How Olivia Deeble beat her body image issues
Olivia Deeble might not have regal blood like her Disney princess character in the new movie Secret Society of Second Born Royals, but she's all too familiar with growing up in the sometimes harsh public eye.
The 18-year-old - part of an Aussie acting dynasty that includes grandfather Reg Gorman (of The Sullivans fame), and mother, Neighbours stalwart Kate Gorman - played Raffy Morrison on Home and Away for more than three years from the age of 13.
And while she feels lucky to not have experienced too much in the way of online hate, she admits there were times she struggled with having some of the most formative years of her life on screen for all to see. The scrutiny of her looks and her weight left her with body image issues and a healthy wariness of social media that took her years to overcome.
"I don't think it was ever intentionally mean, it's just that because I was on TV every night, a lot of people would go, 'Wow, you're a lot thinner in real life - you look really fat on TV'," Deeble says via Zoom call from her Melbourne home where she's preparing for her final school exams while in lockdown.
"It's just that being on social media and the social expectation of being a certain body type you just go, 'Wow, that was a little bit jarring'. But now I just kind of take it as it is and I go, 'Yeah, well I was 14 and my weight was fluctuating as I was still growing and that's fine'."
Deeble says it was the encouragement and positivity of her mother and the realisation that her Home and Away profile made her a role model to young girls that turned her around and helped her embrace a more positive mindset. Meeting a young fan who "made a really degrading comment about herself" shocked Deeble into understanding that she couldn't "spread positivity and self-love if I don't have that for myself".
"There's nothing wrong with my body at all and I've come to a real place of self-love now and I acknowledge that this is who I am," she says. "I am healthy and I'm fit and I'm happy and that's all that matters.
"I can't fix the fact that I'm five foot four and curvy - and that's beautiful. I can't change that, I'm not going to be able to grow, or elongate my legs. And if I can't change it, why on earth am I being upset about it?"
Deeble's profile might be about to get a whole lot higher thanks to Disney's Secret Society of Second Born Royals, in which she plays the self-obsessed Roxana, part of an undercover super-powered band of princes and princesses learning how to protect the world from nefarious forces. Hopes are high that it will be the first in a new franchise along the lines of High School Musical or Descendants, and with the Disney+ streaming service now having passed 60 million subscribers worldwide, Deeble says she's a little overwhelmed - but excited - by the potential reach.
"It's baffling to me and I can't comprehend it," she says with a laugh. "It's not that it's daunting, I'm not scared of it but I don't think you can be ready for it."
Secret Society came along at just the right time for Deeble. She'd already made the decision to move on from Summer Bay to the next stage of her career when she scored the part after a series of self-taped auditions. The experience and "exponentially larger" scale of working on a big studio production came as something of a shock to Deeble. But she says the stamina, speed and versatility she'd learned on the fast-paced soapie shooting schedule held her in good stead, as it had for the Aussie A-listers such as Chris Hemsworth and Margot Robbie who went before her.
"It's just the most incredible training ground and I'm so grateful for my time on that," she says. "And just learning tricks of the trade. Just having a conversation with Ray Meagher - Alf Stewart - is incredible. These people who have been in it for so long, and who know so much, just even watching their process is such a fantastic experience."
While Deeble, who spent her recent 18th birthday in lockdown eating antipasto and drinking Aperol Spritzes with her family, says the current COVID-related shutdowns of productions around the world has come at a frustrating time for her career momentum, she's grateful for the chance to be able to focus on finishing school after years of juggling lessons with filming commitments. She's keen to build on the inroads she's made in the US, but she also has her eye on training at the Jacques Lecoq International School of Theatre, taking the same clowning course as fellow Home and Away alumnus Isla Fisher did more than 20 years ago.
She also harbours ambitions to work in the theatre, but wherever she ends up - and in whichever medium - she'd love nothing more than to "pull a Chris Hemsworth" and make Australia her base.
"I think the end goal is to buy a massive mansion in Byron Bay and just fly out when I need to," she says. "But I'm just about to finish high school and I have a lot going. I want to go to London, I want to go to LA, I want to go to New York - I want to work everywhere and want to I want to continue learning and training."
Secret Society of Second Born Royals is now showing on Disney+
Originally published as How Olivia Deeble beat her body image issues