“I’ve just given birth,” says Olympia Valance. “It was really, really fun to be pregnant. You don’t have to watch what you’re eating; you’re just fat all the time. It was great. And I was pregnant with the priest, which was super scandalous. Of course, when I first met the priest, he wasn’t a priest. We were in this big accident and he fell and got amnesia, so when we fell in love, he didn’t know he was a priest. But his memory has come back, so I’m a single parent.”
It’s a lot to take in. For starters, the 24-year-old Australian actress certainly doesn’t look to have recently given birth, as she chats animatedly in the lobby of a hotel in the middle of Sydney, dressed in skin-tight jeans and towering heels. It helps, of course, that the pregnancy was fictional—simply her character’s latest story arch on Neighbours, the hit Australian soap opera on which Valance stars as Paige Smith, a fiesty spitfire who has been a lead character for nearly four years.
“You can imagine how many storylines I’ve had,” Valance said. “When I first came on the show, I was the daughter of this woman who thought I had died at birth, so I come back to find her. My craziest plot was when I got married, but my fiancé was a police officer and he arrested me at the alter. It’s so hard to explain, but I got set up basically.”
The show originally debuted in 1985, and has since amassed 33 seasons, or, as of last week, 7,600 episodes, making it the longest running drama series in Australian television and the seventh longest running serial drama still on the air in the world. It as, as Valance summed up, an “institution.” Consider it Australia’s much more popular answer to The Young and the Restless or Degrassi. And like the latter, the show has become known as a platform for young Aussie talents before becoming global superstars. Among its most popular alum: Margot Robbie, Chris and Luke Hemsworth, Russell Crowe, and Kylie Minogue.
Like the Hemsworths before her, the show is something of a family affair for Valance; her sister Holly Valance, who went on to star in Entourage and Prison Break, appeared on the show for three years before Valance eventually auditioned. “You look up to your older sister and are like, ‘I want to be you, you’re so cool,’” said the actress. “And I’ve just kind of followed in her steps. I did a few musicals in school but never thought that it was something I wanted to do, or could do. Now that I’ve done it, I literally can’t imagine myself doing anything else.”
The show, with all of its many wild storylines, has certainly kept the actress, a Melbourne native, busy for the last four years, during which she’s formed a particularly close bond with the expansive cast. “We have a really, really great cast, and it varies from school kids to people who have been on the show for thirty years,” she said.” Most of the crew members have been there from the very, very start. Two big handfuls of people have never left the building, so they’ve seen everyone come through: Margot, the Hemsworths, everyone.”
It’s another Aussie, however, that Valance hopes to emulate as she ponders the next steps in her career. “I love Rose Bryne so much,” said Valance, emphatic in her delivery. “She’s funny, and she’s talented, and I love her so much.”
The resemblance is definitely there: sure, there’s a physical likeness, all glossy brown hair, gleaming eyes, and sly grin, but what really comes across most strongly is Valance’s infectious attitude and understated sense of humor, which can take you by surprise. (When asked what she likes to do when not filming, she responded, deadpan: “Eat. Food is everything.”).
And much like Byne—and Robbie, for that matter—stardom beyond Australia may soon be in the cards for Valance, with plans to move to Los Angeles full time by the end of the year. I’m not saying the word move; I’m relocating temporarily,” she clarified. “The word move is really daunting. But that’s the plan. That was always the plan. It’s a dream. It’s a big dream, but I know that.”
Paging Martin Scorsese: you may have found your next leading lady.
Olympia Valance Models the Best of Australian Fashion Week
24-year-old actress Olympia Valance is the star of Australia’s popular soap opera, Neighbours.
In the week’s closing night spot, Romance Was Born certainly provided a grand finale, staging a rave-like runway show that saw models dancing and twirling their way down the catwalk. And in co-founder Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales’ exuberant designs, it wasn’t hard to see why. The duo describe the label as “storytelling through clothing; drawing on the spirt of dressing.” This season saw the pair collaborating with Australian artist Del Kathryn Barton, adding, “In doing so we’ve brought to life the girls that we imagine living within her work.” Based on the over-the-top, Rainbow Brite-esque collection, that life is one non-stop rager, nudity (several models walked out in just body paint and a thong) encouraged. Party on.
Albus Lumen is not the name of the brand’s designer, but rather, a moniker that speaks to the ethos of the clothing; a Latin phrase meaning “white light.” Indeed, founder and creative director Marina Afonina finds beauty in relaxed shapes and minimalistic design, describing her client as “effortlessly confident, self aware and have appreciation of simplicity in dressing.” For the new collection, Afonina looked to the ideas of luxury and versatility, focusing on tailored pieces in a clean, classic palette of white, cream and black with a hint of new colors like yellow and terracotta. “Inspiration was drawn from youth, nostalgia and freedom – designing the collection with a Sicilian vacation in mind, with button detailing hinting at shells from the coastline in different colors and textures – all tied together through the collaboration with jewelry designer Ryan Storer,” she explained.
Though creative director Ainsley Hansen wants to create “accessible” pieces, that doesn’t mean that Hansen & Gretel is lacking in high fashion appeal. “Wearability and versatility are key in our overall design aesthetic, where we often reflect on masculine shapes, and tailor them for a feminine body,” explained Hansen. For her latest collection, the designer was drawn to “various feminine archetypes.” The result was a youthful, bohemian-tinged show featuring easy, wardrobe staples, such a trousers and shirt-dresses, done if joyful prints. “Hansen & Gretel appeals to the daughter, mother, or grandmother of today,” Hansen continued. “Style classics are tweaked and reworked every drop, ensuring we are always moving our customer forward.”
Christopher Esber was one of the hottest tickets of the week, drawing a huge crowd despite the late show time of 8 p.m., and even later actual start time, thanks to staggered delays of other shows, and thus, models, throughout the day. The collection, however, quickly made up for any tardiness: a sophisticated and forward-thinking take on menswear and tailoring that included ribbed tank dresses overlaid with superfine, sheer flounces, merino wool mini-skirts, and grid-like lace details carried throughout. It was a standout homecoming show for the Australian designer, who recently presented his Fall 2017 collection during New York Fashion Week.
With Resort 2018, Strateas Carlucci made the case for patent leather—lavender patent leather, no less. It came in the form of slouchy bottoms, a memorable look in an altogether memorable collection. “[This season] explores what lies beneath,” explained designers Peter Strateas and Mario-Luca Carlucci, citing inspiration from the Paris Metro and the work of the late Chinese artist Ren Hang. “Exploring the freedom, rebellion and playfulness reflected in Hang’s work, this season celebrates the grit and beauty of the real world.” You could certainly see the pieces—heavy separates, graphic t-shirts, and slouchy jumpsuits, among them—on the coolest girls in Paris. And that was the point. “The Strateas Calucci girl is strong and grounded,” said the designers. “Street smart but elevated, she chooses sculptural and tailored silhouettes to take her through her day. Matching a utilitarian approach with an understated elegance, she is cool and collected, a little bit rebellious and owns her strength everyday.”
Related: Margot Robbie Auditions for Marlon Brando’s Role in “On the Waterfront”