Reporter: Ray Martin
Producer: Sandra Cleary
It's one of the great mysteries of TV talent quests, that coming second is often the better career move.
Scottish singer Susan Boyle is one mega-successful runner-up. Another is our own Jessica Mauboy.
Jess was a sweet, pretty and softly-spoken sixteen-year-old when she made the grand final of Australian Idol.
She missed out on that title. But, four years later, she's proving she's a winner.
She has a raunchy new image and she's just about to release her second album, featuring some of the hottest names in music.
And, along the way, she even found the perfect man.
RAY MARTIN: Put Jessica in an open-topped sports car on Sunset Boulevard and Mauboy becomes Mariah naturally. But even here in Hollywood you can't take Darwin out of this Northern Territory girl.
JESSICA MAUBOY: I really miss, you know, going to the beach. When I'm back at home in Darwin I usually just run, you know, run through the mangroves.
RAY MARTIN: I can't see any mangroves!
JESSICA MAUBOY: No! No mangos, no mangroves.
RAY MARTIN: It's a classic rags to riches story. How many pairs of shoes have you got?
JESSICA MAUBOY: Um, I've probably have about 50 and more.
RAY MARTIN: Do you really? 50 pairs? There's an Imelda Marcos in you! Jessica Mauboy has turned 21 and she moves easily from the dusty back blocks of Darwin to the uptown beat of Beverly Hills.
JESSICA MAUBOY: I could just, like, lay in it, all day.
RAY MARTIN: In your shoes?
JESSICA MAUBOY: In the middle, and then just be surrounded by shoes.
RAY MARTIN: But you're a girl in shorts, T-shirt and thongs.
JESSICA MAUBOY: I know, but this is the other world, this is like La-La land.
RAY MARTIN: 'Australian Idol' 2006 was Jessica's big breakthrough. But it was a really tough journey for the lovely, innocent karaoke kid from Darwin. This is Jessica when Australia first met her at sweet 16 at the 'Idol' auditions in the red dust outside of Alice. After three long months of winning over the judges and the jury at home, Jessica made the 'Idol' final, only to finish runner-up. But she wasn't about to quit.
JESSICA MAUBOY: 'Idol' just really lifted me and really gave me the opportunity to really - I was gonna say become a butterfly! Just kind of really open up and just do it. Like, I just had this thing of, I'm going to do everything. I'm going to try this and that, and it was just great. I just had that feeling of, like, a daredevil, like I'd just dare me to do this.
RAY MARTIN: And 'Idol' did that? It gave you that power to fly?
JESSICA MAUBOY: Yeah.
RAY MARTIN: Now Jessica's really flying high. She's teamed up with Snoop Dogg, the rap master, and some of Hollywood's hottest musos on her new album, 'Get 'em, Girls'. You had him at your feet, literally, selling you shoes.
JESSICA MAUBOY: Caressing my toes and my leg. I was, like, "Snoop, please don't do that."
RAY MARTIN: But was there a moment when you thought, "This is crazy!"
JESSICA MAUBOY: It was just like a moment, like, I kind of even went blank.
RAY MARTIN: Did you really?
JESSICA MAUBOY: Yeah, he was, like, on one knee. I was, like, "Wow, this is - what am I meant to think? What am I meant to say?"
RAY MARTIN: From Snoop Dogg to her Darwin dad, fishing for barra in the croc-infested mangrove swamps. It's a whole world away from the stiletto heels of L.A., but you get the feeling that this is Jessica's real world.
JESSICA MAUBOY: Every time I come back home I feel like, you know, being in L.A. just didn't happen. It just felt like a dream.
RAY MARTIN: There are two Jessicas, aren't there?
JESSICA MAUBOY: There is two people in me, like, you know, I have Jess or Jessie - Dad will call me - and Jessica, Jessica Mauboy.
RAY MARTIN: So Jessica is the singer, she's the music star?
JESSICA MAUBOY: Yeah.
RAY MARTIN: And Jess or Jessie is the Darwin girl?
JESSICA MAUBOY: Is the Darwin girl, yeah.
RAY MARTIN: She says she's two girls from three different cultures - Aboriginal, Indonesian and Australian. Jessica ought to be mixed up, but she's delightfully normal.
JESSICA MAUBOY: I'm Australian. You know, I'm Aboriginal, Indonesian, Timorese. But I'm a full Aussie.
RAY MARTIN: Her pint-sized dad Ferdie was born in West Timor. He works as an electrician on high-powered cables.
JESSICA MAUBOY: You're the shortest, you lose, Dad! We're all taller than him.
RAY MARTIN: There are five Mauboy sisters backed up by Theresa, their effervescent Aboriginal mum. And Ferdie's the odd man out in a big, noisy, laughing, singing, fun-loving family of girls. Five girls, all singers - how come Jessie came out of the pack?
THERESA: I think I used to push her a lot, like, at barbecue backyards. I'd say, "Jess, there's a party, I want you to come because I want you to sing for these people."
RAY MARTIN: Because you knew she was good?
THERESA: Yeah, I knew she was and she was going to go a long way.
JESSICA MAUBOY: I used to have a mirror here and every morning, like, I'd be humming.
RAY MARTIN: And all your sisters saying, "Come on, Jessica, get out of the bathroom!"
JESSICA MAUBOY: Yeah, like, "Jess, it's my turn, get out!"
RAY MARTIN: From the bathroom concerts to the lounge room singalongs, spend a moment with Jessica and you realise she has songs in her heart. She just loves to sing.
JESSICA MAUBOY: Anywhere I'd go I'd just make so much noise and you'd be, like, "Sing another song."
THERESA: But there'd be some days, Jess, that you'd come home and you'd make so much noise and I'd tell you to shut up. Remember that? And the neighbours would say, "No, let her keep going, Theresa. "She's got a beautiful voice."
RAY MARTIN: Back in L.A., Jessica's here to shoot the cover of her new, girl-power album. It's an anthem to her other great passion, shoes. Is this another pair?
JESSICA MAUBOY: Another pair, it is!
RAY MARTIN: You're kidding me! Is this 51?
JESSICA MAUBOY: This is shoe number 51.
RAY MARTIN: Give me a look.
JESSICA MAUBOY: That's totally me.
RAY MARTIN: Couldn't resist it, huh? Acclaimed Australian photographer George Antoni knows what works. He knows what the camera loves.
GEORGE ANTONI: The thing I love the most about her is she is completely uninhibited in her own personality, so she'll just crack up laughing and those make the most beautiful shots of Jess. Jess is just an absolute star inside and out, I think.
RAY MARTIN: Behind the scenes with Snoop Dogg, the camera shoot, the shoes and all the other trappings of show business success remind Jessica of how far she's come in just a few years. Do you pinch yourself?
JESSICA MAUBOY: I do, like, every morning, it's so funny, I almost have a tear in my eye that this is kind of happening.
RAY MARTIN: Do you really? Do you? Why a tear in the eye? You've worked hard, you deserve it.
JESSICA MAUBOY: Yeah, I think it's a happy kind of tear, kind of remembering when I was little and having fun with my sisters and wanting to just sing and just having that dream anyway, and it's happened.
RAY MARTIN: Don't cry, don't cry.
JESSICA MAUBOY: It's like a good feeling, so...
RAY MARTIN: And Mum and Dad saying, "You can do it."
JESSICA MAUBOY: And Mum and Dad, yeah. I'm so sorry! This is so weird!
RAY MARTIN: Jessica Mauboy is now on a roll. In fact, a lead role as Rosie in the Aussie movie 'Bran Nue Dae'.
JESSICA MAUBOY: I'm always up for a challenge and in my head I was, like, "You know what? I can do this."
RAY MARTIN: Was there a moment you remember most?
JESSICA MAUBOY: Definitely, it was, like, my first on-screen kiss. I'd never done anything so painful.
RAY MARTIN: That kiss was also painful for her long-distance Darwin boyfriend, Themeli Magripilis, nicknamed Magoo.
JESSICA MAUBOY: I rang my boyfriend up and I was, like, "You don't have no idea what I have to do right now." And I think he was just, like, shocked.
RAY MARTIN: Magoo's been a well-kept secret from the world until now. A Greek Australian born and bred in the Territory. He's a local soccer player and a council worker who helps Jessie keep her feet on the ground.
JESSICA MAUBOY: One night out I was happily with the girls and I just saw him from across the...
RAY MARTIN: Across a crowded bar?
JESSICA MAUBOY: And I was, like, "I want him!"
RAY MARTIN: So what did he say in response?
JESSICA MAUBOY: Oh, we just ended up talking.
RAY MARTIN: What's the truth?
THEMELI MAGRIPILIS: I was minding my own business.
RAY MARTIN: You're innocent!
THEMELI MAGRIPILIS: Yeah, I just kept feeling someone grab my arse!
JESSICA MAUBOY: It wasn't me!
THEMELI MAGRIPILIS: It was you!
RAY MARTIN: What can you do? What can a man do?
THEMELI MAGRIPILIS: It was all over.
JESSICA MAUBOY: It's not your fault!
RAY MARTIN: Magoo is another reason to come home to Darwin. It's not Rodeo Drive. But it's all so nostalgic and all so normal. Four backpackers in a clapped-out Ford.
JESSICA MAUBOY: I love it. It's just, this is home. This is what it is.
RAY MARTIN: Just down the road is Sanderson High, Jessica's old school, where there's a new generation of kids of every colour and every one a Jessica fan. Is she a role model for the kids? PRINCIPAL: Absolutely, and it's great for our kids because we've got such a diversity.
RAY MARTIN: And it's not just about singing? But a whole range of careers?
PRINCIPAL: No, absolutely, so we are really proud of what she's done. And it gives a different spin to the Northern Territory, doesn't it? Would you agree?
JESSICA MAUBOY: Yeah, I definitely agree.
RAY MARTIN: Jessica Mauboy has star written all over her - a marvellous voice, a magic smile and pizazz to burn. Yet there's also that girl next door, down to earth charm about Jessica. As someone said, like an exotic Olivia Newton-John. And that is not a bad wrap. Last question - the principal said to you yesterday that she sees you as an inspiration, not for music, but for everything - That if Jessica can do this, then you can do it. If you want to be a lawyer, if you want to be a doctor.
JESSICA MAUBOY: She's right, she's absolutely right about, if I can do it any one of those young ones can, and I am so happy to be...
RAY MARTIN: A role model?
JESSICA MAUBOY: A role model. And you say, "Woosh, OK, bring it on."
JESSICA MAUBOY: Bring it on! Let's get to work!