The wild Peruvian experience that changed Olivia Newton-John’s life: “It was amazing”

Olivia Newton-John, a name that for many immediately evokes the iconic songs and scenes of Grease, has journeyed through a vibrant tapestry of experiences both on and off-screen. While her musical career soared to dizzying heights with the likes of ‘Physical’, her cinematic ventures presented a mixed bag.

The Aussie actor’s silver screen debut was in the 1965 family comedy Funny Things Happen Down Under, followed by the 1970 sci-fi musical Toomorrow. Sadly, the latter was a box office calamity. Another notable mention includes the flamboyant 1980 musical Xanadu, where she portrayed a Greek muse, a role that didn’t resonate with audiences or critics alike.

Of course, since she sadly passed in 2022, she’ll ultimately be remembered for her role as Sandy in Grease, an undeniable timeless classic. However, its legacy and questionable gender politics haven’t been without its critics in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Newton-John, however, is pragmatic, once telling The Guardian: “It’s just a girl who loves a guy, and she thinks if she does that, he’ll like her. And he thinks if he does that, she’ll like him.” She ultimately considers the movie “a fun love story.”

Yet, beyond the spotlight’s glare, life presented Newton-John with profound challenges. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 and faced its return in 2013 and 2017. These personal battles intersected with profound grief and losses, including her father and older sister, Rona. Through these tribulations, she found solace and strength in various treatments, including medical cannabis, introduced to her by her husband, John Easterling.

With her now-husband’s influence and a deepening interest in the power of plants, Newton-John embarked on a transformative journey in the Peruvian rainforest at the age of 59. Here, she encountered ayahuasca, a potent psychedelic brew revered for its spiritual and healing properties. The experience, initiated by just a splash of the brew, enough to fill a cap, transported her into intense hallucinations.

As the organic form of what some may know as DMT, ayahuasca is considered one of the most profound and powerful hallucinogenics on the planet. While magic mushrooms or LSD can cause some pretty vivid visions and enable some wacky experiences, à la James Cameron, ayahuasca is known to break down all sense of time, space and ego, often bestowing upon its users a sense of harmony with the world, an appreciation for the universe and a renewed inner peace.

“It did change my life,” Newton-John asserts, touching on how that Peruvian trip helped her discover a later-in-life partner. “If I hadn’t had that experience, I might not be married to John now. I had the most incredible visions when I was under the influence of it.” Looking back on that decisive night in the rainforest, Newton-John’s words linger: “It was amazing.”

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