According to a statement released by her family on Monday, the 73-year-old actress and singer passed away (8 August). Since her diagnosis three decades ago, she has been open about her battle with breast cancer. A vocalist who could sing ballads for the public as well as gay-bar songs, Olivia Newton-John established herself as an icon over the course of a four-decade career.
When she starred in Grease with John Travolta in 1978, Newton-John was already a well-known performer, but the movie solidified her status as a cultural icon. In the 1980s, she released the song “Physical,” which became one of the most popular ’80s singles. Here are six occasions when Olivia Newton-John demonstrated she was the quintessential gay idol.
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1. ‘Physical’ Music Video is the Gayest Thing on the Planet
Olivia Newton-1981 John’s music video for “Physical” is puzzlement in and of itself. With its s*xualized lyrics and rock-infused sound, the song rapidly sparked controversy and put an end to Newton-once-clean-cut John’s image. This is a completely different animal when it comes to the video. The clip shows Newton-John teaching a group of novice gym-goers how to use various pieces of gym equipment.
While the whole of the “Physical” video is devoted to making light of her s*xuality, the end is what really solidified her status as a recognizable homos*xual icon. Because they are all too busy admiring their own muscles to notice her, none of the muscle-clad males are interested in her. Footage closes with Newton-John looking on as the two men walk into the dressing room together.
2. Olivia Newton-Grease John’s Transition is Essentially Every Homos*xual Man’s Journey in Life
A typical LGBT person’s arc culminates with Sandy’s transformation into “bad,” which is defined as dressing in all black and wearing heavy make-up and cigarette smoke as part of her “bad” behavior. It’s not just the fact that Olivia Newton-John was 30 years old when she played a high school student in Grease that makes her a beloved Grease star.
That being said, the depth and breadth of her performance made it one of her most memorable roles. For many, the film’s final scenes reinforced her role as a lesbian icon. That it was possible to own your s*xuality and alter your image to fit the times was demonstrated by her. As a result of Grease, she was able to successfully transition into the decade of the 1980s without fear of losing her good girl image.
3. She Never Stopped Advocating For Same-s*x Unions
Because Olivia Newton-John was seen as a reliable individual at the time, how could she not be interested in “Physical”? Throughout her life, she demonstrated repeatedly that she was a devoted ally who would fight for LGBT people wherever feasible. In support of marriage equality, she advocated for same-sex unions in 2012, stating: “I believe that no one has the right to judge and deny couples who love each other the ability to make a marriage commitment. Love is just love.
In a later interview with The Advocate, she talked about what it was like to play at New York Pride the evening after the state legalized same-s*x unions. According to Newton-John, “the atmosphere was electrifying, and the couples’ joy was palpable.” “I believe in love. When possible, you locate it. That it may be recognized is fantastic. People who have been in committed relationships for a long time and who look out for one another should be able to get married.
4. ABBA Defeated Olivia Newton-John, Who Represented the UK At Eurovision
Olivia Newton-John performed “Long Live Love” as the UK’s entry for the Eurovision Song Contest four years before Grease made her one of the most well-known musicians in the world. It is incredibly dated. In her performance, Newton-John, who was born in Cambridge, England, but spent much of her childhood in Australia, stands in a floor-length, flowing blue dress while she and a group of backing vocalists rip through what is most appropriately characterized as a somewhat cheesy ballad.
With 14 points, she came in fourth place and ultimately fell short of ABBA. It was only right that the Swedish group, who performed “Waterloo,” would win the competition.
5. We’re Still here For her 1980 Picture Xanadu, Which was Made with Homosexual People in Mind
Tragically, it wasn’t meant to be a blockbuster hit even if it should have been. Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly collaborated on the musical fantasy movie Xanadu in 1980, which featured music by The Tubes, Cliff Richard, and the Electric Light Orchestra. The movie earned negative reviews from critics (we’re being nice here; it was pummelling).
It reportedly even served as inspiration for the first Golden Raspberry Awards, which were created particularly to honor Xanadu. It nonetheless managed to establish itself as a cult favorite, and queer people, in particular, adore it. What’s not to love about a movie that is called a “rolling disco”? It’s fair to say that the title single was a success for Newton-John, and it helped her begin to develop the more upbeat persona she would later come to be recognized for during the “Physical” era.
6. Through the Movie It’s My Party, She Assisted in Bringing Attention to the AIDS Crisis
Olivia Newton-John also had an appearance in the 1996 movie It’s My Party, one of the first to address the topic of AIDS sufferers dying inhumanely. In the movie, gay architect Nick (Eric Roberts) throws a party before deciding to commit suicide after learning that he has AIDS. Gay supporters of Newton-John praised her for playing the lead role in the movie that promoted awareness of HIV and AIDS.