An Interview With Olivia Newton John
By Michelle Morgan
From clean-cut singer of ‘Country Roads’ to leotard-wearing disco diva in ‘Physical’, Olivia Newton John has had a career that’s spanned nearly five decades. She is loved by everyone from school children to grandmas and yet still remains as down-to-earth as she ever was. Here Olivia talks about yoga, life, and her trek along the Great Wall of China….
Say the words Olivia Newton John and most of us will automatically think of her most famous and successful role – that of Sandy in the hit movie ‘Grease’. But while ‘Grease’ was – and still is – a worldwide phenomenon, there is so much more to Olivia Newton John than dancing with John Travolta.
Olivia has not always had the easiest of lives, with the trauma of breast cancer and the mysterious disappearance of her partner obviously affecting her greatly. But in spite of everything she remains an optimistic and inspiring woman, who continues to tackle life’s heartaches head-on, through yoga, positive thinking, healthy living and sheer determination. So how did Olivia get into yoga, and what personal benefit does she gain from it?
“My first experience with yoga was 25 years ago when I took my first class. It was Bikram yoga and it was 110 degrees in the room and I thought I was going to pass out”, she laughs. “But, it was so energizing that I felt amazing after that experience, and from that point on I was hooked. I’ve done it on and off for years and enjoy the stretches as I find them relaxing, peaceful, good for posture and wonderful for inner peace.”
Olivia is co-owner of Gaia Retreat and Spa in Australia, (a place Olivia likes to call ‘Barefoot Armani’) and she likes to practice there more than anywhere in the world. She says: “Though I have practiced yoga with many teachers over the years, I really love to work with our instructors. All of the teachers there are so instructive without making you feel overwhelmed. They really let you work at your own pace, and the environment is so peaceful, comfortable and intimate – and not too hot!!!”
In 1992 Olivia was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a frightening and fraught time, but Olivia gained help and support from one of the world’s most prolific spiritual teachers. “When I was being treated for breast cancer”, she explains, “I read one of Deepak Chopra’s books, and shortly after he was introduced to me through a friend of mine. He taught me meditation techniques and really helped me a lot.” The two forged a friendship which has lasted to this day. “I see him from time to time and he always has wise words to share”, she says. “In fact, he was the first person I played ‘Grace and Gratitude’ to.”
The ‘Grace and Gratitude’ Olivia is referring to, is the outstanding album which was released in 2007. So how did the album come about? “I had gone through a very difficult time and I needed healing”, she explains. “I find music to be a great healer and I got together with Amy Sky and we wrote ‘Grace and Gratitude’ in just five days.”
The album is very spiritual in nature. Was this what Olivia intended it to be? “Well I wanted to write something that was spiritual and incorporate different belief systems, going through the Chakras”, she says. “I had just read a book called ‘Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing’ and was very interested in creating an album which went through each Chakra. I’d really like to write another one in the future.”
When Olivia refers to the ‘difficult time’ before making ‘Grace and Gratitude’, she is talking about the tragedy of losing her partner, Patrick McDermott in 2005. McDermott disappeared during a fishing trip and despite numerous alleged ‘sightings’ he has never been found. Shortly after his disappearance, Olivia poured her energies into creating a huge stone labyrinth in the garden of her home. She explains:
“My friend is a landscape architect and she designed it for me. Having the labyrinth was extremely healing – it helped me heal a lot. It was extremely peaceful and an amazing experience to have it.” Indeed photographs of the labyrinth show an amazing array of circles of stone, surrounded by beautiful shrubs and trees. One can almost feel how peaceful it must have been, but while Olivia found great comfort in the labyrinth, not everyone saw it that way. “Unfortunately”, she says, “when I sold the house I had to leave it behind. I felt weird about that, and when the new owners moved in, they just didn’t ‘get it’ and took the whole thing apart.”
Olivia may have lived through much heartache in the past, but the future is looking a lot brighter. Several years ago she married her old friend, John Easterling, who runs the Amazon Herb Company, and is a great advocate for his health products:
“Amazon Herbs are amazing”, she says. “I had been friends with John Easterling for many years and always used his products. John seemed very committed to the purity and integrity of the herbs and when I had breast cancer he sent me some ‘Illumination’ [a herbal product to help boost your immune system] which I took every day. I also used the face serum and vitamin C serum and now I don’t take anything else except them.”
Olivia obviously loves the products, but it doesn’t stop there. She also travels around the world to help John promote his products, including the health drink, Zamu, which she whole-heartedly believes in. “Zamu is an organic drink from the Rainforest”, says Olivia. “John and I each have it every day – whoever wakes up first brings one up – and I believe it keeps us healthy when we are working and travelling.”
No doubt Zamu helped keep Olivia’s energy up when she decided to walk the Great Wall of China in 2008, in order to raise money for the ‘Cancer and Wellness Centre’ – a special centre in Australia, designed to give the best care and treatment for men and women fighting cancer. Olivia gained the help and support of friends such as Dannii Minogue, Sir Cliff Richard and Joan Rivers, and together they set off to walk the Great Wall. As Olivia explains:
“The Great Wall of China walk was incredibly challenging for me – it was almost like my cancer journey in the way it challenged me. Once I had completed parts of it, it was an amazing feeling, but when we crossed the finish line it was incredibly emotional and I just burst into tears. I had expected to feel amazing but I felt sad to say goodbye to everyone I had been with during the journey.”
While the walk was primarily about the human experience, it was a small kitten who stole the show – and Olivia’s heart. “My husband had to leave as a family member was suffering from cancer and he had to go back to the States to see her. It was a traumatic time and on the day he left we were walking past a river and one of the guys saw something in the water. We took a closer look and it was a kitten which someone had thrown into the river. He was so tiny, his eyes were closed and he was close to death. I scooped him up and put him into my shirt, carrying him with me for two weeks and feeding him every couple of hours with a dropper. He was a very special mascot for our journey, we named him Magic, and the day before we left he finally opened his eyes.”
Magic was a much-loved companion on the trip, but the story has a sad ending. “Unfortunately”, says Olivia, “I couldn’t take him with me when I went home, and I left him with someone, but two days after I left he passed away.”
With everything that Olivia has achieved in the past, she could be forgiven for slowing down a little now, but no. Classing herself as a Cancer ‘Thriver’ rather than ‘Survivor’, Olivia continues to throw herself into projects involving cancer awareness. She has helped to develop a product called ‘Liv-Aid’ which is a gel-filled pad to help detect lumps during breast self-examination.
Olivia is very aware that some women are scared of self-examination and hopes that ‘Liv-Aid’ will increase confidence. She says, “It is a weird phenomenon that women are scared to examine their breasts but early detection is essential. We need to learn what is right and what is unusual for us because finding the lump early is key. It is important that fear doesn’t stop self examination, because if something happens to be there, it is best to know and get it checked by a doctor. It may be that the lump is not cancer at all, but it is essential to get it checked out. Fear mustn’t stop you.”
Indeed fear hasn’t stopped Olivia in anything she has done in her life. She is an inspiration to women everywhere, but who does she look up to? Who does Olivia admire and respect herself? “That’s a good question”, she says, before thinking for a moment. “Well I think the most inspirational person I’ve ever met is [animal activist] Margaret Owens. She does so much to help animals; she is a very elegant, spiritual lady who has a quiet voice but always gets things done. When I met her she was so inspirational I decided that when I grow up, I want to be just like her. Hopefully I’m almost there by now!”
For more information on Olivia Newton John and her projects, please visit: http://www.olivianewton-john.com/
Michelle Morgan Bio:
Michelle Morgan is an author, biographer and columnist who lives with her husband and daughter in Northamptonshire, England. She is the author of ‘Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed’ and the forthcoming ‘A Brief Guide to Marilyn Monroe’ which will be published by Constable in the UK and Skyhorse in the USA. Michelle writes frequently for magazines and is currently writing a novel. View her webpage at www.Michelle-Morgan.blogspot.com
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