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The lasting legacy of Olivia Newton-John

“I’ve done more in my life than I could have ever imagined,” Olivia Newton John

Many of us – particularly those who came of age with Grease – have felt personally affected by the passing of Olivia Newton-John. While the multi-awarded singer, actress, entrepreneur and philanthropist achieved a stardom and popularity paralleled by few, remarkably, she remained levelheaded, gracious and kind: someone we could relate to.

The object of many a male crush, Olivia was with us when we belted out our own versions of her pop hits and ballads – Xanadu, If Not For You, You’re the One that I Want, Magic and others. Her influence reigned in our experiments with skin-tight black leather pants, spiral perms, sweatbands and other dreadful but fun rites of passage in the late 70s and 80s.

Melbourne was Olivia’s hometown and where she achieved her first breaks in the entertainment industry (after relocating from England with her family at the age of five). Her musical and acting accolades include four Grammy Awards, numerous Country Music, American Music and Peoples Choice Awards, sales of over $100 million records, 10 number #1 hits, ranking #20 on Billboard’s “Greatest of All Time Hot 100 Artists” (in 2015) and induction into the Australian Music Hall Of Fame.

Humanitarian and environmental activist

The songwriter and singer was also a humanitarian and environmental activist. Olivia’s humanitarian achievements include serving as the first Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations Environment Programme and national spokesperson for the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition. She also hosted Wild Life, a nature TV series.

A familiar face in entertainment for over half a century, Olivia represented not only an epic time in our memories but the notion that one can remain decent and optimistic despite our personal battles.

Along with her well-publicised struggle with breast cancer (first diagnosed in 1992 when she was 43), Olivia weathered many personal tragedies. These include the mysterious disappearance of (then) boyfriend Patrick McDermott at sea while on a fishing trip, the abrupt death of her sister (to brain cancer in 2013), loss of her father (to liver cancer in 1992), and daughter Chloe’s battle with anorexia and body image issues.

Cancer as a gift

An interview with Olivia’s niece Tottie Goldsmith on A Current Affair reveals that helping others was more important to Olivia than her career. And in media interviews, Olivia has described her cancer as a gift that helped create her mission in life.

Along with promoting the importance of early detection of breast cancer, Olivia would go on to establish the Olivia Newton-John Cancer, Wellness and Research Centre – an alliance with Austin Health in Melbourne – using $200 million she helped fundraise. The centre, which opened in 2012, provides cancer treatment, education, training and research, and has a dedicated mind, body and spirit focused wellness centre.

In 2020, the unstoppable philanthropist founded the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, a charity sponsoring global research into plant medicines for cancer.

Olivia’s accomplishments in the field of health were multi-faceted. She co-founded the multi award winning Gaia Retreat and Spa at Byron Bay in 2005, created her own natural, cruelty-free vegan skincare range and authored dietary advice: LivWise: Easy Recipes For A Healthy, Happy Life. She also co-hosted and co-produced Healing Quest, a US TV series based on a natural approach to wellness.

A complimentary approach to healing

A champion of a complimentary approach to healing, in her own battle against cancer Olivia used nutrition, natural medicine, relaxation therapies, a positive mental attitude and medical cannabis (to assist with pain, sleep and anxiety) alongside conventional medical treatments. In LivWise, the “cancer thriver” revealed her food philosophy: a plant-based, preferably organic, partially raw diet, protein-rich foods, wholegrains and a small amount of healthy fats combined with regular exercise.

Despite defeating cancer for two decades, Olivia revealed to the world that her cancer had returned (in 2013 and again in 2017) and metastasised to her back. The disease finally claimed Olivia’s life on August 8, 2022. She was 73 years old.

On the upside, and proof of her determination and spirit, Olivia managed to survive for 30 years beyond her initial diagnosis, live life to the fullest and realise her mission to help many others along the way. “Ultimately, my vision is that cancer becomes a footnote in history,” she wrote in the forward to LivWise.

In recognition of her contribution to community health, cancer research and entertainment, in 2019 Olivia received some of the highest titles bestowed upon an individual. She was appointed as a Companion of the Order of Australia and as Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by the Queen.

“I’ve done more in my life than I could have ever imagined,” Olivia was quoted as saying by her niece on the news programme, A Current Affair.

We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to Olivia’s family and friends. We have enjoyed our time learning from Olivia and the brave and meaningful life she lived. We would like to thank Olivia for the wisdom she has shared on natural health and with WellBeing. Olivia, you will be greatly missed.

Linda Moon

Linda Moon

Linda Moon is a freelance feature writer reporting on health, travel, food and local producers, work, parenting, relationships and other lifestyle topics. Her work has appeared in International Traveller, Voyeur (Virgin Airlines magazine), Jetstar Asia, Slow Living, Traveller, Domain, My Career, Life & Style and Sunday Life (Sydney Morning Herald), Sprout, NZ Journal of Natural Medicine, Nature & Health, Australian Natural Health, Fernwood Fitness, The New Daily, SBS, Essential Kids, Australian Family, Weekend Notes, The Big Bus Tour & Travel Guide and more.

Based in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, Linda is a qualified and experienced naturopath, spa and massage therapist and a partly trained social worker.

Her writing interests focus on health, responsible consumerism, exploring beautiful places and the quest for a fairer, healthier and happier world for all.

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