“I’m sur­ren­der­ing to fate”

Neigh­bours star Olympia Valance is es­cap­ing the shadow of her fa­mous fam­ily and head­ing over­seas for the next phase of her ca­reer

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy EMILY DEL­PHINE Styling GEMMA KEIL In­ter­view SIOB­HAN DUCK

Star­dom be­yond Aus­tralia may soon be on the cards for out­go­ing Neigh­bours star Olympia Valance, as she leaves her fa­mous fam­ily be­hind for a move to LA.

It was meant to be a heated scene be­tween mother and daugh­ter, but no-one was ex­pect­ing the F-word to sud­denly come fly­ing out. It cer­tainly wasn’t in the script – and young­ster Olympia Valance, au­di­tion­ing for her very first role on Neigh­bours, had no idea she was about to ut­ter it. It could have been cur­tains for the bud­ding ac­tor.

But th­ese days she re­calls the scene with rel­ish, cred­it­ing that slip of the tongue with the launch of her act­ing ca­reer. “Here’s the real story,” she tells Stel­lar. “The F-word got me my job. In the au­di­tion, [screen mother] Kate Ken­dall and I were in this scream­ing match and I ac­ci­den­tally said it. I just went, ‘I’m so sorry!’, I got lost in the emo­tion. I think they liked that, be­cause I had seemed so vanilla. They saw I was like a sponge – and some­one they could work with.”

De­spite hav­ing made her name on Ram­say Street, the place where older sis­ter Holly launched her own ca­reer in en­ter­tain­ment years ear­lier, Valance, 25, is ea­ger to chart her own path. Holly fa­mously moved to Lon­don and recorded an al­bum after she left Neigh­bours; so too did Kylie Minogue and Ja­son Dono­van. In­stead, Valance is leav­ing the pop­u­lar soap and head­ing to Los An­ge­les for three months. She has her sights set on tack­ling a role like Won­der Woman, or per­haps lac­ing up in corsetry for a quirky pe­riod se­ries like Penny Dread­ful.

She tells Stel­lar that she has turned down sev­eral of­fers to record an al­bum, pre­fer­ring to leave the singing to Holly and her step­fa­ther, Aussie rocker Ross Wil­son. “I don’t want to go down that road,” she laughs. “I do like singing… to my­self. But I love act­ing, be­ing on set, meet­ing new peo­ple, learn­ing new things and be­ing around the crew.” Valance wasn’t al­ways so sure about any of those things. She “sort of fell into” the craft soon after fin­ish­ing Year 12. For years, she had strug­gled with the air of dis­ci­pline that sur­rounded her at her pri­vate girls’ school. “I was get­ting in so much trou­ble at school. I was dis­tracted,” she ex­plains. “Mum was wor­ried, but I just said: ‘Don’t worry, Mum, I am go­ing to be suc­cess­ful at what­ever I do. I don’t know what it is yet, but I am go­ing to be suc­cess­ful at it.’ I said it with such con­vic­tion that she ac­cepted it.” She didn’t have to wait too long to prove to her mother she was right. The two were on hol­i­day in Bali when Valance got a phone call out of the blue from a make-up artist with Neigh­bours to let her know she had rec­om­mended her for an up­com­ing role. The artist had met Valance through Holly, and knew she had the right look and per­son­al­ity to play a young fire­cracker named Paige. Ex­cited at the prospect of leav­ing

her part-time job at a pet shop, Valance glee­fully ac­cepted the chance to au­di­tion for the TV se­ries. Un­like her com­pe­ti­tion, Valance ad­mit­tedly had some aces up her sleeve in the form of fam­ily friend Alan Fletcher ( Neigh­bours’ Dr Karl Kennedy) – who of­fered guid­ance and ran lines with her in prepa­ra­tion – and, of course, her sis­ter Holly.

Valance was in pri­mary school when Holly got her big break on Neigh­bours in 1999. “Kids didn’t treat me dif­fer­ently but there were a cou­ple of times when Holly was re­ally, re­ally big and she was singing ‘Kiss, Kiss’, and she came to pick me up from school and she just got com­pletely bom­barded,” she re­calls.

“I al­ways looked up to her. Her life was fun and she was en­joy­ing it. She was meet­ing a mil­lion peo­ple. All kids look up to their big sisters but

“To have a big sis­ter in the pub­lic eye and so cool was pretty spe­cial”

to have a big sis­ter who is in the pub­lic eye and so cool was pretty spe­cial.”

Valance never got the op­por­tu­nity to raid Holly’s closet for the cool leather jack­ets and cargo pants she cov­eted; they may share a fa­ther but they were raised by dif­fer­ent mothers, and never lived un­der the same roof.

Valance’s par­ents di­vorced when she was young be­fore mov­ing on to have more chil­dren with their new spouses. “Our Christ­mases,” she says, “we all spend to­gether. And ku­dos to them for mak­ing it work – be­cause it’s heaven.”

But she ad­mits it wasn’t al­ways easy, and that she strug­gled to ac­cept Wil­son’s pres­ence in her life at the be­gin­ning. “It was dif­fi­cult be­cause I had to share my mum, but even just hav­ing some­one around who wasn’t my dad was tough,” she says. “I put Ross through ab­so­lute hell! From when I was five un­til I was 18, he copped it. Close to my 18th birth­day I apol­o­gised for be­ing so vile. He only ever sup­ported me. And now I look back and cringe that I was such a brat.”

Valance cred­its her un­usual fam­ily dy­nam­ics – she has eight sib­lings – with help­ing to pre­pare her for the un­pre­dictable life of an ac­tor. Her up­bring­ing ex­posed her to the in­tru­sive na­ture of fame, but Valance was still shell-shocked when top­less pho­tos of her were posted on the in­ter­net last Septem­ber. “I was on hol­i­day with my fam­ily in Mykonos,” she re­mem­bers. “The two peo­ple next to me had noth­ing on. It’s Greece, you know! It was no big deal [to be top­less] but it was just such an in­va­sion [to pub­lish pic­tures]. You want to keep those parts of your­self

sa­cred for your lover, or just pri­vate. So when I woke up the next morn­ing I had a bil­lion missed calls from my agent and my pub­li­cist, and I just knew that some­one must have taken pic­tures of me on the beach. And there were like 70 pho­tos. It crushes a lit­tle piece of your soul. It baf­fles me. If it was any­one else that wasn’t a pa­parazzo tak­ing pho­tos of a top­less young girl they’d get ar­rested.”

Valance says she is care­free by na­ture, but ad­mits the ex­pe­ri­ence made her a lit­tle more cau­tious. “This is why you have to have a re­ally thick skin to do this,” she says. “At the end of the day, what can I do? It’s done now. But it changes who you are a lit­tle bit, more and more. You look at other celebri­ties and re­alise the rea­son they have be­come the way they are. It’s all been chipped away un­til you are left with a façade.”

She was orig­i­nally sup­posed to fin­ish up with Neigh­bours at the end of her third year. “But I wasn’t ready,” she says. “By the end of year four, I was. I didn’t feel like I was be­ing chal­lenged any­more – I could have stayed and been happy, but would have al­ways looked back and thought, ‘What more could I have done?’”

OLYMPIA WEARS Burberry coat, au.burberry.com; (op­po­site) Sal­va­tore Fer­rag­amo dress, fer­rag­amo.com

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.