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You're the gong that I want! Grease star Olivia Newton-John, 71, is honored by The Queen and becomes a Dame for her work as a cancer campaigner

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 27/12/2019 Mario Ledwith for Daily Mail

Olivia Newton-John during the annual Wellness Walk and Research Runon September 16, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. The annual event, now in it's sixth year, raises vital funds to support cancer research and wellness programs at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in Victoria. © Getty Olivia Newton-John during the annual Wellness Walk and Research Runon September 16, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. The annual event, now in it's sixth year, raises vital funds to support cancer research and wellness programs at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in Victoria. It is more than 40 years since she sang You're The One That I Want with John Travolta in the hit film musical Grease.

Now Olivia Newton-John has been recognised in today's New Year's Honours by being made a dame.

The 71-year-old heads a list of showbusiness figures to be honoured by the Queen that includes filmmakers Sam Mendes and Steve McQueen, actress Wendy Craig, TV presenter Floella Benjamin, Queen drummer Roger Taylor and singer Billy Ocean.

Speaking about her award for services to charity and entertainment, Dame Olivia said she was 'grateful beyond words'.

The singer, who was born in Cambridge but has spent most of her life in Australia, said the honour had filled her with pride in her British roots.

'I am extremely excited, honoured and grateful beyond words to be included with such an esteemed group of women who have received this distinguished award before me. I am very proud of my British ancestry and so appreciative to be recognised in this way.'

a woman talking on a cell phone: Olivia Newton as 'sexy' Sandy in Grease - 1978 - has now been recognised in today’s New Year’s Honours by being made a dame © Provided by Daily Mail Olivia Newton as 'sexy' Sandy in Grease - 1978 - has now been recognised in today’s New Year’s Honours by being made a dame Dame Olivia, the granddaughter of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Max Born, moved to Australia when she was six after her father Wilfred, a former MI5 officer who worked on the Enigma project, became a professor at the University of Melbourne.

She rose to fame as a singer in the 70s, launching her career in the UK and representing Britain in the Eurovision Song Contest. She had three UK No 1 singles and sold more than 100million albums. But the pinnacle of her career came in 1978 when she starred as Sandy opposite Travolta in Grease, one of the most successful films ever.

Olivia Newton-John sitting on a bench: Olivia Newton-John has sold more than 100 million albums and starred in one of the world's most successful musicals, but her life is all about gratitude and wellness - and supporting fellow cancer sufferers © Provided by Daily Mail Olivia Newton-John has sold more than 100 million albums and starred in one of the world's most successful musicals, but her life is all about gratitude and wellness - and supporting fellow cancer sufferers

Dame Olivia has dedicated much of her life to cancer awareness – she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, resulting a partial mastectomy and chemotherapy.

The illness returned in 2013, when she underwent a second round of treatment, and in 2017.

Amazon John Easterling, E.J. Peaker are posing for a picture: Olivia, who is an outspoken advocate for the use of medical cannabis, also revealed that her husband of 11 years John Easterling, pictured, makes her a herbal pain relief which has helped her through it © Provided by Daily Mail Olivia, who is an outspoken advocate for the use of medical cannabis, also revealed that her husband of 11 years John Easterling, pictured, makes her a herbal pain relief which has helped her through it

James Bond director Sam Mendes is knighted, as is London-born Steve McQueen, the first black filmmaker to win a best picture Oscar.

Sir Sam, 54, who has directed two of Daniel Craig's 007 films and won an Oscar for American Beauty, said yesterday: 'I'm amazed, delighted and extremely proud. I have stood on the shoulders of so many collaborators and colleagues over the last 30 years – actors, writers, designers, producers, technicians – to whom I owe a huge debt of gratitude.' McQueen, 50, won the Academy Award for his film 12 Years A Slave.

Wendy Craig, 85, who starred in the sitcoms Butterflies and Not in Front of the Children, is made a CBE – as is EastEnders star Rudolph Walker, 80.

Queen drummer Roger Taylor, 70, becomes an OBE and soul singer Billy Ocean, 69, is made an MBE. Days after the death of his father, Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody, 43, receives an OBE for services to music and charity.

TV presenter Gabby Logan, 46, is awarded an MBE for promoting women in sport and broadcasting.

Floella Benjamin standing in front of a flower: Dame: Floella Benjamin © Provided by Daily Mail Dame: Floella Benjamin

Liberal Democrat peer Floella Benjamin, 70, host of children's shows Play School and Play Away, has been made a dame for services to charity. Baroness Benjamin said: 'When I came to Britain aged ten [from Trinidad] I had a pretty tough time. Getting this award is a bit of me getting something back.'

Steve McQueen wearing a suit and tie: Knighthood: Steve McQueen © Provided by Daily Mail Knighthood: Steve McQueen Radio 1's longest-serving presenter, Annie Nightingale, 79, receives a CBE, while novelist Rose Tremain, 76, is made a dame. 

Giles Terera, 43, who won an Olivier Award for playing Aaron Burr in the hit West End musical Hamilton, is made an MBE for services to theatre.

a man wearing a hat: James Bond director Sam Mendes is knighted © Provided by Daily Mail James Bond director Sam Mendes is knighted

There is an MBE for Sheku Kanneh-Mason, 20, the cellist who played at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding last year.

Ibrahim Yousaf, at 13 the youngest person on the list, is awarded a British Empire Medal for raising thousands of pounds for his community in Oldham.

Officials hailed this year's list for its diversity, with women receiving more than half of the awards and 44 per cent of the higher honours.

Some 9.1 per cent of recipients are from a black and minority ethnic background.

The Government has introduced measures to make the awards more representative of society following years of rows about cronyism.

Wendy Craig talking on a cell phone: Wendy Craig, 85, who starred in the sitcoms Butterflies and Not in Front of the Children, is made a CBE © Provided by Daily Mail Wendy Craig, 85, who starred in the sitcoms Butterflies and Not in Front of the Children, is made a CBE Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted from the official 10 Downing Street account: 'Congratulations to all those who have received an Honour in tonight's list. You are all true pillars of society, and it is fantastic seeing your hard work being recognised.'

Veteran broadcaster Annie Nightingale tweeted: 'Most grateful thanks to absolutely everyone I've worked with, who has supported me; without you this CBE NewYearsHonours would not, could not have happened. Love you lots.'  

Gary Lightbody in a blue shirt: Days after the death of his father, Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody, 43, receives an OBE for services to music and charity © Provided by Daily Mail Days after the death of his father, Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody, 43, receives an OBE for services to music and charity Television sports presenter Gabby Logan tweeted: 'I am extremely proud and very chuffed to have been awarded an MBE in the New Year's Honours list. I have been so lucky to see close up the power sport has to entertain, inspire and change lives, I am so lucky my passion became my work.'

Prof Dame Sally Davies tweeted: 'I am thrilled to be recognised in the New Year Honours with a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath.

'I owe this to the incredible teams I have worked with across the NHS, Govt, third sector, industry, public and global health. There is much to do on AMR (antimicrobial resistance) so cannot stop yet.' 

  Elton John wearing a suit and tie: Sir Elton John reflected on his disbelief at enjoying the most successful year of his life at 72 © Provided by Daily Mail Sir Elton John reflected on his disbelief at enjoying the most successful year of his life at 72

 Now Sir Elton's joined the elite 

Only a few days ago, Sir Elton John reflected on his disbelief at enjoying the most successful year of his life at 72.

But with just four days of 2019 remaining the singer, pictured, has been handed one extra accolade to crown a remarkable 12 months.

He has been appointed to the Order of the Companions of Honour – an elite group of Britain's most notable figures from the arts, science and politics. Though already knighted by the Queen in 1998, the special award in the New Year Honours list marks an upgrade for the superstar to mark his services to music and charity.

The award comes after a remarkable year that saw the release of the screen biopic Rocketman, which became a box office hit.

The singer, who has sold more than 300million records worldwide, was named as the top male solo artist of all-time by Billboard magazine in November. Sir Elton, who has two sons with his husband David Furnish, also published his autobiography, Me, serialised in the Daily Mail.

Sir Elton John tweeted: 'I'm humbled and honoured to be among such highly esteemed company in receiving the Companion of Honour. 2019 has turned out to be a truly wonderful year for me and I feel extraordinarily blessed.'

  a person wearing a red shirt: Nadiya Hussain, 35, who rose to stardom after winning the 2015 Great British Bake Off © Provided by Daily Mail Nadiya Hussain, 35, who rose to stardom after winning the 2015 Great British Bake Off

TV chefs cook up their own recipe for success

After helping to transform the nation into an army of inventive cooks, some of the country's most famous television chefs have been honoured for their work.

Nadiya Hussain, 35, who rose to stardom after winning the 2015 Great British Bake Off, is awarded an MBE for services to broadcasting and the culinary arts.

Also awarded an MBE is Ainsley Harriott, 62, who hosted BBC's Ready Steady Cook.

Nigel Slater, 61, receives an OBE for services to cookery and literature. While wine writer Oz Clarke has been given an OBE for services to broadcasting and journalism.

  Ben Stokes holding a baseball bat: Cricketer Ben Stokes capped his remarkable year with an OBE © Provided by Daily Mail Cricketer Ben Stokes capped his remarkable year with an OBE

 Owzat for a cricket clean sweep! 

Cricketer Ben Stokes capped his remarkable year with an OBE.

The 28-year-old all rounder, whose reputation had been tarnished by a late-night brawl in 2018, played two astonishing innings to help England win the World Cup final at Lord's, right, and then an amazing Test against Australia.

Teammates Eoin Morgan (CBE), Joe Root (MBE) and Jos Buttler (MBE) are also honoured. Australian coach Trevor Bayliss gets an OBE while West Indian Clive Lloyd is knighted. In football, Jill Scott, the Manchester City and England midfielder, receives an MBE. The 32-year-old, who has been capped 136 times, said she was astonished to be told of her award.

'I didn't actually receive a letter because I have moved house, so I think they were chasing me at the time,' she said.

'I got a phone call when I was in Marks & Spencer and I nearly dropped all my Christmas shopping. I thought I was in trouble and that I hadn't paid a parking fine or something.'

a group of people posing for the camera: The men behind England's historic victory at the World Cup have been recognised in the 2020 New Year Honours list, with Ben Stokes, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler and Trevor Bayliss all awarded titles for services to cricket © Provided by Daily Mail The men behind England's historic victory at the World Cup have been recognised in the 2020 New Year Honours list, with Ben Stokes, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler and Trevor Bayliss all awarded titles for services to cricket   

 Snub for ex-fire chief criticised over Grenfell

The former commissioner of the London Fire Brigade has been overlooked in the New Year's Honours list amid ongoing controversy over her handling of the Grenfell tragedy.

Dany Cotton stood down early from the role this week following criticism of the service's decision to issue stay-put advice to residents at the tower block during the blaze.

a group of people in uniform standing in front of a crowd: Dany Cotton stood down early from the role this week © Provided by Daily Mail Dany Cotton stood down early from the role this week Serving or outgoing chiefs of the service are normally handed awards – either while in the post or as they step down.

But sources said yesterday that nobody connected with the Grenfell tragedy would be singled out for an honour before the public inquiry into the disaster is concluded.  

 D-Day veteran honoured again

D-Day veteran Harry Billinge, 94, who helped raise almost £20,000 for a British memorial honouring his fallen comrades, has been awarded an MBE.

A Cockney who has lived in Cornwall for 70 years, he said: 'I did my job and I didn't want any glory. There's no glory in war. I am choked beyond measure to think I have got an MBE. I don't deserve it.'

a person standing in front of a store: D-Day veteran Harry Billinge, 94, who helped raise almost £20,000 for a British memorial honouring his fallen comrades, has been awarded an MBE © Provided by Daily Mail D-Day veteran Harry Billinge, 94, who helped raise almost £20,000 for a British memorial honouring his fallen comrades, has been awarded an MBE  

The quiet knight: IDS becomes a Sir

Iain Duncan Smith wearing a suit and tie: Former Tory Party leader Iain Duncan Smith receives a knighthood © Provided by Daily Mail Former Tory Party leader Iain Duncan Smith receives a knighthood

Former Tory Party leader Iain Duncan Smith – the self-declared 'quiet man' of politics – receives a knighthood.

A former lieutenant in the Scots Guards, he was work and pensions secretary under David Cameron from 2010 to 2016 and founded the Centre for Social Justice. He has been regarded as the 'architect' of universal credit.

Sir Iain, pictured, joined the Conservative Party in 1981 and succeeded William Hague as leader in 2001.

In 2002, during a difficult time in his leadership, he famously declared: 'Do not underestimate the determination of the quiet man.' The following year, at the party conference, he said: 'The quiet man is here to stay and he's turning up the volume.'

He chaired Boris Johnson's successful Tory leadership campaign.

 

Law chief's honour sparks a new storm  

By Jack Doyle and David Wilkes for The Daily Mail 

An honour for former chief prosecutor Alison Saunders sparked a 'rewards for failure' row last night.

She was made a Dame for services to criminal justice despite being branded 'probably the worst DPP [director of public prosecutions] ever'.

a person in a blue shirt: Former chief prosecutor Alison Saunders sparked a ‘rewards for failure’ row last night © Provided by Daily Mail Former chief prosecutor Alison Saunders sparked a ‘rewards for failure’ row last night

In her honours citation, Dame Alison was described as having given 'unstinting public service' to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), where she worked for more than 30 years.

But critics pointed to a series of scandals on her watch, including the collapse of several rape trials over prosecutors' failure to disclose evidence, and Operation Elveden, a 'witch hunt' against journalists that cost £20million.

Other senior figures to be handed honours include John Manzoni, the chief executive of the civil service, and NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, who receive knighthoods.

There are damehoods for Lib Dem peer Baroness Floella Benjamin for services to charity and Ofcom boss Sharon White.

Former chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies received an even higher honour, becoming Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath.

Dame Alison was expected to receive her honour last year in the months after she left the CPS, raising speculation it had been blocked.

Last night backbench Tory MP Nigel Evans said he was 'bitterly disappointed' by the decision.

He said: 'A lot of people have been wrongly accused when she was leading the charge. She created a lot of victims, who are still suffering from being wrongfully accused. This creates another injustice on top of the injustices.'

Barrister Jonathan Goldberg QC also criticised the honour. He said: 'This will be viewed as a bad joke. She is seen by us as probably the worst DPP ever. She has presided over a terrible demoralisation within the CPS, disaster after disaster in the field of sex crimes and disclosure.'

 

Baroness Floella Benjamin 'happy and thrilled' to be made a Dame

Floella Benjamin smiling for the camera: TV pioneer Baroness Floella Benjamin is being honoured for her services to charity © Provided by Daily Mail TV pioneer Baroness Floella Benjamin is being honoured for her services to charity

Baroness Floella Benjamin has said she is 'happy and thrilled, honoured and privileged' to be made a Dame in the New Year Honours List.

The beloved children's TV presenter, known to millions of Britons as the host of Play School and Play Away, also said she will likely go and celebrate by having 'lunch and a dance at The Ritz'.

The 70-year-old TV pioneer is being honoured for her services to charity, having dedicated much of her career to campaigning for young people or and her various charitable interests.

She said: 'I am buzzing with excitement like a little girl. I just feel so happy and thrilled, and honoured and privileged to be able to accept this honour.

'For the last 40 years, I believed that you have to give back and you have to try and think about other people as much as you can because when I came to Britain, aged 10, I had a pretty tough time, people told me to go back, they didn't want me here.

'And I realised that I was worthy because my parents kept telling me that. And when I started doing Play School, I realised that children needed a voice, so there are many sign posts in my life, spiritual moments if you want to call them that directed me to a place where I should be - that was to give back and to give unconditional love and that's what I've done.

'So getting this award is a bit of me getting something back of unconditional love people have shown to me, and I'm really, really thrilled and happy about it.

Baroness Benjamin was born on the Caribbean island of Trinidad before moving to the UK. 

 

Steve Backshall thanks parents over recognition for wildlife work 

Steve Backshall holding a sign: Steve Backshall has been recognised in the New Year Honours for services to charity and wildlife conservation © Provided by Daily Mail Steve Backshall has been recognised in the New Year Honours for services to charity and wildlife conservation

Steve Backshall has said he has his parents to thank for his MBE as they instilled a love of wildlife and conservation in him from a young age.

The nature conservationist and television presenter has been recognised in the New Year Honours for services to charity and wildlife conservation.

Backshall, known for hosting TV series including Deadly 60 and Blue Planet Live, said he was 'very' emotional when he learned of the honour.

He added: 'More than anything, I'm thinking about what it will mean to my mum and dad. I know it will be hugely important to them.

'I really hope that I'll get the chance to take them along with me, so they get to see the whole process. It's going to be amazing.'

Backshall, 46, said: 'My wife (Team GB rowing Olympic gold medallist) and I are very, very close to having our next baby and we're all tied up in Christmas and everything, so I hadn't thought about how I was going to tell my parents.

'But I guess once it goes public, I'll just give them a bell and go, 'Erm, have you seen the papers?'

'My mum and dad are both mad keen on the outdoors and nature. We grew up on a smallholding surrounded by rescue animals, both wild and domestic, and from a very young age that was my reality, that was my normal, and that's all thanks to mum and dad.

'Everything I am now is very much down to them, so I owe them so, so much, and this would be a lovely way to show my gratitude, to take them along.'

Known for fronting an array of TV shows including children's series The Really Wild Show, and for being part of expedition teams in Lost Land Of The Tiger, Lost Land Of The Volcano and Lost Land Of The Jaguar while working for the BBC's Natural History Unit, Backshall said he is encouraged to have been made an MBE for his services to charity. 

 

Gok Wan made an MBE in New Year Honours

Gok Wan wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Gok Wan: The host of How To Look Good Naked has been made an MBE for services to fashion and social awareness © Provided by Daily Mail Gok Wan: The host of How To Look Good Naked has been made an MBE for services to fashion and social awareness

TV presenter Gok Wan said he is "excited and humbled" to be recognised in the New Year Honours.

The host of How To Look Good Naked has been made an MBE for services to fashion and social awareness.

Wan, who described the honour as "incredibly special," wrote on Instagram: "I cannot begin to express how happy, excited and humbled I am to have my career and personal work awarded with the highest of accolades.

"I have too many personal thank yous for a single post so here's a big group THANK YOU to everyone who has ever helped, guided or trusted me."

Wan, 45, added: "I am overjoyed and I hope that everyone gets to feel as happy as I feel right now."

Wan was a fashion consultant when Channel 4 approached him in 2006 to present How To Look Good Naked, which encourages men and women who are insecure about their bodies to strip naked for the camera.

The programme ran for five years and made Wan one of the most recognisable fashion experts on TV. 

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