Celeb News

Two days in Uluru with Jessica Mauboy

The Weekly's style director Mattie Cronan takes you behind-the-scenes of The Weekly's amazing Uluru shoot with Jessica Mauboy.

By Mattie Cronan
Being able to travel for my job is one of the great perks. Mostly it’s interstate, sometimes overseas, and often to towns and places I have not yet been.
In this instance, late last year the team had been working on a project to photograph Jessica Mauboy in Uluru – a great wonder and spiritual heart of Australia. This was one of those iconic places I'd only dreamt of going.
Flying in, the crew and myself were all peering out of the windows, trying to catch a glimpse of the famous beauty, and the red earth. It was everyone's first time, except for Jess.
As soon as we landed, we were all pretty desperate to get up close to Uluru but knew there were other things to consider too, so our first stop was the head of media to find out about the site’s cultural sensitivities.
We then took a drive around Uluru, mapping out our plan for the shoot, stopping at many of the landmark vantage points.
Jessica arrived the following day and we all met up for an incredible lunch at Ayers Rock Resort with the venue’s PR maven Karena Noble, our photographer Max Doyle and his crew Hannah and Mason, hair and makeup artist Vic Barron, Sony publicist Kat Ross, The Weekly’s photo editor Sam Nunney and myself. We talked Jess through the concept and the locations for the shoot and is she is just a joy – so warm and bubbly and really thrilled to be back in Uluru.
After lunch we had a fitting – what an honour to be in a room filled with the work of some of the best Australian designers, including Bianca Spender, Maticevski, Akira, TY-LR and Lee Matthews, many of whom custom-made dresses especially for this shoot. And then there are the hats! Beautiful hats handmade by wildly clever Nerida Winter. When it came to shoes, it was RM Williams boots for every look, the perfect contrast to the high-end designer outfits.
Jess loved the styling and we chose our favourite looks for the shoot while Jess blasted her hit song ‘Can I Get a Moment’, which was just about to launch. Everyone was singing and it was stuck in our heads for the entire afternoon.
Later, we took Jess back to Uluru to watch the sunset at the mutitjulu waterhole, the only people there that afternoon.
It was magical. You could hear the water rolling down the rock face, the birds, and wind quietly rustling through the trees, all in the most calm and serene way. The energy was strong and we all had a moment of zen. Jessica closed her eyes, taking in the moment, breathing in that fresh air, and letting go. We all felt the intense energy and calming force and left the waterhole relaxed and inspired.
The next morning, we started early, loading up our two vans with food, water, wardrobe and hats. Jessica sang gleefully to what was on the radio or on her iPhone. She belted out Mariah Carey in between locations and laughed and sent her friend funny pictures of herself.
Jessica’s first look was a striking custom khaki cotton shirt dress by Lee Mathews and an olive boater by Nerida Winter. We used the leaf blower to blow some of the red dust around. The very first frame was a good one and we were all excited about the day ahead.
The next shot was another special moment. This was a gown by Bianca Spender and we used the volume in the gown to flick the dress up to create a stunning shot. You could see the joy in Jess's face as she looked up to the sky, she was a vision, swathed in Bronze silk, her luminous skin glowed against the iconic landmark.
The crew at Uluru.
As the sun went down the light kept getting better. We shot until the sun set. In our final shot, Jess sat alongside the road, crouched on the grass in a beautiful knitted Ivory Akira dress. It was raw and textural and suited the location.
We were in the same spot we'd watched the sunset the previous day except the colours were even more vibrant and intense. That was it. The shoot was wrapped and we waited for the sun to set before we all headed back to the hotel for dinner.
The following morning Jess had the privilege of meeting some of the Rangers and local members of the community. They took her on a private tour, showed her some of the sacred rock art, native bush berries and tomatoes, and told her stories from this site. The women shared how they forage and collect plants, fruits and how they make their bowls and spears. This was truly a special moment for Jessica to have this time to find out more about this beautiful place of calm.
Jessica and crew stayed at Ayers Rock Resort and thanks to Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park.
See Jessica's stunning photo shoot in the March issue of The Australian Women's Weekly, on sale now.

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