Rebecca Lucy Taylor – better known as Self Esteem – has been awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of Sheffield. Check out her inspiring speech below.
The 36-year-old musician already acts as a proud ambassador for Sheffield and was announced as being set to receive the award yesterday (July 17).
The news was announced by the University of Sheffield on Twitter, in an update that read: “We are delighted to announce that Rebecca Lucy Taylor, aka Self Esteem, is being awarded an honorary degree today for her success in music and public championing of inclusivity and diversity”.
Now, the musician has shared footage of the ceremony on her Instagram account and posted a video of her moving speech at the event.
“When I was asked if I could accept this honorary doctorate, my first thought was ‘Well no, I don’t deserve it. Everyone will think ‘Who is she anyway, she never went to uni’’,” she began “And when I was watching celebrity honorary doctorate speeches on YouTube I found myself getting very nervous about it because I’m not Beyoncé or Stanley Tucci or Michelle Obama… or James Blunt, so what will I say in a speech?”
She continued, explaining how – despite her stage name – the concept of believing in herself “doesn’t come easily or naturally” to her, and it is this determination to persevere that unites her and the others in that room.
“You all committed to something, whether it came easily or naturally. Whether it was a struggle. When it was boring, or maybe really really hard,” she said. “You committed when you weren’t sure you’d get through to the end. You committed during a global pandemic. And you’re here, achieving, believing, committing and choosing what’s good for yourself.”
“You’re now at the bottom of a new mountain,” she concluded. “and the top of the mountain is the end of your life. And you and me are just going to be constantly going up it.”
Taylor was one of 12 notable figures being presented with honorary degrees at the 2023 ceremony, alongside this year’s group of graduating students.
Discussing being chosen as a recipient in the run-up to the event, she said: “I am insanely chuffed to be receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Sheffield. I love Sheffield with all my heart and to be acknowledged like this bolsters my dream of changing so much for people in music like me. I am overwhelmed, galvanised and energised!”
Although emerging with her first single ‘Your Wife’ in 2017, Taylor first gathered momentum with her debut album, ‘Compliments Please’ in 2019, and later with her second album, ‘Prioritise Pleasure’.
Arriving in 2021, the latter saw her receive a four-star review from NME, who described the LP as both “sharply witty” but showcasing “moments of sincerity [which] shine brightly”, and nominated for a Mercury Music Award.
That same year, Taylor also appeared as an NME cover star, and revealed why she decided to convey her sexuality throughout her music. “Realising my sexuality wasn’t a massive deal, but it did make me feel odd about what I presented to an audience,” she said at the time. “Having to sing songs that couldn’t represent just my feelings was just very restrictive.”
At the start of this month, Self Esteem performed as an opener for Blur at their mammoth Wembley Stadium shows. Later this year, she is set to play a massive homecoming show in Sheffield as one of the headliners for the Rock N Roll Circus event at the Don Valley Bowl (September 2).