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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Olivia Newton-John

1978 (printed 2017)
Gary Heery

inkjet print on paper, edition 2/9 (frame: 116.5 cm x 92.0 cm, image: 99.5 cm x 79.5 cm)

Olivia Newton-John AC DBE (1948–2022) was born in Cambridge, England and was five when her family moved to Melbourne. She formed an all-girl group with three friends in the early 1960s and at fifteen she came first in a talent contest on the television show Sing, Sing, Sing. The prize was a trip to London. She cut her first single there in 1966, and achieved her first big hit in 1971 with a cover of Bob Dylan's 'If Not For You'. Her US album debut, Let Me Be There, produced a smash single of the same name which won her the Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. She achieved her first US pop number 1 – and another two Grammys – with 'I Honestly Love You' in 1974, the year she represented the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest. She relocated to Los Angeles in 1975. The title single from her next album Have You Never Been Mellow went to number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Her first forays into film, however, had been less successful, and when, aged 29, she secured the lead role in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical Grease, Newton-John was initially doubtful as to how convincingly she could portray a naïve, straitlaced adolescent.

By contrast, Gary Heery's photograph of her, taken in 1978 – when Grease was released – precisely evokes the appeal and versatility that made Newton-John's performance in the film so memorable. Sydney-born, Heery moved to the USA in 1974 and by 1976 was in Los Angeles, where he photographed album covers for Roy Orbison, Frank Zappa, Ray Charles, BB King and Joe Cocker; and portraits for magazines including Life, Esquire, Rolling Stone and Interview. Newton-John's performance in Grease not only secured her international stardom, but delivered further chart success with 'Hopelessly Devoted To You' – one of three songs she recorded for the soundtrack. She subsequently sold more than 100 million albums; had ten number one singles, including 'Xanadu' (1980) and the saucy 'Physical' (1981); had more than fifteen top ten singles; and won numerous industry awards. In addition to recording, touring, filming and performing, Newton-John established a number of successful businesses and devoted much of her energy to humanitarian, environmental and children's causes. First diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, she went on to raise millions of dollars for education, treatment, training and research, founding the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne in 2012 and the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund. Her contributions to music, charity and cancer research were recognised in 2019 when she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire and a Companion of the Order of Australia.

Purchased 2017
© Gary Heery

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Gary Heery (age 29 in 1978)

Olivia Newton-John AC DBE (age 30 in 1978)

Subject professions

Performing arts

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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