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Olivia Newton-John has sold over one hundred million albums, won four Grammys, and starred in the most successful movie musical of all time, but all of that acclaim doesn’t measure up to all that she does to help others. As a breast cancer survivor and thriver, Newton-John has used her fame for good causes, opening up a cancer treatment center, and bringing about awareness for the disease through her Liv campaign. She also promotes health and wellness and is a strong advocate for the environment. The 62-year-old star spoke with TheCelebrityCafe.com’s Michelle Vaccaro about Grease, Glee, her singing, and charity work.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: Grease came out in the late ‘70’s, but you can go to a party or karaoke bar and still hear people singing along to the songs. Why do you think Grease and its songs have remained so popular?
Olivia Newton-John: It’s amazing isn’t it? It’s like thirty years later and people are still loving it and singing it. I think it was another time. I think people think of the fifties in kind of like a real magic way. I think the movie had a great atmosphere and vibe. It was a school movie and people always loved relating to school. It just had a great energy and it had great music. And it was fun.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: That was the most successful movie musical of all time. You also made an appearance on Glee which is a very popular musical television show. Do you see any other similarities between the two, other than the singing?
Olivia Newton-John: I don’t think that they’re similar in that Glee is very sophisticated. I don’t think Grease is as sophisticated. But yeah, I guess in a way it shows the parallels of school and what’s going on in young people in different time zones except Glee is a lot more accentuated and sophisticated. I guess the kids are much more…wise I guess, but I guess there are certain parallels, but I think the school thing is the main connection and the music of course, the musical, dancing, and all that kind of thing.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: In the 80’s “Physical” was considered to be a racy song by some people, but nowadays, the songs are way worse. Were you getting a lot of backlash back then?
Olivia Newton-John: Oh yeah, I was banned in Utah. It was funny because I went to do my live concert in Utah and “Physical” had been banned and I remember being really worried about it at the time. Now, I look back and think it’s really quite funny because it’s so tame compared to what goes on now.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: What was the inspiration for your album Grace and Gratitude Renewed ?
Olivia Newton-John: Grace and Gratitude is an album…it’s renewed. I did a couple of songs on it with a new kind of energy, but it’s a healing CD and I made it for myself because music is a way of helping myself through situations. I write music and so this CD…I’m very interested in chakras and the energy of the body and healing. You know, ever since I went through breast cancer, I deal a lot with people who are going through cancer. I get lots of people calling me and it was just something I wanted to do. I just loved making that record with Amy Sky and would really like to do more of that in the future.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: Can you tell me a little bit about the Liv campaign?
Olivia Newton-John: The Liv is a wonderful self examination medical device for women to help them with their regular breast self exam, which I advocate for women because it makes total common sense that you know your breast better than anybody else. You know, a doctor giving you an exam every six months…he doesn’t know every little lump and bump, and you do. If there are any changes in it, it would only make sense that you would notice them first if you’re doing regular self exam. What the Liv does, it enhances your touch so when you do your exam, it makes it easier to find these changes. It’s really lovely. It’s shaped like a heart. And for some women that are shy, it gives them a little bit of the privacy between their hand and their breast…so religions and belief systems… it may be helpful that way…or young girls. But it is a wonderful, wonderful tool.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: Back in 2008, you walked the Great Wall of China. What made you decide to do that?
Olivia Newton-John: Well, it wasn’t my idea, but I was asked by the head of the fundraiser at the time if I would like to do this as part of a fundraising scheme. It took three years to put together. It was a huge process as you could imagine just to get two hundred people…We’re only allowed to have a certain amount on the Wall at one time so it was all broken up into sections and people were flying in and flying out from America, from England, from all over the world…celebrities, athletes, sports figures and some cancer survivors who were going through cancer at the time from Australia. So it was really an incredible feat. When I look back, it was two hundred and fifty miles or so we walked and it was really an amazing, amazing process. I loved it. It was really challenging. I likened it to the cancer journey because everyday you didn’t know what to expect or how you’d end up, but I pushed through it and finished it and walked everyday even when I was sick because I was the leader. It was really quite incredible.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: Now onto your charities…how did you get involved with the Amazon rainforest?
Olivia Newton-John: Well, I’m involved with the Amazon because I married Amazon John Easterling who owns Amazon Herb Company. John and I met eighteen years ago, actually right before I had breast cancer. When he heard I had cancer, he sent me some herbs to take. One of his products is called Illumination. It’s a mixture of all the different herbs put together so I started taking them then. Three years ago, he took me to the rainforest and we fell and love and we got married. So it’s an amazing story and through him we go back to Peru every year and John and I are involved in a wonderful organization called ACEER which stands for the Amazon Center of Environmental Education and Research. They help teach the children of the Amazon the importance of the living rainforest and we get school supplies to them. These children who are growing up alongside the Amazon, that’s all they know. They don’t know the impact the living rainforest has on the rest of the planet so the idea is to educate them so that when they grow up, they realize the value. So that’s an important project for us. John also helps get rights and title for the land for the indigenous people…something he’s been doing for years.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: I read that the Amazon Herb Company does a lot with the Camu Camu fruit. What exactly is that?
Olivia Newton-John: The Camu Camu fruit is incredible, but inside…it’s the highest vitamin C of any fruit on the planet and it also helps make you feel good. They call it the “feel good fruit” because it helps with the uptake of serotonin so when you ingest it, it makes you feel good and then we have the skin care line Lluvia. You put it on your skin and so you’re taking it through your skin. There’s no chemicals in it. It’s totally pure and it makes your skin amazing. Sometimes I veer and try other skin care just to see, and within a day, I’m back on Lluvia. Because it makes my skin feel…look so good.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: When did you start the healthy eating?
Olivia Newton-John: I’ve always been pretty healthy. My mother was German and even as I child we would have steamed vegetables and potatoes with the skin on and grilled fish and chicken. She ate very well and pretty healthily. So I’ve always been pretty conscious of it. Of course, in my teens and early twenties, when I was living in London and had no money, we lived on packaged fish fingers and mashed potatoes and kinds of terrible food. But I’ve always had in my make up, eating well. I feel better when I do.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: What made you decide to open up Gaia Retreat & Spa?
Olivia Newton-John: It was kind of one of those…my mother had passed away and my friend and I were riding around the area where I have a farm and we found this property and we both dreamt about it that night. It was kind of one of those amazing stories. We both had a dream about it and turned it into a beautiful retreat where our friends could come. This dream became a reality and we bought the spa. This friend of mine…a friend of my mother’s…his name was Gregg Cave and he and I found two other partners and we bought the property and we turned it into a place where we thought our friends would like to come. That’s how it started out. Let’s build a place that we would love, and now the whole world is loving it and we’re winning all kinds of awards and Conde Nast awards…So it’s an amazing, beautiful, healing retreat to go in the hinterlands of Byron Bay, in Australia and New South Whales. Whenever I go to Australia, that’s where I head first. I have…a massage and treatment and wonderful organic fruit that we grow in our own garden. And it’s my favorite place to be, apart from my home there.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: Now you have a new book coming out in May, Livwise, what can we expect from it?
Olivia Newton-John: Yes, I have a cookbook that is for my hospital. It’s a fundraising book. It’s called Livwise and it’s healthy eating and it’s recipes that I gathered from the cooks at Gaia, from one of my friends who is a nutritionist in Melbourne, and from a lovely lady who had cancer and ate really well and healed herself through healing foods. So those people plus some of my own recipes because I didn’t have enough…the food I cook is…I throw stuff together, I don’t know measures so we have garnered them from people who are professionals and it’s turned out to be beautiful and all the money goes to the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: You have a movie coming out called A Few Best Men. What is that about?
Olivia Newton-John: Yeah, I just finished a movie in Australia called A Few Best Men. It’s a comedy about a wedding which is really funny because I play mother of the bride which is going to be happening for sure for real. In October, my daughter is getting married. So it was really fun.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: Is that coming out around the same time your daughter’s wedding is going to be?
Olivia Newton-John: Yes, I think it will be actually. Which is funny, eh?
TheCelebrityCafe.com: Do you have anything else coming up? Are you planning a tour or anything like that?
Olivia Newton-John: I have a couple of concerts in Australia later in the year, but I didn’t plan anything else because of the wedding this year. I knew there would be a lot to do. So I have a trip to Australia and then I’ll probably be focusing on the wedding.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: That’s really about all I have. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Olivia Newton-John: No, you’ve talked about the Amazon Herb Company. People can go online and read about that. The herbs are amazing and that’s all I take… for a healthy life…a wonderful husband and a healthy life…. You talked about the Liv, you talked about my hospital…I have a new CD that they’re releasing which is called Celebration in Song which is a duet album. I have a duet with Richard Marx, Keith Urban, and Delta Goodrem, and Jann Arden and Barry Gibb on there and Cliff Richard.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: When is that coming out?
Olivia Newton-John: That’s coming out now. I think they can get it online, Celebration in Song.