Gail Porter on hitting rock bottom

Gail Porter/Shutterstock Images

Gail Porter, 52, is a Scottish television personality, former model and actress. She started her television career in children’s TV, before branching out as a model and presenting mainstream TV. In the 1990s, she famously posed nude for FHM, which was projected on to the Houses of Parliament

But when she was diagnosed with alopecia (baldness) in the mid-2000s, after already suffering some mental health problems, the offers for TV work decreased.

“My hair fell out, nobody wanted to touch me with a barge pole,” she tells Sky News. “I didn’t want to wear a wig because I find them uncomfortable. And then suddenly the only jobs you’re getting offered are to go on and talk about being bald.”

After suffering depression, self-harm, anorexia and a breakdown (and at one point being sectioned) the star found herself with nowhere to go around 2015. She had no work, and an unexpected tax bill “completely scuppered me. I was done”.

“I was trying to apply for jobs, but without my phone or a laptop… I was walking round with a black bin liner with my clothes. ‘Excuse me! You got any jobs going in the bookshop? Or you got any jobs going in the library?’ I just want to work anywhere, I don’t care. It was very difficult for me, traipsing around everywhere with a bag, just trying to get myself back on my feet.”

Gail spent time moving between friends’ spare rooms and sofas. “And there were a couple of nights on Hampstead Heath, just sitting, thinking: ‘I’ve got no idea where to go’. It was a very long six months, but I managed to get back on my feet again.”

Porter entered the Celebrity Big Brother house in August 2015, appearing alongside stars including Janice Dickinson, Bobby Davro and Natasha Hamilton, and was able to rent the flat in London she is living in today. “I’m happy to have a roof over my head,” she says

In recent times Gail has campaigned to raise awareness of those facing homelessness and is now working with the Good Things Foundation, a digital charity, and Virgin Media O2 to highlight The National Databank – described as being similar to a foodbank, but for free mobile data, texts, and calls.

Demand for the National Databank is increasing, with its website already receiving almost double the number of visits in 2023 compared to the same period in 2022, as the British cost of living crisis continues.

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