Remembering Olivia Newton-John: The Icon Who Stole Our Hearts in “Grease” and Who Bravely Battled Cancer for 30 Years
During her 6 decade-long career, Olivia Newton-John proved that she was born with an exceptional amount of talent and an even bigger heart. From mega-hits, to an iconic role that captivated our souls and a charisma that we couldn’t get enough of, it’s clear that Olivia’s life has been loaded with blessings.
But her journey was equally full of hardships. However, she turned her misfortunes into a mission to help others and became an activist, determined to make this world a better place for others.
At Impresionante, we were devastated to learn that this icon has passed away at 73. We want to pay tribute to her fascinating and intense life which will never cease to inspire us.
When 29-year-old Olivia portrayed the 17-year-old good girl turned bad, Sandy, in the 1978 film Grease, she was already a popular singer. But it’s this musical that became a classic that catapulted her to worldwide fame. Her performance got her a Golden Globe nomination and gave her iconic hit singles like You’re The One That I Want and Hopelessly Devoted to You which still remain adored songs even more than 4 decades after their release.
This multi-talented star was born in England, her dad was a British spy, and her mom was the daughter of a Nobel prize winner. The family moved to Australia when she was 6, and her parents got a divorce when young Olivia was 11.
At 14, the talented teenager began her professional music career and at 18 she recorded her first single. A few years later, at 26, she represented the UK in the Eurovision contest and came in 4th place.
A few years later she met Allan Carr, the producer of the movie that would make her a star. By that time she had already won 4 Grammy awards and had scored several No.1 hits thanks to her enchanting high but supple voice, her girl-next-door persona, and her irresistible charm.
Carr described her as “so funny, quite warm, and oh so beautiful.’’ From the moment he laid eyes on her he knew she would be perfect for the role of Sandy, the lead in his upcoming movie, Grease. He immediately told her that she “was everything a star should be.” Olivia, however, was reluctant to play the role, given that she was 11 years older than the character she was playing.
Luckily, she eventually agreed and her undeniable chemistry with her on-screen love interest, John Travolta, made the movie the biggest box-office hit of the year as well as the second highest grossing musical of all time.
Years later, Travolta revealed how impressed he was with his co-star’s character transformation from innocent girl to seductive woman, saying ’’She was like Marilyn Monroe mixed with some motorcycle chick.’’
A year after the release of Grease, Olivia received the Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) from Queen Elizabeth. She was also devoted to helping others and known for her numerous charity works and philanthropy. She was appointed as a Goodwill ambassador and received the Red Cross Humanitarian Award, among several other accolades.
Despite being adored by millions around the globe and having an impressive career, Olivia’s journey had more than its fair share of hardships. She first got diagnosed with cancer in 1992, at 44-years-old.
Her relentless fight against the disease is remarkable to say the least. She became a leading advocate for cancer research and in 2008 started the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre, raising millions to support research.
She bravely fought against cancer for many years, living moments of victory and natural setbacks, and, at a certain point, she knew the natural outcome of her illness. But Newton-John’s powerful will, optimism, and inner strength allowed her to carry on fighting without ever thinking of giving up.
Turning this challenge into a life mission, she said, “Cancer was enlightening.” She went on admitting, “Yes, I’ve enjoyed making records and films, but the hospital gave me a purpose in life. My dream is to defeat cancer in my lifetime.”
As for her love life, it was also far from a fairytale story. She first got married to actor Matt Lattanzi in 1984 and her only child, a daughter named Chloe Rose, was born in 1986. The couple called it quits 11 years after their union.
In 2005, Olivia’s then-boyfriend, Patrick McDermott, disappeared at sea while on a fishing trip. He was never found. This unsolved mystery devastated and haunted the star until the end of her life. She admitted, ’’It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve been through a lot of things.”
In 2008, Newton-John married Australian eco-entrepreneur John Easterling, having first met though a friend in the early ’90s. Olivia found her soulmate and their love was written in the stars. She explained, ’’I always tell my friends you’re never too old to find love. I found the love of my life at 59 going on 60! I’m grateful.”
After decades of courageously fighting cancer, Olivia Newton-John died at the age of 73 on August 8, 2022. The news was confirmed by John, who wrote that Olivia “passed away peacefully at her ranch in Southern California this morning.” He noted that his beloved wife “has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years, sharing her journey with breast cancer.”
After the sad news broke, tributes have been paid from around the world to the much loved actor, singer, and activist. Her Grease co-star and longtime friend John Travolta wrote, ’’My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better. Your impact was incredible. I love you so much.” He added “We will see you down the road and we will all be together again. Yours from the first moment I saw you and forever!’’
What was your favorite Olivia Newton-John song? What will you most remember her for?
Photo credits: Getty, East News