about me because I get to see kids every day perform and find a love for music.”

Webster is mum to Skylah, five, and Malachi, nearly two, with husband Matthew McMah. She says the dance studios are her children’s “second home” 

“With the business that I work in, I’m lucky enough to have my children around when I can and they love it. They love what I do. They’re very proud and my main goal as a mum is to make them proud and to show them that you have to work to support things, and I think I’m doing a good job with that.

“I’m very lucky to be able to work and to be a mum.”

 

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So what’s up next for Webster? 

I’ve got lots of things moving in different directions,” she says. 

She still does occasional gigs, but most of her singing is done in her studios, where she teaches her students. She says her focus is now on seeing them succeed. 

“Being in the front row supporting them… to me, that would be the best thing.”

In celebration of One Hit Wonder Day, which was on September 25, Webster partnered with Deliveroo to launch a strawberry and chocolate dessert called, obviously, “Strawberry Kisses”. 

Nikki W Deliveroo
Webster with her bespoke dessert. Image: Supplied.

It doesn’t look likely that people will stop singing the song to her anytime soon. 

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“I’m sure I’ll be singing it when I’m old,” she laughs. 

On December 3, just over a month after being unmasked as Alien on The Masked Singer Australia, it was announced that Webster would be hosting new reality show Dance Moms Australia.

In a video shared on Instagram, Webster announced the news, calling on kids (and their mums) to audition.

 

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According to the post, Webster wants dancers aged eight and 16 years old to provide two 60 second videos – one of a dance routine and one of them chatting with their parent or caregiver.

Not only will the winners get to join Webster's elite dance troupe, they'll also eventually get to meet their US counterparts.

"I've been involved with competitive dance as a child performer, an instructor and a mother. It is an exhilarating, entertaining and at times, emotional ride," she said.

"I've got no doubt Australians will be compelled by what Dance Moms Australia will bring to their homes: the drama of competition and conflict where the lines of allegiance aren't always what you'd expect."

Although there's no date yet for when the show will be starting, it's believed live auditions will begin in late January and early February next year.

If you're keen, you can sign up here.


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