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Since becoming a household name back in the mid-2000s thanks to his breakout role playing Troy Bolton in High School Musical, Zac Efron has watched his career take off and his love life with it.
Often finding love on set, the young actor's first high-profile relationship was with High School Musical co-star Vanessa Hudgens. The pair dated from around 2007 to 2010, with Us Weekly reporting that the split was mutual and quoting a source explaining, "They have been together for so long. It just ran its course." In 2012, Efron was linked to his future Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile co-star Lily Collins for just three months — "They were never serious," a source told Us Weekly — and in 2018, he was rumored to be seeing his Baywatch co-star, Alexandra Daddario.
Over the years, Zac Efron has been linked to a number of other celebrities as well, but in the summer of 2020, he took fans by surprise when he shunned Los Angeles — and it's leading ladies. Moving to Australia, he settled in far from the spotlight and appears to have found love with someone who has no ties to Hollywood: a local beauty named Vanessa Valladares. Here's an inside look at Zac Efron's relationship with Vanessa Valladares.
How did Zac Efron and Vanessa Valladares meet?
It's unclear exactly when Zac Efron decided to move to Australia, but in June 2020, the Daily Mail reported that the actor had been in Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia "for months."
While he did his best to keep a low profile, rumors of Efron sightings began circulating on social media, and he was eventually snapped by the paparazzi. According to one source who spoke with HollywoodLife, Efron "fled to Byron Bay to escape the pandemic in the US." As for why he chose that specific location, the insider explained, "It's been known as 'Little Hollywood' because a ton of celebrities own properties there and it's the perfect place to get away and relax."
It was there, in Byron Bay, that Efron met his new girlfriend, Vanessa Valladares, while she was working as a waitress at the Byron Bay General Store, which comprises a cafe and gallery space and is proud to be one of "Byron Shire's oldest commercial buildings still standing," having been built in 1947. According to People, it was around June when they crossed paths for the first time and they "started hanging out in July [...] You can tell that they are having fun," an insider revealed, adding that the young Aussie "spends a lot of time at this house."
Zac Efron and Vanessa Valladares are "very serious"
Since meeting at the start of this pandemic summer, Zac Efron and Vanessa Valladares' relationship has been moving at record speed. The pair have been spending a lot of time together and have regularly been spotted on lunch dates and hanging out at beachside cafes. In fact, the Australian beauty is no longer just spending a lot of time at Efron's house — she actually "lives with Zac in Byron Bay," according to People. As one source told the mag in October 2020, the lovebirds are "very happy" and "their relationship is very serious."
It's no wonder then that when Efron's 33rd birthday rolled around in October, Valladares decided to throw him the ultimate bash. According to local radio host Kyle Sandilands (who attended the party), Efron's new flame planned the entire event. Valladares "knew everything, and she put everything together," Sandilands said on his show (via the Daily Mail). Calling Valladares "a sweetheart," he told listeners that the High School Musical alum "absolutely loves Australia" and that "he's in love with this girl, Vanessa. They're a beautiful couple," he added, noting, "They do everything together [...] They seem really sweet and really settled and nice." As for the guest list, it also reportedly included a number of other local celebs, like The Voice Australia host Renée Bargh, Australian tennis player Pat Rafter, and Liam and Chris Hemsworth's dad, Craig.
She's an aspiring model who ditched her daytime gig
Yes, Zac Efron met his new sweetheart while she was working at Byron Bay General Store cafe, but it seems Valladares' true passion lies in modeling. Just scroll through her Instagram, and you'll see plenty of fashionable shots. As People learned, she's worked with a number of Australian brands, like Love St., Of the Sun, and RVCA. The latter is indeed tagged in a few photos, once in a shot taken inside an empty diner and another in a vintage-inspired snap showing off a white crop top and green paisley skirt, which she captioned, "Cindy Lu has my back #1978." Now, it seems she's decided to try her hand at modeling full-time, and, in September 2020, she quit her waitressing job (via Daily Mail).
But while she may have high-fashion aspirations, the fact that Valladares is not a celebrity is reportedly the very reason why Efron fell for her. As one source told HollywoodLife, "Zac has been saying he'd love to meet someone outside of Hollywood, so it isn't a shock to any of his friends that he's dating someone in Australia ... it won't bother him a bit that she's not famous the way he is," they added. Meanwhile, a second insider highlighted just how important normalcy is to the actor, saying, "Being in Australia is allowing him to have a bit of a more normal life and being with Vanessa it can be even more normal." Aww!
They share a love of travel
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Zac Efron loves traveling the world. He loves it so much, in fact, that he even made his own eight-part Netflix series, Down to Earth with Zac Efron, to document himself visiting various countries, from Italy to Iceland, while learning about the environment. It's during this series that he actually pronounced, "I'm getting out of Hollywood!" And so he did (dad bod and all).
Judging by Vanessa Valladares' Instagram page, Efron has found a kindred spirit in his lady love. In 2015, she traveled to India; in December 2018, she referenced her "inner explorer," while in March 2020, she revealed that she was "packed preparing to leave to Africa" when the pandemic hit. "My flight was scheduled to take off today, now wake up to a rapidly changing reality," she wrote, adding that it's important to "embrace change" and that, despite not being able to travel, she was still committed to "limiting my phone use, gaining knowledge, empowering myself, remaining present. Let us lean into this chaotic creative place," she concluded. In September 2020, the couple took their relationship a step further, sharing their love of travel by taking a ski trip together to Thredbo, an alpine ski resort in Victoria, Australia.
Zac Efron's move to Australia could become permanent
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Being Down Under is suiting Zac Efron just fine! He may have originally left California as an escape from the pandemic and Hollywood life in general, but a few months later, it seems he won't be hurrying back stateside anytime soon. As the Daily Mail discovered, Efron canceled his pre-purchased flight back to L.A. in August 2020 as he was able to get an extension on his tourist visa. "He was only planning to fly home if he had to," a source told the outlet, adding that the actor "didn't really want to go back to America."
Now, it seems he's ready to put down more permanent roots. Although he was "renting a house minutes from the beach" during his initial stay, People learned in September that Efron "has been house-hunting" and, as one insider put it, "It really seems he plans on staying in Australia permanently."
While his budding romance with Vanessa Valladares may not be the only reason for Efron to settle in Byron Bay, his decision to stay will undoubtedly help their relationship grow. As a source told HollywoodLife, it "could definitely turn into something long-lasting, especially because he does want to put down some roots in Australia."