Chloe Lattanzi: ‘I hit rock bottom’
Chloe Lattanzi wants people to see her for who she really is.
Not Olivia Newton-John's daughter. Not the troubled girl who has battled anorexia, substance abuse, depression, anxiety and body dysmorphia.
And not the plastic surgery devotee whose Instagram selfies saw her compared to a Barbie doll and led to speculation she'd had a rib removed.
Lattanzi is so keen to throw off the shackles of her earlier life that she sought out a spot on Dancing With The Stars rather than waiting for the producers to scout her.
"I want people to see me for who I am, not an illness I overcame," she confides to Stellar during a break from rehearsals with dance partner Gustavo Viglio.
"I had a premonition that I needed to be on Dancing With The Stars. My mum knows Delta [Goodrem] and she connected me with her manager, and he got in touch with them. And they wanted me!"
For some contestants, the long-running entertainment show can be a career reviver; for others, it's pure amusement.
But it is far more to Lattanzi, who is excited to showcase the dancing smarts she inherited from her dad and build her "fan base", but more than anything wants to establish an identity of her own.
Beyond that, one wonders if this new gig represents her stepping out from her mother's shadow and breaking away from the burden that comes with being the daughter of Australia's sweetheart.
"Yes, it does. Yes, it does... and hallelujah!" she yelps with excitement. "I'm so glad you asked me that because it feels really good to be able to be my own person - to be Chloe Lattanzi and not Olivia Newton-John's daughter. I'm my mum's biggest fan, but she's ready for me to be me, too."
Despite turning 34 last month, Lattanzi seems to exist in a strange sphere between adolescence and womanhood. She has clearly worked hard to beat her manifold demons, but years spent in rehabilitation and recovery almost suspended her development.
At times she reflects thoughtfully on the challenges of her life, while at others she reacts sharply - she recently took on an Instagram follower who critiqued her penchant for plastic surgery, and admits to feeling overwhelmed at the idea of organising her wedding to long-time partner James Driskill.
But as much as she desires a profile in her own right, Lattanzi also wants to be taken seriously and to use her years of struggle as a springboard from which she can help others.
"I felt at certain times that I was never going to get out of that dark place," she confides. "I hit rock bottom, so I want to be a beacon for anyone watching the show who is suffering. I want them to see that you can recover.
"People forget that I'm a legitimate singer and musician because my depression and anxiety have overshadowed that part of me."
Dancing, which she's practised most of her life, makes her feel as if she's connecting with something powerful and organic within herself.
Previously on Instagram she's expressed it as her "true place" where "all masks are removed and my naked heart is filled with passion and unapologetic sensuality". Or, as she more succinctly tells Stellar: "I'm good at moving my hips."
Certainly she wants to win - and is being touted as a hot contender - but sees herself less in competition with others than herself. As she says: "I want to challenge myself and show that I can be the master of my universe."
Lattanzi is Newton-John's only child, from her first marriage to dancer Matt Lattanzi, who she met while filming Xanadu. She was regarded by her parents as their "lucky egg". The couple wanted more children, but after several miscarriages, Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 and split with Lattanzi three years later.
There's little question the devastating three-punch assault of divorce, illness and fame are partly to blame for their daughter's difficulties.
Lattanzi was around the age of seven when she learnt of her mother's illness - at school. "Some little brat ran up to me and said, 'Ha ha, your mum's got cancer and she's going to die.' It's like a screenshot in my head I'll never forget. I went home and said to my mum, 'Why didn't you tell me? I could've taken care of you.'"
The news was that much scarier as her best friend and her mother's goddaughter, Colette Chuda, had died from cancer as a child.
"My mum's illness - and my best friend dying of cancer when we were both five - had me thinking about mortality at a very young age," reflects Lattanzi. "This created many fears in me, but it also created a sensitive, thoughtful little girl curious about the nature of the universe."
When rumours spread early last year that Newton-John was close to death following her admission that her stage-four breast cancer had metastasised to her spine, the 71-year-old was forced to release a video to deny the claims.
While the onscreen message was delivered with good humour, behind the scenes her daughter was feeling furiously protective.
"I felt like a dragon sitting in front of a cave full of gold," Lattanzi tells Stellar with a wry laugh. "I don't want anyone to make her feel afraid by saying she doesn't look well.
"She is the strongest woman I know and I feel very safe and confident because of Amazon John [Newton-John's second husband John Easterling] treating her with herbs from the rainforest. It's making her tumours shrink, and I love him so much because he's keeping my mum with me."
While she speaks freely on most subjects, Lattanzi admits it is tough to discuss her mother's cancer. "I got strong because her not being well was a catalyst for me to get well," she says. "I have to be strong and present and healthy for my mum."
In fact, as Newton-John tells Stellar, her daughter now regularly references a comment that has helped her cope. "When I went through cancer the first time, a good friend said to me, 'Congratulations, now you will grow.' Chloe always quotes that statement. She's such a wise soul and she's learnt so much. She wants to help people from the experiences she's gone through. And that makes me feel good because it's the best thing you can do."
Newton-John was recently named a Dame by the Queen, and Lattanzi is eager to "dress up all princessy" and accompany her mother to Buckingham Palace for the upcoming ceremony.
For her part, the singer can't wait to be in the audience when her daughter takes to the dance floor. "I can't dance anymore," Newton-John tells Stellar. "So she's dancing for me."
She says their relationship is "symbiotic" and that Lattanzi's return to health is a source of deep contentment.
"I'm beaming because she's beaming. Chloe has had to go through experiences that were very difficult and painful, but she's in a wonderful place right now. I couldn't be more proud of her."
Central to Lattanzi's happiness is her relationship with Driskill, who she's been with for more than a decade. She already refers to him as her husband and hopes they will officially marry this year, ideally in Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens where she has warm memories of walking with her grandmother.
Likewise, her fondness for Australia underpins her decision to appear on television here, and she's hoping to connect with Bindi Irwin to help with bushfire relief. Animals are a passion - she's devoted to her dogs Peanut and Jelly.
She and Driskill have also set up a business in the US state of Oregon, where they live, centred on medical cannabis, which is a product Newton-John says has assisted greatly in managing her pain.
Lattanzi also credits it - along with a combination of meditation and mindfulness - with helping get her panic attacks under control. She says it is part of a routine she established, with Driskill's encouragement, to help her recover from issues such as anorexia and anxiety.
She also took herself off Instagram, watched YouTube videos with self-help guru Eckhart Tolle and philosopher Alan Watts, read books and devised a healthy eating and exercise routine that included yoga and dance. She tries not to deviate from her schedule for fear that her old behaviours may resurface.
Having been deeply critical of fame and the impact it had on her, Lattanzi now says she understands it can be a platform for positive change.
To that end, she's returned to Instagram but is determined to manage her use. "I got addicted to posting selfies and wondering if people liked me," she admits. "Social media is good in certain ways, but it's a sickness we all have. It's guilty of creating narcissists, and for a little while I was guilty."
She can still be vulnerable to the cruel comments, as when she hit back at that follower who called out her surgical enhancements. But she tries to remind herself that critics are generally projecting because they feel insecure.
For the record, she has had a breast augmentation, gets lip fillers and has Botox. She had fillers removed from her face because she looked "bizarre".
Meddling with her face and body is an ongoing issue. "I had body dysmorphia so I couldn't see myself clearly," she says. "I'm not against plastic surgery, but if I'm going to get anything done I'll be transparent and post about it. I've got comments saying I've set an unrealistic standard for young girls and that makes me sad.
"It's hard because the wise part of me thinks you should be happy with what you've got, but the other part thinks, 'Well, this is show business and you've got to look your best.' On Instagram, every girl has had work done. I can't think of the last time I saw a natural face. And that puts a lot of pressure on all of us.
"I want to be up to par, but I also want to be honest about feeling vulnerable about this. Then others might feel the same."
Asked what her mother thinks, Lattanzi responds with a laugh. "She's always like, 'You're so beautiful. Don't touch your face!'"
Dancing With The Stars premieres 7.30pm, February 9, on Network 10.