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a word from teresa

"I have to not take myself too seriously and I have to realise that if it is meant to be, it will be."
Earth Mama

Teresa Palmer freely admits that, before Paspaley came calling, she was more of a crystal girl than a pearl girl. “My idea of pearls has radically changed since doing this campaign,” she says down the phone from Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Italian Alps, where she’s shooting the new Point Break movie.

“I used to look at pearls as glamorous and grown-up — my stepmother wears pearls every day, and they’re chic and elegant and fitting for her — the whole Grace Kelly, old-school, iconic movie-star thing,” says Palmer. But not for a 28-year-old who lives in shorts and bare feet? “The Paspaley pearls I was introduced to were edgy; it’s all about the design. But they’re grounded, too — they’re from nature. There’s a mysticism about the pearl. I can totally see a 17-year-old aspiring to wear them with jeans and a white T-shirt. I’m excited to bust out a few pearls myself.”

Presumably, now that she’s hitched to filmmaker Mark Webber, 34, and they have a beautiful new baby boy (Bodhi Rain was born on February 17), she can hang up her rose quartz? “Ha, yes! I used to wear my lucky rose quartz crystals to find romance,” she says. “I certainly put a lot of energy and time into practising the basic principles of the laws of attraction. “I’m hugely into all that stuff, like the book I’m reading now, The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Dr Joseph Murphy. “It’s about the miracle power of our subconscious, [how it] can be very healing physically and mentally, how there’s this treasure house…”

Treasure house? “[Murphy] offers practical techniques on how to access that,” says Palmer, slowly, because I think she has realised she’s talking to an idiot who has no idea about the Aladdin’s cave of the brain, or whatever it is (doesn’t Sherlock Holmes have one? I think he calls it his “mind palace”). “Anyway, it’s really incredibly interesting and I can relate to a lot of that in the book,” she says. “So, what about you? Pearls or crystals?”

I tell her about a friend who was so obsessed with the powers of her rose quartz that if anyone touched it, she had to wash it in the ocean to “clear the energy”.

“Okaaay,” says Palmer. “I’m not that passionate about my crystals.” Maybe, but she is pretty keen on all things New Age. She’s a vegan, committed to mindfulness, meditation and the search for inner peace. When she’s not making movies, she co-edits a wellness website called Your Zen Life. Typical stories include ‘Identify Your Unhelpful Thought Patterns’ and ‘How to Return to Wholeness When Feeling Like Something’s Missing’. I have to say, I adore it; it’s an oasis of shiny, happy possibility. Reading it makes you think the world really could be a nicer, calmer place filled with true beauty and chemical-free shampoo.

On the site, Palmer shares regular insights in video segments she calls “Tez Talks” (kind of like TED talks, only more Zen). They’re smart, charming and occasionally polarising, though when you consider how Hollywood stars tend to stick to a bland script during interviews, Palmer’s soul-baring seems refreshingly candid and brave.

If you fancy taking pot shots at her, there’s plenty of fodder here. She talks in detail about how the “profound lessons” she learnt through giving birth were “transformational for me and just blissful”, and about how committed she was to having a water birth at home with her doula. But she also talks about how scared and disappointed she was when it didn’t go according to plan and she had to be rushed to hospital, after all.

In another segment, she perches on the end of a bed looking radiant (without a skerrick of make-up) and answers readers’ questions, such as, “How can you have a healthy relationship?” and “What type of parent are you?” – one hand reaching off camera to bounce Bodhi’s crib.

These vlogs attract lots of positive comments, many from teenage girls who are struggling with issues Palmer herself has battled: self-confidence, body image, questions around finding love, eating right, understanding your place in the world. But, of course, not everyone agrees with what she says.

Last month, in a story published in Sunday Style, a pregnant journo wrote about how seeing picture-perfect mums on social media made her feel. She called it “the great big baby brag” and suggested Palmer and other celeb mums were boasting on Twitter and Instagram. For evidence, the writer posited a selfie of Palmer “mid-hike, showing off her toned stomach in a crop top, giving Bodhi a feed”, concluding: “I’m not saying I want to hear horror stories… but perhaps we should just be honest. Show the tricky times as well as the wonderful ones. Admit there have been days where we’ve been in floods of tears, exhausted.”

Palmer says when she read the story, she felt “very vulnerable” and “like I was back in high school”. But then, in a typical glass-half-full turnaround, she adds, “I wasn’t offended. I look at it as a gift.” In an open letter posted on Twitter in response, the actor said: “I’m basking in the joy of being a new mum to my darling boy, yet I’m supposed to feel shame for sharing my experiences… Our [parenting] choices are perfect for us. “They are not greater than or lesser than, it’s just our life.”

Why, then, does she put herself out there? When you do that, rather than keep your opinions and experiences private, you become a public figure on public record — you become part of, and potentially a catalyst for, wider debate, and as such, you must accept the criticism with the praise.

Wouldn’t it be simpler not to bother? “The reason I do [the Tez Talks] is because it’s my truth. “It’s me living and breathing and sitting in my authenticity,” she explains. It’s the sort of statement that couldn’t be more self-help book if it tried. But I think Palmer really does believes in what she says.

Palmer is determined to use her fame to give the world a nudge in the right direction. Those close to her back this up. “Teresa lives and embodies what we try to encourage others to do with Your Zen Life, which is striving to live the best life possible,” says Phoebe Tonkin, a fellow LA-based Aussie actor and Palmer’s co-editor on the blog. Ask her to describe Palmer and she says, “spiritual warrior, lioness”.

Hollywood is dubbed La La Land for good reason. It’s a transient place built on fantasy and falsehood. Yearning to be a movie star sucks (the auditions! the rejections!), but being one is hard, too. If you’re not careful you can end up entirely dislocated from reality. One day it’s stretch limos and adoration, the next it’s living out of a suitcase and freaking out that you’re not talented/connected/thin enough. Recognising this, and fearing it, is surely why there are so many neo-hippies in LA.

Is that why Palmer took the alternative route? I’ve chosen the phrase carefully. I’m loath to call her a hippie, because she’s said repeatedly that she hates being labelled. In her words: “There is no way to articulate the soul of a human being in a few words.” But she does subscribe to a jumble of New Age spirituality and self-help psychoanalysis that’s perhaps best described as such. Does it come from the craziness of her early years in Los Angeles?

Palmer was famously plucked out of a retail job (at Cotton On in Rundle Mall, in her hometown of Adelaide) and cast, without audition, in the visceral Australian indie film 2:37, which went on to screen in the Un Certain Regard category at the Cannes Film Festival. Within a few months, the young actor (she was 20 at the time) found herself in Hollywood being talked up as the ‘next big thing’. She did horror flicks and action flicks, worked with the likes of Nicolas Cage and Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe. Last year, she was in a zombie movie, Warm Bodies, with John Malkovich.

“I dreamt about being an actor and it happened,” she says. I spent a few years in such a whirlwind that I kind of lost a bit of myself. “I was going from big movie to big movie and there was excitement, but … I didn’t have enough down time just to sit and breathe, to think, ‘What do I actually want? Is this serving my soul?’ Ultimately, I decided it wasn’t. “Standing on the red carpet, making money and travelling around the world — that wasn’t filling my soul.” But that’s the sort of thing many people would give their eyeteeth for, I say. “Other people saw me as living a very charmed life, but inside I wasn’t being totally true to who I was meant to be.”

Her solution was to start working on Your Zen Life and choose film projects more carefully. She also made a lot of lists detailing exactly what she wanted from her future. Palmer believes creative visualisation works, and perhaps it does — we’ll soon see her in gritty crime thriller Kill Me Three Times with Simon Pegg and Bryan Brown and, next year, in Triple Nine with Kate Winslet (more mood-board manifestation: “I had pictures of Kate Winslet on my wall when I was 14!”.

In 2012, she emailed Webber to suggest they collaborate. She had no idea the actor/director would turn out to be husband material. They wrote to each other for a while and hatched plans for their film, The Ever After, about the breakdown of a marriage. Palmer’s character suffers from schizophrenia, an illness she’s personally observed. “My mother [Paula Sanders] has schizoaffective disorder, which is bipolar with schizophrenic tendencies, so I drew on that. “It was both therapeutic and challenging for me to delve into those parts of my life, my history and memories. “I was doing that at the same time I was pregnant.”

And newly in love. How did she cope? “I wasn’t too imprinted by the darkness I had to draw on during the workday. “I would come back home and talk to the little baby in my belly.”

When Palmer finally met Webber in person, she “knew straight away” he was The One. “Before meeting him, I had done a lot of self-development work,” she says. “I was reading a lot — the stuff you go through when you try to get to know yourself better.” Why? Because of her break-up with actor Scott Speedman, whom she dated for more than a year? Or her “fling” (his words) with former junkie Russell Brand? “Because of every single break-up,” she says. “You get to a point where you’re like, ‘OK, I need to break this pattern.’ Every single person has a set of behaviours… [they] tap back into constantly.”

So what are hers? “Well, because of my past and my upbringing, I’m a nurturer. I want to fix people.” Is it related to her mother’s illness? Was she very aware of it, growing up? “Yes, I’m her only child,” says Palmer, “so I was privy to all of that. “She’s been dealt some really challenging cards, but she’s an inspiration to me. She’s dedicated her entire life to other people. “I’ve never been around a female role model who was selfish. In past relationships, I chose the type [of man] who needed fixing. “That was not serving me whatsoever, and I was getting hurt.”

Webber, too, has been through some tough times. He spent the first year of his life living in a car with his mum, Cheri Honkala — she’s now a prominent campaigner for the homeless in Philadelphia. Palmer says by the time they hooked up, he had healed himself (you get the impression he’s big on self-help books, too). “He was very together. He was a beautiful bright light on a very deep spiritual journey… and that was ultimately what I wanted in a partner.”

On New Year’s Eve two years ago, Palmer, Webber and a bunch of friends got together and wrote lists of what they hoped for in their future. Palmer’s included a baby and a wedding, in no particular order.

She married Webber in Mexico, in December 2013, while she was carrying Bodhi. “It’s been so beautiful. Every day we talk about how grateful we are and how blessed we feel. You know, I think it’s really important to acknowledge that.” Webber is with her in Cortina, as is his son, Isaac, from a previous relationship, Bodhi, Palmer’s mum and one of Palmer’s besties from Adelaide. “The whole brood together. That was one of the conditions in going back to work [after Bodhi]. “They’ve been very gracious and open to that here at Point Break.”

You might recall the lead character from the original 1991 movie about crime and surf — the one played to heart-throb effect by Patrick Swayze — was named Bodhi. Destiny? Probably. Palmer is exactly the girl for that.