Before Olivia Newton-John transformed into leather-clad Sandy in Grease and rocked the charts with “Physical,” she had amassed three Grammys and eight American Music Awards. But in 1992, at the height of her fame, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“She really was open to the world about it, she just said, ‘Hey, I have cancer, I am fighting it, I am going to live,’” says Newton-John’s longtime friend, Jane Seymore.
Now after two more cancer diagnoses in 2013 and 2018, the Australian singer and actress has become a symbol of hope for victims around the world and continues to fight.
“She realized that there was a power in that she could let women know that if you’re going through this, ‘I’m here and I’ve survived and I’m thriving, and it was empowering for her,” says Didi Conn, who [co-starred] with Newton-John as Frenchie in Grease.
Beyond her movies that spawned hit songs like “Xanadu,” the 71 year-old’s name has become synonymous with activism and entrepreneurship, thriving through her third cancer diagnosis and launching the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research & Wellness Centre in Melbourne, Australia.
“I think everyone who cared about Olivia was just crestfallen, ‘Oh no, not Olivia,’ and the very next thought was, ‘She’s gonna be fine,’ offers her friend Leeza Gibbons.
How has Newton-John persevered through professional challenges, personal tragedies and the trials only decades of stardom can bring?
Get the details from those closest to her as Natalie Morales hosts Olivia Newton-John: Behind Closed Doors on REELZ on Sunday, July 12 at 8 p.m. ET.
Watch REELZ on DIRECTV 238, Dish Network 299, Verizon FiOS 692, AT&T U-verse 1799 and in HD on cable systems and streaming services nationwide. Find REELZ on your local cable or satellite provider at www.reelz.com.
Reporting by Tyler F. Paddor