Olivia Culpo Talks Paradise City, Luxury & Her Entrepreneurial Spirit

Olivia Culpo
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Photo Credit: Andrea Raffin/Shutterstock.com

Olivia Culpo is about to be in paradise: Paradise City, that is. The series, which will debut on Amazon Prime on March 25th, is set in Los Angeles and chronicles the lives of rock star Johnny Faust (Andy Biersack) and a young rookie kid, Simon, (the late Cameron Boyces last role) who idolizes him as they collide through their broken homes built by the music business. Culpo plays “Gretchen,” (love interest of Johnny Faust), and reprises her role from American Satan, the feature film for which Paradise City serves as the spin-off. The series was created by Ash Avildsen (Hit Parader/Sumerian Films), son of Academy Award winner John Avildsen (Rocky, The Karate Kid), and is loosely based on his own life, and estranged relationship with his father.

We chatted with our former cover star about her new role and what she’s been up to during the pandemic including “More Than A Mask,” a line of nonsurgical, nonmedical face masks that, with each purchase, donate a portion of sales to Feeding America and Color of Change; and her ready-to-wear collaboration with sisters Aurora and Sophia, Culpos X INC.
Olivia CulpoPhoto Credit: Sumerian Films/Hit Parader

You reprise the role of Gretchen for Paradise City, which is the spin-off of the feature film “American Satan.” What can you tell us about how the character has evolved?

In a lot of ways my character Gretchen is held captive by her love for Johnny Faust. Gretchen’s character evolves a lot as Johnny continues down a very dark path. As he goes further down this path of darkness he makes more and more decisions that hurt Gretchen tremendously but she can’t let him go because she loves him so much and believes she can “change” him. That is one of the reasons why I love playing the character so much. I think that heartache is something everyone can relate to. We can all relate to being affected by the actions of someone who continues to make horrible decisions as the result of their own demons and weaknesses.

Being the love interest of Johnny Faust, Gretchen seemingly has it all together. How are you alike or different from your character?

I don’t think anyone ever has it all together. I know I don’t! I think Gretchen definitely tries to put on the persona of having it all together for everyone around her. I think Johnny is so sporadic that she feels the need to be the complete opposite in order to maintain a balance and sense of control. In a sense she feels like she has to be “perfect” to avoid causing any more chaos. I can absolutely relate to that in a lot of ways. I always feel a lot of pressure to come across as being a certain type of way. Perfection doesn’t exist, but I think in this day and age, it can be very hard to remember that with social media, filters, highlight reels, etc. Embracing my flaws and imperfections is definitely something I work on consistently! I think it has something to do with feeling like there is a level of expectation you are supposed to keep up with.

Olivia Culpo
Andy Biersack as Johnny & Culpo as Gretchen in “Paradise City”

Photo Credit: Sumerian Films/Hit Parader

In the first episode your character Gretchen is told by Maya (played by Drea de Matteo) that she’s a brave woman (referencing Faust’s former flame, Lily Mayflower). What does that line mean for your character? Do you have any advice for women today who may be in a situation where they’re a little too close for comfort when it comes to an ex of your significant other?

I think the most important thing in a relationship is to be completely open and honest. It is so tough because everybody has their own levels of comfort and you have to respect that your level comfort may be different than your partners. At the end of the day it just comes down to respecting one another and compromising so everyone is happy and feeling heard. I feel for everyone out there struggling with that! Relationships can be so tough, that’s why it’s so important to make sure you’re nurturing the one that you have but also making sure that you put yourself first and foremost- and communicating!

Creator/director Ash Avildsen has spoken about how the series is loosely based on his life, and the overall message for the series: Despite coming from a broken home you can create your own destiny. What are your thoughts on the messaging for the series and what do you hope fans will take away from it?

I think there’s so much that can be learned from this film. First and foremost, it really highlights the terrors of abusing drugs and alcohol. It also illustrates something that we all know to be true: that fame and money do not make people happy and no amount of either is worth it if you hurt and forget about the people in your life that you love in the process.

What were some of your favorite memories from set? Any fun behind-the-scenes moments?

One of my favorite memories from set was filming on the Santa Monica pier! We shut the entire pier down and shot overnight. On one hand I was completely exhausted but on the other hand I was having the best time in the bumper cars, Ferris wheel and rides.

Olivia Culpo
Culpo as Gretchen & Drea de Matteo as Maya in “Paradise City”

Photo Credit: Sumerian Films/Hit Parader

This time period has been tough on everyone, but many are getting through it with a new lease on life. Have you managed to do this as well? Please explain.

This time has been really tough, but I am grateful that it has made me realize it’s okay to slow down. It’s okay to be in one spot for months at a time! I have gained some new habits like journaling every morning, and taking a social media break for weeks at a time which has been really valuable to my mental health.

How have you used the past year constructively?

This past year, I started More Than A Mask, which is an initiative to raise funds for charities in need, through retail of my non-surgical masks. Our More Than a Mask partnership started last year and through it, we were able to provide 1.5M meals to those in need. We are working on another launch of different masks this year and I can’t wait for everyone to see them, and support the cause!

In addition to “Paradise City,” perhaps you could speak to what you’ve been doing with your clothing collection and speak to why you decided to invest in VIDE (and what VIDE is).

This past year I took on the role of Creative Director and lead investor for Vide spiked seltzers. I am so proud of the product; it’s made from clean ingredients and is a healthier alternative to choose when looking for a cocktail. I love using my entrepreneurial brain and working with a startup team to create something amazing. We are dropping Tequila drinks next month – you will have to try!

Olivia CulpoPhoto Credit: Olivia Culpo

What have you discovered makes you happiest in life?

I love to be with my family. Earlier this year I had both of my sisters, and my sister Aurora’s husband and kids, staying with me while they had some work down on their house. It was sheer madness around the clock, with kids screaming and dogs running around, but I loved every second.

What to you is the greatest luxury, and has the concept of “luxury” changed for you in the past year?

As it turns out, happiness and health are a luxury. I am so thankful for my family and my health during this time. Life is short, and sometimes it’s scary, so having a support system around you is the most important.