Olympia’s ‘very, very tough year’ after nude hack attack
Olympia Valance feels like the weight of the world has been lifted from her shoulders as she soaks up the sun and the freedom of life in Queensland after escaping Melbourne three weeks ago to be reunited with AFL player and partner Tom Bellchambers.
It's not just breaking free from the strict confines of Victoria's lockdown laws, but an emotional lightness from returning to the love of her life, as well as from speaking about the devastation of being a victim of cybercrime.
The former Neighbours and Playing For Keeps actor revealed last month in a social media post she had been the subject of a hacking incident where intimate images of her were stolen and circulated.
"It's been a very, very tough year, but the outpouring of support has been truly incredible, and the amount of love and care and positivity has really made an extremely difficult situation a little more bearable for me," Valance says.
"The positive feedback I've received has really given me hope that this whole experience may have the ability to actually be used for good. It was beyond difficult, (but) it got to a point where I felt I just don't want to fight this anymore. I've got nothing to be sorry for, I've got nothing to apologise for. If I can make some positive change in some way to someone else's life then this is worth it."
Valance, 27, says it was the hope of helping other young women who might find themselves in a similar situation that inspired her to reveal her own cybercrime ordeal.
"Before I made my statement I was reading up on the statistics of cybercrime over the (COVID-19) period and it was up 600 per cent, so I just thought something needs to be done here and if I can be a voice for positive change then I will be," she says.
"It really felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and I felt like it was a weight that had been lifted off my family's shoulders as well."
Valance's mother Tania Gogos-Wilson and stepfather rocker Ross Wilson immediately spoke out in defence of their daughter over the revelations her private photographs had been leaked.
Tania said on social media: "I am so incredibly proud of my strong Greek goddess warrior daughter. This is a shocking crime that has led to many suicides and serious mental health damage. I send my love and strength out to every one of those victims."
Valance says the support of her Essendon player boyfriend was also a saviour.
"He has been beyond amazing from the very beginning and it's been difficult for him over this period of being away from me and not being able to be there physically to support me, but he was everything and more than I needed at the time."
That sense of relief has been accentuated since she was reunited with Bellchambers, who announced his retirement last week after 13 years in the AFL. After 10 weeks apart, Valance landed a seat on the final flight out to the AFL hub on the Gold Coast on September 2.
"I was just so lucky to be able to get on the last flight out of Victoria. It was a long time (apart), a lot of FaceTime, a lot of phone calls. But, you know, when I got here and when I saw him it was like no time had passed," she says.
Valance and Bellchambers took their first steps to true freedom on Tuesday when they left the AFL hub after Essendon failed to make the finals.
"I feel like I had a bit of agoraphobia, where you're scared of leaving the house, because you haven't left for so long," Valance says.
"It's wild to even be sitting at a restaurant with someone. We haven't had that for so long and I'm just hoping that in Victoria in the weeks to come we do get to open up a little bit more, especially with the COVID cases dramatically decreasing over the past week, which is fantastic."
The loved-up couple is making the most of their free time together and is hitting the road in a camper van to explore the Queensland coast.
"I just feel like we've been given this unique opportunity during this crazy time. It's honestly been a dream of mine to jump in a car and see Australia, which I really never have.
"We go to Greece or we go to Bali, that's kind of just what we do as Australians, is to get out of here. But there's so much beauty to see and I'm so excited," she says.
They are both looking forward to having some meaningful time off from their demanding careers for the first time.
"I've never really had time off in my life, so this has been very much a growing experience for me as well because I haven't had so much time to sit in my own feelings and just kind of do nothing and really take a break," Valance says.
"To be able to have the time with Thomas, too, where he's never really had a break either in 14 years. So it's new for him, it's new for me, and we're just going enjoy the next couple of months and indulge."
While the shooting schedule for her role as a judge on Australia's Got Talent has been put on hold due to the pandemic, Valance still has some work commitments. Though she would freely admit her latest gig as an ambassador for the Caulfield Cup Carnival doesn't really feel
"Thomas and I, we follow racing religiously, we've been doing quaddies every Saturday, and to be able to experience the Caulfield Cup Carnival in the comfort of your own home this year is brilliant for us," she says.
Rather than in her own backyard, Valance and Bellchambers will be enjoying all the action from tropical northern Queensland.
"We're in Brisbane at the moment, then we're going to Townsville and Orpheus Island. We'll keep driving up to Cairns, Mount Mulligan and the Daintree.
"I'm going to be wearing whatever I brought on this holiday, but (the races are) a chance for everyone to dress up, which we haven't been able to do for so long. Especially to Victorians, I feel like this is the chance to put a face on and put a dress on and maybe get one of those outfits from your closet that you haven't worn. We're going to jump on Zoom and watch the races together with family and friends," she says.
There's a good chance three-year-old filly Annavisto, co-owned by Bellchambers and ex-Essendon teammates Jobe Watson and Cale Hooker, will make it into the Caulfield Guineas on October 10, which has raised the couple's excitement levels for the Caulfield Cup Carnival even more.
"I've always had passion and excitement for the races, I've always owned horses, but this horse that Thomas has is actually a really good horse," Valance says.
They are keeping an open mind and schedule for the future, with plans to potentially go further on to Darwin or stop via Byron Bay on the way home. But one thing is certain, they have big ideas for their much-loved Daylesford retreat.
"I think we're going to be spending quite a bit more time up there. We actually bought the property for a weekend escape that has turned into a five-day-a-week escape up there. It was beyond perfect over the COVID period, and we love being up there, we love Daylesford," Valance says.
"Now that Thomas has retired I think he and his friends want to do a bit of building up there and spend quite a bit more time up there. We're thinking about building something because we're on about 2 ½ acres in Daylesford. So we're going to maybe build some little cabins and rent them out."
Valance says 2020 has helped her to realise how much she has taken for granted and she plans to carry the lessons she has learned about herself and life into next year and beyond.
"It's really turned into the year of appreciating what you have and being grateful for the things that you do have. Now that I'm here and I do have a little bit more freedom, I'm very grateful for the people that I have in my life, my friends and my family who have been there for me. You become more grateful for the quality people that you have in your life and the quality things that you do have in your life," she says.
"The future is so uncertain at the moment. I've always wanted to go to the next stage, or I've wanted more, and I've just realised I don't want more.
"I have everything and more than I could have dreamt before. I've got a divine partner who I love more than anything in the world, I've got the best family in the world, I've got the most fierce incredible friends and I have a roof over my head."
Valance will tune in remotely across the Caulfield Cup Carnival and also be a judge for the Carnival Social Style Stakes
Originally published as Olympia's 'very, very tough year' after nude hack attack