My husband and I watched the final flight take off in March, standing on our porch, gazing across the turquoise harbour toward the Bermuda airport.
The sound of planes arriving and departing in the distance barely used to register. The jet streams crossing the sky often felt like nothing more than the hands of a clock: 8:40 a.m., American Airlines; 2:30 p.m., Air Canada; 6:15 p.m., British Airways. Like the chirps of the dime-sized whistling frogs that blend into our evening chorus, the ubiquity of the planes rendered them nearly invisible.
Yet the silence that followed the dull roar of the last plane soaring out of sight was deafening. “Well, that’s that. It’s just us now,” I declared, somewhat melodramatically. But it wasn’t really an overstatement: We live on a 55-square-kilometre island, a thousand kilometres from our nearest neighbour; planes are our connection to the rest of the world. Bermudians joke about being 60,000 alcoholics clinging to a rock, but as hell broke loose around the world and we segued into isolation, this was about to become at least partly true. Bermuda had closed her borders.
I shut my bookstore in the 400-year old town of St. George, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that boasts some of the oldest buildings in the New World, and placed a sign in the window that said “Yay! You can still order online!” The exclamation points were a valiant attempt to hide that I’d been crying.
Thankfully, we still had oodles of rum.
I scrolled through my calendar to erase all of the activities my tour and events company had booked for the summer, sighing at my phone’s follow up questions about whether I wanted to remove only this event — or all future events.
Lead morning walking tour of St. George’s for Norwegian Cruise Line. Delete.
Host Nomadness Travel Tribe in Bermuda. Delete.
Emcee Bermuda Day Parade. Weep a bit more. Then delete.
And then I wrote a plan:
Be kind to myself. Cry if I need to. Give extra cuddles to my dog. Help where I can. Try my best to plan for the future. Take long walks around the coast, climbing up Alexandra Battery fort to watch container ships head out through the channel. Sink my feet into the sand. Cook. Burn some sage and Bermuda cedar. Practice gratitude.
My neighbours posited that we must face the oncoming challenges like we would a hurricane — by looking out for each other. With friends, I raised money for grocery vouchers, volunteered at the food bank and arranged to distribute bags of vegetables donated by farmers. I spoke on tourism roundtables, as we discussed how we would collectively care for those who’d lost their income.
When the island plunged into full lockdown for the month of April, residents were only allowed one hour of outdoor time a day. I spent mine wandering through the historic cemetery in St. George’s that marked the tenants who had ‘died of the fever’ over the centuries to remind myself that we had faced plagues before.
I cooked a dozen Spanish omelettes, formed a writing group, recorded history lessons about slavery for a middle school and hula hooped. I ran out of yeast, soil and paper towels, achieving consensus with the rest of the world that baking bread, planting kale and wiping down counters was the key to survival. I spent hours on the porch where I’d seen the last flight depart, spying on the luxury yachts that came rolling into the harbour and watching as the uber wealthy rode out the pandemic on hydrofoil surfboards.
Then, in early May, the lockdown ended and we ventured out in the eye of the storm to survey the damage and figure out the way forward. The airport reopened in July and the sounds of planes landing once again became commonplace. We settled into a glossary of new terms like “pre-departure test,” “mobile quarantine” and “travel authorization form.” Digital nomads were invited to set up their laptops in Airbnbs for up to a year after applying for the newly-minted Work from Bermuda program.
New businesses and experiences blossomed as innovators across the island figured out how to engage with travelers and residents in this new paradigm. Event planners, chefs and creatives reimagined historic spaces to accommodate intimate gatherings. The Collective hosted brunch at the Bermuda Transport Museum and Just Dreams held a White Party at Fort St. Catherine.
The Bermuda Society of Arts and National Museum of Bermuda tapped into the desire for cultural activities and began offering virtual lectures and exhibit tours. Some of our most beloved cultural events — Bermuda Day, Carnival and Cup Match — went online and began planning for vibrant returns in 2021.
And we continue to carve out moments of joy, of gratitude, of downright glee that we are living out this pandemic in paradise, stuck on an island that, though forged from rock, is truly not a hard place.
While I’m walking along the cliffs that border my home, I often think about a conversation I had while hosting a tour for a well-known movie writer and director who was looking to film on the island. His latest script needed a location that didn’t appear quite real — viewers needed to be unsure if the main character was awake or dreaming — and he thought Bermuda fit that description perfectly.
As my small island home navigates this new landscape with resilience, creating space for visitors to join us here in finding solace and peace, I can’t help but think how right he is.
Considering working from Bermuda?
Here are a few socially distanced — yet culturally connected activities — that fit within many of the COVID-19 guidelines on the island
Where to relax
There is beauty in the act of gathering around a fire on the beach. Bermuda Bonfires will plan a crackling evening you’ll not soon forget; guitar singalongs optional.
Where to stay
Expected to open in spring 2021, the 30 brand-new beachfront residences at the St. Regis Bermuda offer access to the hotel’s luxury amenities (including the hotelier’s renowned personalized butler service) while giving you a plush and modern home to get work done (or not).
Where to explore
There are many places to hike, horseback ride and cycle across the island, but none more popular than the Railway Trail, a former train route that operated in the 1930s and ’40s and is now closed to vehicles. Look out for wild cherries and loquats along the way.
Where to shop
Buy incredible locally made and inspired products to keep for yourself or send to friends and family in order to inspire jealousy that you are staying along the shores of paradise. Bermuda Born bags, Umami Bermuda spices and Salt Spray Soap Co. skincare products are always on my list.
Woman’s ‘traumatising experience’ due to ‘cruel’ Covid rule
A Sydney woman who miscarried twins is among a growing cohort of women who say their treatment in a NSW hospital was cruel and that their experience was traumatic.
Hospitals have implemented a variety of new rules during Sydney’s coronavirus outbreak that mean women who are giving birth, experiencing complications with pregnancy or having a miscarriage need to do it alone — their partners and support people are not allowed in.
The measures are in place to protect healthcare workers from the risk of being infected with Covid-19 but even Health Minister Brad Hazzard questions whether they are a step too far.
“I must say from a human point of view, I would like to see mums who are about to give birth and post birth have their support person with them as long as possible,” he told reporters last week.
So bad is the situation that some women are “afraid to fall pregnant … due to the restrictions hospitals are placing on labouring women”.
Katherine*, a 31-year-old woman from Sydney’s south, told news.com.au she would never forget her horrific experience last week.
It started when she went in to see her obstetrician for an eight-week scan and was told she could only attend alone.
“I had my hubby on FaceTime during the entire appointment where my scan revealed an unviable twin pregnancy,” said Katherine, whose name has been changed to protect her identity.
“I was in absolute and utter shock. In that moment all I needed was my husband’s hand to hold. But there I was, clutching my mobile phone as I fought back the tears. My OB recommended a (procedure to remove tissue from inside the uterus) and I had to process it all on my own.”
Things got worse for Katherine from there when, a day later, she received a notification from NSW Health that she was considered a “close contact” of an infected case because she visited an Ikea store. She was told to isolate for 14 days.
“I immediately contacted the hospital and was honest and transparent about my situation,” she said.
“They explained that I could not come for the procedure and that essentially I should only go to emergency if I were to start miscarrying on my own. This was an absolutely terrifying prospect for me.
“I reached out to NSW Health to seek an exemption on compassionate grounds, and, to their credit, they worked tirelessly to get me off that close contact list. I only attended Ikea for four minutes using their Click and Collect service. How could I be a ‘close contact’?
“Within a few days I finally received word that after reviewing my case, which included three negative Covid tests and receipts from Ikea showing time stamps of a person working in Click and Collect, NSW Health no longer considered me to be a close contact. Relief.”
Katherine booked in for the procedure the following day but was again not allowed to have her husband by her side.
“I had to go in alone. It was absolutely the most traumatising experience of my life. I was first put in a room in the maternity ward where I had to take a pill to start the miscarrying process and wait for theatre to be ready.
“I was there for close to three hours. Alone. Cramping. Unable to cry in my husband’s chest. Listening to the beautiful sound of crying babies around me. It was an extremely difficult experience.
“Opening my eyes for the first time after my procedure, I looked around and remembered I was alone. I was alone, in pain and in tears. I couldn’t stop crying and all I needed in that moment was my husband. But he wasn’t allowed in.”
Katherine says the hospital “should have granted me special exemption” for a support person.
“I believe we need to put an end to not only birth restrictions, but restrictions on support people attending when women experience miscarriage,” she said.
Other women are sharing their stories via a petition at change.org that has been signed more than 32,000 times.
Petition author Sarah Fowler wants the hashtag #endbirthrestrictions to gain traction and for the situation to be corrected immediately.
“The restrictions that are currently in place are inconsistent across hospitals throughout Sydney and are damaging women,” she wrote.
“Women are stressed, anxious, worried and fearful about what may happen if they have to go in to birth their babies with no support people. It is no secret that our hospital system is failing women already, the system is hard to navigate under normal circumstances, now it is nearly impossible.”
The Health Minister said last week that he was in discussion with health officials but they were holding firm to their decision.
“It is a difficult issue because at the moment Covid is in the community more broadly,” he said.
“I must say from the human point of view, I would like to see mums who are about to give birth and post birth have their support person with them as long as possible.
“I have discussed that with the senior health officials and the instructions they’ve given out are reflective that on the ground health authorities just have to make some really challenging decisions.”
He said issues had arisen in recent weeks at both hospitals on Sydney’s north shore and in Fairfield where hundreds of staff had to be furloughed because they came in contact with known Covid cases.
“Everybody in the health system innately wants people to have support in a whole variety of circumstances but at the end of the day it has to be a health decision in not only keeping that mum and that dad and that baby safe,” he said.
“It is a highly difficult and challenging circumstance. My heart goes out to those people. Compassion and care and concern has to be the overriding factor, but that compassion and care and concern can also mean you have to look at what risks there are around Covid.
“This one in 100 year pandemic is not easy when it comes to those issues.”
Sydney worker keeps getting dobbed in
A popular Sydney personal trainer has taken aim at a community of naysayers who continue to dob him in for working throughout lockdown.
Rory Stephen, who owns Roar PT, has been abused and heckled since the Greater Sydney lockdown begun and is fed up with members of the public trying to shame him.
“I’ve been in eight different spots now, because at every one there’s been someone who has complained or had something negative to say,” Mr Stephen, who works in the inner city area of Potts Point, told news.com.au.
“The people I’ve come across have been pretty rude.”
In one instance, a random man yelled out to complain about the noise from Mr Stephen’s speaker.
“He was really rude about it as well,” he said, detailing how the man threatened to call the police if he didn’t move.
Another woman blasted him for having loud music outside while she was working from home.
“She was just so rude about it, and telling me how she would appreciate it if I left. She just had no respect for me,” Mr Stephen said.
“I’m always a people pleaser and don’t want to upset anyone, but I’ve had enough.”
He said he had been told to move at least eight times by disgruntled members of the public.
People were constantly pointing and taking photos of his set up too, which he suspected may not have been solely due to his impressive collection of equipment.
“I’m just trying to service my clients as best as possible. Because everyone’s in a tough place, working from home and going crazy, so the highlight of their day is working out,” he said.
“It’s hard when I’m trying to keep my clients happy and the community happy as well. It’s frustrating.”
Police have stopped in three times, likely after receiving calls from the public, and “they have been fine with it”, Mr Stephen said.
“They have not said one negative thing to me and council has been really good too, it’s just the community.”
Government health advice stipulates that exercise can be undertaken outdoors with “a friend, family member, or trainer”, so long as there are no more than two people at all times.
Exercise is one of four reasons Greater Sydney residents are allowed to leave their home.
‘How I became best friends with my ex’s new wife’
A woman who is now best friends with her ex’s new wife has told how the pair forged a friendship even though they loathed each other when they first met.
Taylor Cole, 27, who shares son Beckham, three, with her ex Gentry Hatch, 27, admitted she was threatened by his new girlfriend and later wife Madison Hatch, 22.
The US women even fought when Taylor was upset by Madison posting pictures of her toddler on Instagram.
“I didn’t like Madison. No mum wants to be replaced and the idea that Beckham would like her more than me was hard,” Taylor said.
Madison added: “I made assumptions about who Taylor was as a person and I didn’t see things from her perspective.
“We didn’t really like each other but it wasn’t because of each other, it was because of the situation.”
Taylor, who is now also mum to Ledger, one, with her new husband Cameron, said it was difficult at first because of her strained relationship with Gentry.
“I met Gentry in college and we went out for two and a half years and I got pregnant by accident,” the Utah woman explained.
“It was a really big deal and a really stressful time. We ended up in courts fighting over custody – it was a very acrimonious split.
When he met Madison, things became even more tense as Taylor didn’t like how often her ex’s new partner was posting photos of her son Beckham.
“I just felt like I didn’t want someone showing off Beckham on the internet,” she said.
“I had a fight with Gentry about it which only caused more problems.
“I couldn’t have foreseen a time when we would be friendly.”
But now the pair have turned their relationship around and even consider themselves best friends, speaking to each other every single day and enjoying spa days.
They also celebrate holidays and co-parent Beckham together.
Relations between the women began to change when Madison reached out to Taylor to explain she had no intention of taking over her role as Beckham’s mother.
“I was posting pictures of Beckham like he was my child and from Taylor’s point of view, I was just the girlfriend,” Madison said.
“But for me those posts showed that I was serious about my relationship with Gentry.
When they spoke, she explained this, reassuring Taylor she was there for “extra support and extra love”.
“[After] She texted me saying: ‘If Beckham has to have another mum, I’m glad it’s you’.”
After, Madison invited Taylor and Cameron, 27, to her December 2019 wedding to Gentry, firming their bond in “an act of solidarity”.
Over the past 18 months, the women have grown so close that they speak daily and consider each other best friends.
“I think she’s my best friend, I tell her everything, we share a child,” sports reporter Taylor said.
“It’s a woman-to-woman relationship, not just mum-to-mum.
“We speak at least once every day.”
The pair also try to have a girls’ night at least once a month where they get massages and go for dinner.
They also go on holidays together and celebrate Beckham’s birthday and Christmas to ensure that one parent doesn’t have to miss out.
The pair have even set up a joint Instagram page, @steppedup.coparenting, to encourage other divorced parents to take the steps that will help them bond with their ex’s new partner.
The friends share their top tips to becoming friendly with your ex’s new significant other.
“Start doing little things together that will make you feel more comfortable in each other’s company,” Madison said.
“And finally have compassion for each other.
“Co-parenting is very emotional and you have to take a step back and look at it from the other person’s perspective.”
Best Mineral Face Sunscreens: SPF for Sensitive & Acne-Prone Skin 2021
At this point, you know how important it is to wear sunscreen every single day. SPF should always be the last step in your daytime skincare routine, and it’s especially important to apply sunscreen during the summer, when the sun is beating down more than ever. Aside from helping keep wrinkles and dark spots at bay, sunscreen most importantly also helps lower the risk of skin cancer, by protecting your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays.
You’ve also surely heard plenty of talk (and heated debate) about the differences between and benefits of mineral (also known as physical) sunscreens versus chemical sunscreens. The main distinction between the two is that mineral sunscreens contain just two active ingredients (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide), which essentially sit on top of your skin and deflect harmful UV rays to prevent sun damage. Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, typically contain a number of other active ingredients, and actually absorb UV rays like a sponge, and dissipate the rays as heat.
Mineral sunscreens tend to be much gentler on the skin, and for those of us struggling with acne-prone skin that is also extremely sensitive, I’ve found that mineral SPFs are the way to go. I try to use clean and nontoxic skincare and beauty products whenever possible, and made the switch to primarily using mineral sunscreen about a year ago. I’ve occasionally used a chemical SPF in the time since (usually for a body sunscreen), but over the past few months, my skin has been more sensitive, reactive and generally fussier than ever, which hasn’t been helped by allergy issues. Using any kind of chemical sunscreen on my face or chest is a nonstarter for me right now, and I’ve realized (especially after hours upon hours spent at my dermatologist) that when it comes to protecting my face, mineral sunscreen is my only option.
Aside from a personal preference for clean skincare in general, I’ve found that mineral sunscreens don’t aggravate my highly temperamental skin in the same way that chemical sunscreens often do; oftentimes, chemical SPFs result in bumps and redness all over my face (and especially my cheeks), though I’m the first to admit that my skin is exceptionally volatile, particularly when it’s this hot out. Or cold out…or any weather that’s not 70 and breezy. Anyway, since mineral sunscreens don’t absorb into skin the same way as chemical sunscreens, they also don’t clog pores in the same way, and as an added bonus, mineral SPFs are also pretty much immediately effective in providing sun protection.
In the past, mineral sunscreens were known for leaving behind a heavy white cast and being far less blendable than their chemical counterparts, but it’s all about finding the right formula. Yes, some mineral SPFs do still leave a white cast, but there are plenty of options that easily blend into your skin, without that ghostly residue.
Not all mineral sunscreens are the same, of course, as some brands use fragrances or other additives that can cause major irritation for certain skin types, like my own incredibly sensitive and blemish-prone skin. Luckily, there are quite a few mineral SPFs that have absolutely saved my skin this time of year, especially since I’m *always* slathering on sunscreen to protect myself from harmful UV rays, and especially so during this endless heatwave also known as summer.
And just a quick disclaimer: The most important thing is that you actually wear some form of sunscreen every single day, and find a mineral or chemical sunscreen that’s right for you. Definitely do you research, as after the recent sunscreen recall situation, it’s more crucial than ever to make sure that you’re using a clean, trustworthy SPF in your routine.
Below, see the best mineral face sunscreens that won’t irritate sensitive, acne-prone skin, and don’t forget to slather on the SPF this summer.
EltaMD UV Elements Broad-Spectrum SPF 44
EltaMD is a longtime dermatologist favorite, and they have a huge selection of sunscreens, including versions that leave you with a true glow or matte finish. Lately, we’re partial to this 100 percent mineral UV Elements formula, which is safe for sensitive and even post-procedure skin, and also contains hyaluronic acid, for a little hydration. It’s lightly tinted, so you get a touch of coverage without having to apply additional products. $36.50, EltaMD.
SkinBetter SunBetter Sheer SHEER SPF 70 Sunscreen Lotion 50 ml
I only recently tried out this SPF 70, and already love it. SkinBetter’s oil-free, fragrance-free face sunscreen goes on super lightweight and sheer, and it’s a dependably high SPF, plus it’s water-resistant. $75, SkinBetter.
Sun Bum Daily Mineral Sunscreen Moisturizer SPF 30
I’m a longtime fan of Sun Bum’s sunscreen, and they recently branched into skincare. Their new mineral SPF moisturizer is super lightweight, and is a great choice when you want a moisturizer-sunscreen combo. It’s also filled with antioxidants like banana and skincare hero niacinamide, which is one of our favorite ingredients for fighting acne, rosacea and eczema. $21.99, Ulta.
Isdin Eryfotona Actinica Daily Mineral SPF 50+ Sunscreen
If you want your sunscreen to simultaneously protect your skin and reverse that sun damage from those years you may have been too lax with the SPF (we’ve all been there), then you must try this silky smooth Isdin sunscreen. Aside from 100 percent mineral sun protection, it also contains photolyase, an enzyme that helps repair sun damage. $55, Isdin.
Eminence Organics Lilikoi Daily Defense Moisturizer SPF 40
This has become my go-to daily moisturizer-sunscreen over the past month, as not only does it provide SPF 40 protection, but it also keeps my skin hydrated with natural, organic ingredients like cocoa seed extract, satsuma mandarin peel extract, larch tree and lilikoi. Plus, it smells amazing. $68, Eminence Organics.
Farmacy Green Defense Daily Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30
Farmacy recently relaunched its Green Defense 100 percent mineral sunscreen, with a new formula that includes zero reef-damaging ingredients. Winter cherry and beta carotene help protect your skin from blue light rays, while moringa water and seed extract, which have natural vitamin c, help purify and refresh. $36, Farmacy.
Medik8 Physical Sunscreen Anti-Pollution Broad Spectrum SPF 50+
This no-nonsense physical sunscreen provides SPF 50 protection as well as a healthy dose of double hydration, thanks to the combination of hyaluronic acid and squalane to help maintain a healthy skin barrier. Grape seed extract, green tea extract, bisabolol and allantoin work together to soothe irritated skin. $46, Medik8.
Cocokind Daily SPF 32
Cocokind products are simple and straightforward, and their mineral, non-greasy sunscreen is no different. Aside from sun protection, this formula also keeps skin hydrated, courtesy of humectants like glycerin. $24, Cocokind.
Avène Solaire UV Mineral Multi-Defense Sunscreen Fluid SPF 50
This is one of my favorite French drugstore brands; the formulas are great for sensitive complexions, and this mineral sunscreen also helps calm and soothe irritated skin. It’s also super lightweight, with pretty much zero white cast. $32, Avène.
Supergoop Mineral Sheerscreen SPF 30
I’ve always loved Supergoop sunscreens, and as much as I adore the dewy look from my beloved Glowscreen, I’ve had to make the switch to exclusively mineral formulas. The brand’s mineral SPF 30 is one of my favorites, as it’s non-irritating and easily blends with no white reside, for a natural finish that isn’t too matte. $38, Supergoop.
Paula’s Choice Hydralight Shine-Free Mineral Complex SPF 30
If you want a mineral sunscreen that also hydrates *and* reduces redness, look no further than this Paula’s Choice SPF. It does leave a subtle matte finish, so it’s great if want to tone down those natural oils. $29, Paula’s Choice.
Native Unscented Face Sunscreen SPF 30
Native’s unscented face sunscreen is ideal if you’re looking for an SPF with zero fragrance additives. Don’t get nervous about the Benzyl Alcohol and Behenyl Alcohol listed in the ingredients, as those actually help with keeping the sunscreen non-greasy, and are an asset if your skin tends to be on the oily side. $16, Native.
MDSolarSciences Mineral Crème SPF 50
This is a super sheer physical sunscreen with a matte finish, for those that aren’t into the whole dewy donut look. This is one that contains lots of vitamin c, so make sure your skin is okay with these antioxidants before applying this one on your face. $30, MDSolarSciences.
Kyly Clarke shows off 6-pack in workout vid
Kyly Clarke has put her super ripped physique on display, and fans are loving it.
The 39-year-old took to her Instagram on Thursday to share an at-home workout for some inspiration during lockdown.
In it she performed six leg exercises with a kettle bell and while many thanked her for the “much-needed push”, others couldn’t help but notice her six-pack and bulging biceps.
She even did a cheeky flex at the start.
In her post, the mother-of-one and House Rules judge said she was originally just going to post a picture before adding, “who does that help”.
“When in lockdown, we all need a little push, a little Inspo, and if this gets just one of you moving a little more or following along tomorrow then I’ll be even happier than I already was today,” she said.
Kyly, who like millions of other Sydneysiders and Melburnians are currently in lockdown, reminded her followers to not “fret” having no gym.
“There are so many exercises you can do at home, you just need to explore,” she said.
“I hope you can use this time to better your best and explore new movements and exercise techniques to add to your current training regimen.”
RELATED: Michael Clarke and wife Kyly divorce
Apart from a kettle bell, Kyly, who was wearing a green sports bra and blue tights, also used a step platform to help break a sweat.
She then demonstrated various leg-dominated workouts including squats, lunges and knee ups.
Many have since taken to her post thanking her for the workout inspo, while others joked they would rather sit back with a drink and watch her train.
“I do that everyday, but I don’t look like you,” one person wrote.
“Gorgeous,” said another, while a third person added: “I’ll have my G&T and just watch you.”
It’s not the first time Kyly has left fans in awe over her “killer” body.
Just a few weeks ago, the 39-year-old shared a snap wearing a hot pink bikini and high-cut bottoms as she took advantage of the warm weather.
She posed oceanside for the Instagram photo with her toned tummy on display.
Kyly said she is trying hard to stay motivated during lockdown, having spent some of the day sitting on her couch eating chocolate and watching Netflix.
“Life is a divine balance between relaxation and movement,” she said in a separate post last week.
Kyly and Australian cricketer Michael Clarke were married for seven years before calling it quits in February 2020. They have a daughter, Kelsey-Lee, 5.
The pair were recently spotted together on Sydney’s northern beaches. However, in an interview on The Morning Show Kyly denied rumours they were back together.
“A family holiday. It’s a great opportunity to get everyone together,” she said.
“Kelsey-Lee’s aunty, uncle and cousins were there, and I think like anything, you’re trying your best to put your daughter first and prioritise her and she really had a ball.
“It’s fantastic; it’s what anyone would want to achieve or try to achieve if you’re in this position, and I think her smile on her face says everything.”
Since their split, Michael went on to date founder of P.E. Nation, Pip Edwards, but the duo broke-up in February this year. And Kyly enjoyed a short romance with V8 Supercars champion James Courtney which ended in December.
Cruel Summer: Olivia Holt on Portraying Kate’s Trauma
During the COVID-19 pandemic, traumatic events have been a dime a dozen. According to Johns Hopkins University as of today more than 609,000 people lost their lives. Week after week many more lost their jobs, and domestic abuse and adolescent suicides also spiked.
The general public reels with trauma on our collective psyche. It’s widespread and often hard to personally reckon with. This is one of those moments where a good TV show can help us understand the nuances of trauma without directly confronting our own, at least at first.
One of the most popular shows of the summer reckoned in part with that trauma, even if it narratively wasn’t about our current pandemic itself. Freeform’s Cruel Summer, which just wrapped up its first season. Cruel Summer takes place in a suburban Texas town in the early 1990s. Kate Wallis, portrayed by Olivia Holt, disappears at the hands of her high school vice principal Martin Harris, portrayed by Blake Lee. Nearly a year later, Holt manages to escape. She accuses a classmate, Jeanette Turner, portrayed by Chiara Aurelia of knowing about it and failing to report it. Turner then quickly becomes infamous due to the ensuing scandal.
The show follows the two young women simultaneously over the course of three years and grapples with the layers of trauma they both faced in the process. Observer spoke with Holt about how she approached the role, why she thought it could portray the nuance and complexity of trauma and what she wants viewers — especially adolescents in crisis — to take from her character’s journey.
Observer: Tell me about how you approached the nuances of trauma that your character experienced within the show.
Olivia Holt: Well, the trauma is definitely really heavy and incredibly brutal and terrifying. I’ve never been through a traumatic experience, let alone something like this. It was something that I really had to educate myself on. I had to give myself the proper research and proper emotion. I had to get in the right headspace and mental space in order to execute this in a transparent and honest way. It was tricky to find all those layers. I really give a lot of kudos to my scene partners and the creatives on this show because if it wasn’t for the communication we had, I don’t think it would have been showcased quite the way we showcased it on the show.
What do you mean?
I mean that it’s important to have communication with your creatives because if you don’t have that and you don’t have the proper insight, you can’t have an informative show. You can’t have all of the elements that our show had.
Your character seemed to have some kind of evolving understanding of trauma. At one point it looked like PTSD, and at other points it looked like it was a result of more generalized societal pressures. What do you think people should take away from the show about the nuances of dealing with trauma?
What I learned was because of what she went through and the year after, I had to make sure that we were executing it in a way that was showing how she decided to not let that take over her life and not letting it control her life but rather decided to move forward from it. Everybody handles trauma differently. She gained perspective and decided to feel comfortable in her own skin again, make the choice to go to therapy and walk through all of those terrifying moments again, make the choice to form our own opinions and be separate from anything that she’s ever been in her life.
The trauma your character experienced seems to be very comparable to the isolationism that the pandemic evoked. People were homebound and saw friends, relatives and colleagues die over the last year. Obviously the situation is different in the show, but the character sought out therapy. That’s not something that is as prevalent in TV as some think it should be. Do you think that through your character you conveyed the importance of seeking help when you need help and recognizing the warning signs?
Of course, I do. I think that there’s a lot of stigma behind going to therapy and even the subject matters in our show from the grooming to the gaslighting to the manipulation, there’s so much stigma behind it because it’s not talked about enough. It’s not shown enough in our industry. Having the opportunity to be able to express the subject matters in a transparent and honest way was really important to the show.
Yes, it is entertaining, but also it needs to be informative and it needs to be talked about. There are layers obviously. We can’t necessarily show too much or say too much, but it was important not to glamorize it, not to romanticize it. That is exactly what we did. We stuck to our guns and decided to make a show that was going to move the culture forward and not push it back.
Do you channel anything of your own personal experience to create this character?
There are more differences than similarities between Kate and I. I found myself really diving into her shoes versus pulling from my own life. There was a lot more that she experienced than I ever had. I think for me it was really about diving into the emotional, mental and even physical state that she was in.
I’m playing three different versions of one character. To make choices for each year was incredibly important to me. I wanted to make sure people knew the difference between each year but not making it feel like a completely different role, just that she’s gone through changes and that she is flawed. She is not just one note. She’s complicated. I think that she’s a beautiful mess. All of those pieces were really important to me. I have a really hard time compartmentalizing my life. I had to just live in that space and then come home and decompress and then work that way. It is not easy for me to just turn it on and turn it off like a lot of actors have the ability to do that. I need to live in that moment in order to give a good performance.
You also made some music for the show. Can you tell me about what you were going with, what was your approach?
The producer came to me and asked me if I would like to do a Smashing Pumpkins cover. I was like… “What do you mean? Of course, I would love to.” I am a fan of The Smashing Pumpkins and to incorporate music into the show was really important to me. I’m so grateful that they asked because it led into another song in the show and then one more, so now I have three covers in the show that I am extremely proud of. When I get to do both and they align together, that just makes my whole career surreal even more than it already is.
What do you mean?
Well, what I do for a living has been my dream. I act and I make music. To do both in the same space is a Pinch me, am I dreaming? moment.
You have a new single. Tell me about that.
I’m incredibly proud of this song. I made this song during the beginning of the pandemic last year. I’m so happy I waited to put it out because the song really is a liberating song. It’s something to move and dance to. We’ve gone through a really hard year and we want to all dance again. This song is that.
It’s also just the beginning of a new era of music for me. I really feel that to my core. I’ve been making music since I was a teenager, and now I’m entering my mid-20s, and I feel like I’ve really solidified my artistry in a real way. This song is the beginning of that.
Are you changing your approach? Are you changing in the genre you’re trying to fall into? What do you mean by that?
I’m still making pop records, but I’ve never had so much creative control in music before. I’ve started writing and going into sessions everyday. I am collaborating with producers and songwriters. I am really finding my sound, lyrically what I want to say and how I sing. That seems like such a silly thing to say because yes I know how to sing but finding my voice, and the thing that makes me different, especially being a female in pop music. I am finding a way to create a sound that is mine and only mine.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Cruel Summer is available to stream on Hulu.
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