Olivia Newton-John asked fans to donate to her charity instead of buying flowers in her memory before she died aged 73 as her moving final photo surrounded by sunflowers with a beaming smile is revealed.
Her husband John Easterling revealed the actress’ final request was for donations to be made to the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, ‘in lieu of flowers’. The foundation funds research into plant-based medicine and holistic treatments for cancer.
Newton-John, who shot to international stardom thanks to her role as Sandy in the 1978 movie Grease, died on Monday morning surrounded by family at her home in southern California after a long battle with breast cancer.
Meanwhile, Newton-John’s Instagram was mostly made up of flashback posts from throughout her career – but on April 18th, the star shared a rare, candid photo of herself believed to be her last.
‘I just wanted to take this opportunity to wish all a primarily healthy, happy, peaceful Christmas,’ Newton-John said. ‘I know it’s been a very, very, very difficult time for everybody in the whole planet so this is a time we can get together, celebrate each other and our families and whatever faith that you believe in we can express it with each other which is very important.
It shows the 73-year-old standing in her garden smiling from ear to ear.‘Wishing everyone a Happy Easter on this beautiful Spring day,’ she captioned the photo. In a final video posted just before Christmas, Newton-John thanked her fans for their support over the years.
‘I want to thank you all for all of your support over the years and I wish you all the best and send you love and light. Newton-John’s battle with breast cancer first began in 1992 when she was just 44 years old.
She was very open about her diagnosis and treatment, which famously included the use of medical marijuana. Her cancer returned in 2013 and again in 2017. Newton-John and Easterling met while on a ayahuasca retreat in Peru. One of the star’s first high-profile friends to pay tribute was her Grease co-star John Travolta.
‘My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better. Your impact was incredible. I love you so much. We will see you down the road and we will all be together again,’ he captioned an Instagram post alongside a photo of Newton-John.
Meanwhile, Richard Wilkins broke down on the Today show as he spoke about the death of his long-time friend. Wilkins, 68, burst into tears as his last interview with Olivia was aired.
Today host Karl Stefanovic left his seat on the panel to comfort his colleague as he wiped away tears. ‘I didn’t want to do this,’ Wilkins wept.
‘It’s alright,’ Stefanovic said while hugging the presenter. ‘This woman was extraordinary.’ Among other tributes included Australian singer Delta Goodrem, who honoured her beloved ‘mentor and friend’. Delta, 37, shared pictures of herself hugging Olivia and said she was ‘like family’ to her.
‘I love you forever,’ Delta wrote in her moving post. ‘The whole world will feel this heartbreak today because the entire world felt Olivia’s unmatched light. A force for good. A force of nature. Strong and kind.’
‘My mentor, my friend, my inspiration, someone who always guided me… she was always there for me. Family to me.’The ‘Lost Without You’ songstress famously played the Aussie icon in the 2018 TV miniseries, Olivia Newton-John: Hopelessly Devoted to You.
Olivia is survived by her 36-year-old daughter Chloe Lattanzi – who posted a loving tribute to her mother on Instagram three days ago, saying: ‘I worship this woman. My mother. My best friend.’ The actress famously beat breast cancer twice but was diagnosed again in 2017.
She spent the last few years at home, campaigning for animal rights and raising money for her charity. In a haunting interview with The Guardian in 2020, she said of the disease: ‘It’s been a part of my life for so long.
‘I felt something was wrong. It’s concerning when it comes back, but I thought ‘I’ll get through it again’. In other interviews, when asked how she battled the disease so bravely, she said: ‘I’ve had and am having an amazing life so I have no complaints. I really don’t.
‘Everyone goes through something. We all have something we need to go through in life. This has been my challenge.’
Born in England to an MI5 agent father, Newton-John and her family moved to Melbourne, Australia, when she was six. She returned to the UK as a teenager to pursue a singing career and starred in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974.
Her big break in Grease came four years later. She famously resisted the part, at first turning down producer Allan Carr because she thought she was too old for the role. He won her over, and adapted the script to make the character an Australian ex-pat to accommodate her accent.
When the movie was released, it was an international hit and she became a global sex symbol. Riding a wave of success from Grease, she hammed up her newfound sex symbol status with Physical, her most successful album and single released in 1981.
It was dedicated to her first husband, Matt Lattanzi, to whom she was married between 1984 until 1995. After Grease, Newton-John’s acting career faltered. She appeared alongside Lattanzi in the movie Xanadu in 1980, but it failed to impress in the box office.
She took three years off work following the birth of her daughter in 1986, then was struck with her first cancer diagnosis in 1992 when she was 44. After her first diagnosis, she devoted her career largely to charity and humanitarian work.
She was notoriously open about taking drugs, particularly for healing purposes, and met her second husband on an ayahuasca retreat in Peru. They returned to the country to get married in 2008.
As news of her death spread on Monday, tributes poured in from Aussie icons, as well as Hollywood stars. Kylie Minogue shared a throwback photo of herself and Olivia and writing: ‘Since I was ten years old, I have loved and looked up to Olivia Newton John. And, I always will.
‘She was and always will be, an inspiration to me in so many, many ways. My deepest condolences to her family and loved ones. x ONJ4EVER.’ Bindi Irwin shared a photo of herself holding the iconic actress’ hand during a charity event and wrote: ‘One of the kindest and most wonderful souls the world has ever known.’
Antonio Banderas said: ‘Rest in peace, Olivia Newton-John. Deepest condolences to her family and loved ones.’The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which awards the Oscars, posted a 1978 photo of Newton-John and Travolta.
‘Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta at the 50th Academy Awards (April 3, 1978). A few months later, they took the world by storm as Sandy and Danny in ‘Grease’ – which went on to become the highest grossing film of 1978, proving that Grease is (and forever will be) the word.’
The Australian High Commission to the UK posted a photo of Newton-John by the Sydney Harbor bridge. ‘We are terribly saddened by the passing of Dame Olivia Newton-John AC DBE,’ they tweeted.
‘British born and Australian raised, Dame Olivia inspired us in song and brought us together as one. We remember her with our British friends, and send our deepest condolences to her loved ones.’