That's What She Said

Episode 70: Visiting with Mary Catherine Roberson of Danville, IL and her story, “Believing the Hype.”

woman in black dress holds microphone on stage with others sitting on couches behind her

Mary Catherine Roberson That's What She Said

                                    SSPP ep. 70 MARY CATHERINE ROBERSON 

Season Seven wraps with Kerry and Jenette fan-girling over Mary Catherine Roberson and her story, "Believing the Hype." We can all relate to Mary Catherine's journey to overcoming imposter syndrom and stepping into her confidence. 

ANNOUNCER 00:00 Raising women's voices. One story at a time.
Welcome to The She Said Project Podcast.

[Music: The She Said Project Podcast Theme]

JENETTE JURCZYK  00:26  it's time it's time to start another amazing episode of The She Said Project Podcast. This is Jenette Jurczyk, National Director of The She Said Project here in the Illinois Public Media studios with my beautiful friend, Kerry Rossow, who inspires me each and every day.
KERRY ROSSOW  00:41  Well, doggone
JENETTE  00:42  Did I read that okay?
KERRY  00:43  Did you read that? Yep.. The check's in mail. Thank you, baby.
JENETTE  00:46 Your endorsement. Here it is. You know, I gotta say I am fan girling hard today with our guest. I mean, she's a little bit of a local celebrity, don't you think?
KERRY  00:53  Well, she is definitely a celebrity in my mind. I loved everything about her. I loved her presentation. I loved how she carried herself. I connected so hard with, you know, like when you are trying to project one thing and you're like, I can do this, I can do this and sort of self talking yourself in a good way. But at the same time, the other voice in your head being like, Girl, you're not all that.
JENETTE  01:18 When I heard that she was that she said yes to being in the show. She was on stage in Danville, Illinois. And that show was awesome. It was a CO production between us at The She Said Project and one of our amazing producers Amanda Crose, and Amanda put the cast together and found these incredible women. And when I learned that Mary Catherine Roberson was willing to be on our stage. I was blown away, a little bit intimidated, and a whole lot excited. And just a superfan. For those who don't know, Mary Catherine received an awesome award from Central Illinois Business magazine. They have their annual 40 under 40, which I was one of the 40 under 40. Like, when I was under 40, which was a very long time ago.
KERRY  02:00 Well, I'd like to point out, I was never and I'm not bitter about it. And I don't hold a grudge. But go ahead and talk about it. Go ahead. All right,
JENETTE  02:08  Mary Catherine was not just in the class of, you know, 40 under 40, she actually was given the title Woman of the Year. And that's an honor and very, very exciting. I can't wait to dive in. Because there's a story to her rehearsal process. Where we unraveled, unpacked her story, and the things that we learned about what it takes to be woman of the year? She's here to tell us all about it. Mary Catherine Roberson, are you on the line with us?
MARY CATHERINE ROBERSON  02:35  Yes, I am. I'm here. And very flattered
KERRY  02:39  Ahhh,
JENETTE  02:39  I'm so excited to hear your voice. I enjoyed every minute of working with you and your incredible cast for the inaugural show in Danville, Illinois.
Yes, I really enjoyed it, too. It was definitely a it was a process. It was a...
KERRY  02:57  how did you get roped in who snagged you?
MARY CATHERINE  03:00  So. Katie Osterbur. who is Amanda's sister in law. mentioned the project to me and asked if I'd be interested and said there may be somebody following up if I was. So I had heard of The She Said Project from Champaign, so I was familiar with it. So I was of course intrigued. I didn't have any idea of the magnitude of it. when it started to snowball. it's like that's such an it's such a big deal. So I got a phone call and was excited to join the cast. Wow. Wow.
JENETTE  03:2  No, no, you're in the cast. Do you remember when we were all digging into what the story topics were going to be? It did not come to you right away?
MARY CATHERINE  03:40  No, what I had originally thought I would talk about was more about like activism and organizing. And it was really, I think you and Amanda that were both like, No, this isn't about what you do for people. This isn't about what you do for the community. Like we hear about that enough, it's like we want to hear about you like your story. And that was so hard for me because talking about myself is I mean, one of the hardest things for me to do. And so I don't think that I expected, like I was like, Oh, I'll write a speech, right. Like, that's what I was thinking about that. That's What She Said would be would be I'll write a speech for it. But it was like an internal deep dive that was much, much more intense. And were required a lot more reflection like it wasn't something you could just sit down and write it was really a journey.
KERRY  04:26  Well, I think it's always challenging for people to see where they land, but we do often tell people if you know you are somebody who's well known in the community, you cannot talk about what you're well known for. And I think that makes it especially challenging because you've built a life around either advocating or you know, whatever the thing is, and we want it to be you know, because if you're sitting around with your girlfriends, you're not given them the you know, the 411 pitch that you would give in an elevator you're sitting around talking about right what happened what and that's what we want it to feel like and it is really a lot to ask of people to do that on a stage, you know, in front of a couple thousand people,
JENETTE  05:05  it's a process like you said, Yeah,
MARY CATHERINE  05:08  I was glad with the like, we had meetings monthly. And then as we got closer, weekly, so we had a bit of time to like process and put it down. And what I wrote originally, you know, we ended up scrapping almost entirely. And then that little folded up piece of paper, that was my first, my original speech that we were making notes on, every session became kind of like our joke. And that's why the night of the the night of the event, we had a little skit where I had it tucked away in my chest, and acted like I couldn't find it and brought it out, because like that piece of paper went from being a story about my activism, to being really like a reflection of like, wow, how come you can be this badass activist and still, you know, tear yourself down internally all the time? Or like, how do you balance you know, this public image that you've presented with, you know, what your voice tells you on the inside and really internalize and how that's impacted my life in negative ways. You know, I said in the speech, we talked about the times where you're jumping anyway, were you pursuing in spite of your self doubt pays off, but we don't always talk about when it doesn't. And then I think, talking about it with you all, and like going through that journey really helped me understand how often I did that, and then really try to work to undo some of that negative stuff that I do to myself on the inside.
JENETTE  06:23  I would love to hear that.
KERRY  06:25  Were people shocked? What was the reaction? Did that take people off guard?
MARY CATHERINE 06:29  I think it did. I have several people stopped me. Lots of people actually stopped me since that event. One thing that I that I said, I stated that sometimes in my head is like a voice almost like you should kill yourself or you should hang yourself. And that was hard to say out loud. But that was something that-- two people specifically have stopped me about that they were like, they wouldn't have thought that that was something that I dealt with based on what I what I project. And I think just being able to share that moment of relatability Yeah, you can be a badass and still feel that way internally, and we fight through it. And we try to process it by having each other to talk about it with and knowing that somebody else that you may respect or looked up to struggling with it, too. I just think it gives us like a shared sense of community and a little little more empowerment to face it.
JENETTE  06:30  It's almost like you're human or something.
MARY CATHERINE  07:20  Don't tell anybody.
JENETTE  07:21
Right? secret is safe here. Let's revisit your performance. From a dark and stormy night in March of 2023. Mary Catherine Roberson shared her story on stage in Danville, Illinois, at the gorgeous Fischer Theatre, take a listen to her performance of, "Believing the Hype." 

MARY CATHERINE ROBERSON  07:40  I am my own worst enemy. I don't say that loosely, or ingest the things I say to myself, I wouldn't dare say to any of you. In fact, I probably wouldn't say them to my worst enemy. My internal dialogue ranges from criticizing my appearance, you look disgusting in that sweater, to my intellect, you're dumb as hell. And at worst my existence, you should hang yourself. For some reason it's always hang. It floats through my mind the same way you might acknowledge that it's raining. I don't need a crisis call. I don't have any plans to harm myself. But these are thoughts that float through my head on a regular basis. The funny thing is that these internal thoughts remain largely unchanged by the outside world. what others think of me for most of my life hasn't really impacted how I feel about myself. What's also funny is that alongside these thoughts are also really high hopes and beliefs in myself. The notion seems contradictory. And it's what I've been exploring through this process. How does the woman who spends her life empowering others lack self empowerment? How can I simultaneously want to change the world but also lack the energy to get out of bed some days? I honestly believe that I can be the President of the United States [applause]
 09:07 but also, not today. I don't really know where the imposter syndrome started. I thought maybe it started as an adult. But throughout this process, I realized it started before that. You see, I was a gifted child. And I'm not just saying that I was at a program for motivated academically talented students, the MATS Program. Thank you. Thank you. So I spent my formative years with the same group of students from third grade all the way through high school. And they were the doctors kids. The on the lake kids. The kids who lived in neighborhoods I had never visited my entire childhood. I never had another black female in my class. There was always one black male but never more than one. So I think maybe this is where I learned that while I was exceptional, I was also If not, I also started equating titles with money and power and started to see myself apart from them, existing with them, but not really being included. I can hang out with the doctor's kids, I can go to their beautiful houses if our car will make it across Lake Vermilion. I can talk the talk, I can even walk the walk. But I'm not one of you. Jump anyway, I use that phrase, which comes from a short motivational book, shout out Jason Reynolds. The book was called for everyone and I use that phrase in a speech last year. I talked about the feeling of not belonging of not being qualified. I talked about opportunities I was scared to take I didn't feel qualified to take, but I jumped anyway. I talked about when those leaps paid off. But what I didn't talk about was when they didn't like the job interview I had for my dream job at the time. I was dressed to impress. I had done the positive self talk. I had listened to Drake Started From The Bottom and Eminem's Lose Yourself. I was in my zone. But I went in before a panel interview of people and I felt like a little kid at the big kids table. I stammered, I apologized, I bombed. I didn't get that job. And it wasn't because of my lack of knowledge or experience. It was me. I was in my own way. I had psyched myself out. Even as I thought I was hyping myself up. Jumping anyway, in spite of these internal struggles is courageous. But at some point, we have to address the anyway. Because jumping anyway, is like jumping with a backpack full of bricks, you can still do it, but you're not going to get as high. And with my backpack full of bricks. I've gone from being a battered baby mama in Danville to a coon laude graduate of DePaul University. Thank you, thanks for leading the way for my three beautiful daughters. I have impacted lives. I've made systemic changes. In 2022. I was chosen as Central Illinois Business Magazine's 40 under 40. Woman of the Year.
12:21 But when I received the call that I had one, the first thoughts I had were, who do I know on that panel? Somebody I know must have tipped the scales right? Wrong. I was named woman of the year because I earned it. From running for office to increase voter education and turnout in Vermillion County, to helping build the community Gun Violence Reduction blueprint for the city of Champaign to now representing my city as a federal employee, providing support to some of the most marginalized communities. And I've taken a whole lot of hill in the process. But I earned that award. So what would happen if I put down the bricks? It isn't an easy process. It's painful. I started going to therapy. Yes, I have therapy. My friends and family are excellent sounding boards, prayers and meditation can help ease the daily weight. But to truly unpack a lifetime's worth of insecurities, I had to turn to the experts. It's still an everyday struggle, navigating my inner voice through my current reality. But it isn't an act. And I'm damn sure not an imposter. And I can finally say I'm starting to believe the hype about me.

JENETTE  13:56  Honey, let me just start by saying I believed the hype day one like I was I was a believer, Mary Catherine is an inspiration in her community. You have been places you have done things. And when the community stood up and recognize you for all that you do. You paused and said, Wait a second, you know, who do I know who tipped the scales? And we all we that was a learning moment for all of us discussing you know, your, your journey through that.
MARY CATHERINE  14:26  Absolutely. The phone call when I got it I literally told the woman to shut up took me a minute to process like and I weave that story into my speech. I said I promise I'll be more eloquent, you know, the day of the but it was just overwhelming. You know, I think we do things and you know, we want to make the world a better place and we want to be good moms and we want to you know, there's just things that we do because it's our calling or our passion or so to be recognized for it like I just wasn't expecting it because that wasn't you know, it's not why you do it. Like we're trying to make the world a better place. So it's almost like you're you're I'm hoping, you know, now it was a moment of great pause that a moment, after I, honestly, it took me to the day of the event to when I found out who the judges actually were to be like, Oh, I really don't know any of them.
KERRY  15:11  Can I have their phone numbers, because I'm no seriously.
MARY CATHERINE  15:13 They're, they're in the program. And I still have it, but I'll screenshot it to you. Like it just was a truly humbling experience and to be recognized not just for like work in Danville, but to be recognized within the central Illinois, like part of our state was just, I mean, it was overwhelming and deeply appreciated, for sure.
JENETTE 15:32  And here, you walk in to the first rehearsal. And this group of women I knew you knew some of them, and some were new friends. And you know, we're like, ooh, Woman of the Year, she's she's owning you know, who she is and celebrating, and to hear that you still had some insecurities, some doubts about how amazing you were, that was eye opening for us and for you, and I hope by you hearing how much we admired you, you know, like you said, it's gonna take some time for me to believe the hype. And that was, in my mind, that was the process that we went through in those months leading up to the show. Like, let's, let's, let's look at this a little bit closer. Let's figure it out. So that, you know what, nobody wants to be that you know that that cocky person, oh, I'm the best. But there has to be some true belief in yourself and some confidence, because that's what we want for every woman that you said the stuff you say to yourself, you would never say to another woman ever?
MARY CATHERINE  16:32  You know that's true. And I think for me, one of the biggest like, Aha moments as we went through the process, I had a one on one with Amanda. I mean, I was stuck with that story. I mean, I was stuck. If I don't talk about who I am as an activist, like, what do I talk about? And as we started talking, and I mentioned the gifted program, and it's like, what was that like? And it just all kind of flooded out of me. It's like, Oh, my goodness, was that it? And that was something therapy never brought out, like reflecting with my friends like that, and never brought out that wasn't something I expected. So the story you all got was a story that I even part of it, I had to learn about myself, throughout, you know, throughout the process,
KERRY  17:12 it was amazing. I loved it just I loved that it gave. We have so many speakers that I think so often, I look at them. And I'm like, wow, they just seem like, you know, amazing, like they've got it all together. And then I think it's such a gift when they shared a struggle. Because it is easy. And the world that we live in to be like a ha they have it all together. And I'm just over here fighting for my life with this ResCap bag. And but you know, then seeing somebody who like no, everybody is going through stuff, and we can all just help each other out.
MARY CATHERINE  17:41  And absolutely, and it's a mental redirect. I was just telling my mom today, literally today I promised about how this process helped me with negative self talk, because I said it's almost like, now when I hear something in my head that's negative about myself. It's almost like I'm like, nope, Mary Katherine, that's not true. You know, it's almost it's almost like a I mean, it is it's an internal struggle to redirect, but it's something that I consciously do. And I've been doing it every time and I really credit like I'm dead seriously credit. The the women at The She Said Project, especially, you know, Amanda and Jenette, just for pushing me beyond what I thought and then just really, I mean, believing the hype. Like for real.
JENETTE  18:21  I'm literally like doing a happy dance here in the studio, like all of it is what it's like group therapy. And you know, I can't say that officially, but we're holding up a mirror. We're showing you how great you are. We're gonna hold you accountable when you say the things that you would never say to your worst enemy. We're gonna stop you. And when you when you redirect, you know those habits and create new habits. Like you said, it stayed with you that made me so happy. And Amanda. I mean, that woman is a life coach, she is worth every dime because just this positive, impactful person who she can look you in the eye and see your soul and tell you how great you are. And I don't know she she's like voodoo awesome.
KERRY  19:06 I loved everything about that show that the shows that Jenette is a machine and is able to juggle all of these shows. And so when there's an out of town show, I often haven't edited or read them before. And it is such a gift to go to those shows and to truly experience the show as just an audience person. And I loved that show. I mean the ambiance of that night it was a stormy night. And it was so beautiful and lovely. And the theater down there is just gorgeous. It was such a nice like from the outside looking in. There was a clear camaraderie with the women there was I had seen leading up to it, how much work how much investment was coming in from the director from the speakers from everyone and it was just like, oh my gosh, I love being able to have this bird's eye view at these amazing women and coming together and the beautiful thing is there's never  like a diva in the show. Like seeing those, you know, there's the stereotype of like, you know that, that women are competitive or that there, there's a diva in the group. And it's like, I hate to burst your bubble, but every single show, it's just a group of badass women coming together and supporting each other. And that was clear in Danville.
JENETTE  20:19  I have to agree
MARY CATHERINE  20:20  Absolutely and some of the women I had known for years, so I'm I hadn't I didn't know very well, or like Bonnie, I knew years ago, we worked together, but we hadn't, you know, talked in years. And we've since like, become closer for him since the show, you know, and so I think, you know, brought some new friendships and you know, fortified some old ones. So it was definitely like a bonding experience that you didn't just walk away from the day after the show ended. We've since gone and watch DJ Silkee Ja'Naea Modest, you know, do her DJ thing and hosted, you know, I went and saw Bonnie sing at an event. So I'm dancing with the stars, September 30. And they're already in the group chat, like, well, we gotta go support MC fundraiser for our survivor Resource Center. So
JENETTE  21:00  tickets have been purchased.
KERRY  21:04  I did not know you were doing this.
MARY CATHERINE  21:08  Yeah. And I tell you, you talk about stepping out of your comfort zone, like, this is a different different type of stepping out of my comfort zone. But I'm very much not a choreographed dancer. So
KERRY  21:17  Wow.
MARY CATHERINE  21:18  But everybody's like, if you know, immediately in the group chat, it was like, let's go get tickets and support MC is beautiful to see that it didn't end after the show ended.
JENETTE  21:27  How much did you share with your girls? Were they in the audience that night? Or did you share any of the journey with them,
MARY CATHERINE 21:33  I did share the journey. They weren't in the audience, the storms and stuff, they stayed with a friend, I was a little worried. They haven't listened to it haven't mentioned the part about the hanging to them. We've talked a lot with them about self doubt. My middle daughter, like you can't tell her anything about herself. And I love it. She doesn't have any of that. I feel like through my struggles, been able to try to teach them differently. But they haven't listened to the entire to the entire thing. But they're definitely you know, they've heard about the MATS Program and its impact bits and pieces as I went through the process.
JENETTE  22:03  Even so your story did have such a tribute to them. And you know, the world that you wanted to create. I just have to call it out. Because the the origin of That's What She Said was, you know, close friends sitting on a patio, watching their daughter's play, and how do we make the world a better place for our girls. And that theme comes up again and again. And I love connecting with women who have you know, 123 daughters, and just seeing did it work? Are we on track? Do you feel the shift happening and keep us accountable?
MARY CATHERINE  22:36  Absolutely.
KERRY  22:37  Those are the things I think so many of us like when we started this show, the other founders and I our girls were little, and it is something that I'm really proud of now is I think, because we it was important to us to show you know, we were always complaining about the stereotypes that were out there about women and that there weren't enough examples and blah, blah, blah. And then it was like put up or shut up. And so we did it. I didn't let my girls come until they were late in their teen years. And there was a night that they had come to the theater and they were sneaking into the balcony and watched somebody that they cared about do their rehearsal. And so hearing them now say that they were trying to be sneaky up in the balcony, but that they were like so proud of Mrs. Cochran and, you know, those are the things like of them telling about growing up watching, hearing, seeing women supporting women, like it was just a little goal. That was all we really wanted to do. And then seeing that that has played out.
MARY CATHERINE  23:30  I'm really proud and I hope that as my girls get older that they maintain that sense of competence and empowerment because it took me took me a while to get here
JENETTE  23:37
And I have to say you're doing a phenomenal job. I get to witness you know what your family is up to and your girls are performers and and are on the stage and they're they're so brave and they're so courageous and they're out there they're out there doing it and it's because of you you show them that they can you show them that there is nothing that can stop them you are an example of what we've always talked about creating at The She Said Project. So you're living it you're living proof. I'm so glad you got to have a moment on our stage shining your bright light on you know our she said sisters and friends and it's forever like you are in the sisterhood. And we're so grateful to just know you were just so grateful.
MARY CATHERINE  24:17 Thank you so much. I'm very grateful for you all as well. 

JENETTE  24:21  And now there's a whole bevy of new ladies who are gonna get to know Mary Catherine Roberson because you know when this podcast episode airs, we want more women to hear these stories we want more women to feel connected to know that oh my god those voices in my head it's not just me but I can overcome and I can one day become Woman of the Year
MARY CATHERINE  24:43  yes you can yes you can leave behind
JENETTE  24:46 believe the hype - you heard it here folks here on The She Said Project Podcast
KERRY  31:32  Over and out 


[Music: The She Said Project Podcast Theme]

ANNOUNCER 31:36 Thank you for listening to The She Said Project Podcast in partnership with Illinois Public Media. All materials contained in the podcast for the exclusive property of The She Said Project and That’s What She Said, LLC. For more information on our live shows go to [url=][/url]
This podcast was made possible with support from Carle and Health Alliance and presented by Sterling Wealth Management, empowering women to live their best lives.


Season Seven wraps with Kerry and Jenette fan-girling over Mary Catherine Roberson and her story, "Believing the Hype." We can all relate to Mary Catherine's journey to overcoming imposter syndrome and stepping into her confidence.   

The She Said Project Podcast is recorded in partnership with Illinois Public Media. All materials contained in this podcast are the exclusive property of The She Said Project and That's What She Said, LLC. Learn more at