Meeting India's Poorest Children Made Me Realise Losing My Hair Isn't So Terrible; GAIL PORTER EXCLUSIVE

The Mirror (London, England), September 17, 2005 | Go to article overview

Meeting India's Poorest Children Made Me Realise Losing My Hair Isn't So Terrible; GAIL PORTER EXCLUSIVE


Byline: From CLAIRE DONNELLY in Delhi

F ROM the moment Gail Porter walked into a glitzy TV launch party last Saturday, sporting a shocking red mohican haircut, the rumour mill has been in overdrive.

Is she battling cancer? Is she having a nervous breakdown?

Today, the 34-year-old TV presenter, who is in Delhi to lend her support to the charity ActionAid, is happy to put the record straight.

No, she doesn't have cancer. But she is suffering from stress-related alopecia, which has resulted in her dramatic hair-loss.

Her blonde locks have been falling out for weeks, and she recently decided to shave off most of her thinning hair rather than end up shedding clumps in public.

And, no, she is not having a nervous breakdown. But she is battling back from one of the toughest years of her life.

If further proof is needed that Scots-born Gail has got her act together, you only have to look at her laughing and joking with the street children of Delhi.

Seeing the work that ActionAid is doing with these desperate kids, is also helping the mum-of-one put her own life in perspective.

"In a way, shaving my head feels like a new beginning to me," says Gail, who got involved with ActionAid after sponsoring a seven-year-old boy through the charity's adoption scheme.

"It's me saying goodbye to everything that's been going on. I have had my share of stress this year and I just want to start looking forward now. People say, 'Gail hasn't done anything for ages', but it's because I've been in America. If you don't push yourself around on British television everyone says your career is finished.

"I mean, give me a break. I've got a three-year-old daughter, I've been going through a divorce, I've been working with charities and going to America every two weeks. Oh, and I've lost my hair. So I've had a lot on my plate.

"I'm not on the edge of a nervous breakdown, or anything like that, I've just had a lot on. Fingers crossed, there is no more bad luck around the corner. I've had my share - now I'm moving on."

Knowing that her bald appearance would cause a stir, Gail went public in a big way at a LivingTV launch party.

She downed a few glasses of champagne for Dutch courage, and rubbed a rosy eye-shadow on to her few remaining tufts to create a daring mohican effect.

"I didn't want to go at all," she admits. "But I thought, 'If I don't do it now, someone will catch me at some point'.

"I walked into the make-up room and everyone went really quiet. They didn't know how to react. There was a moment where I thought, 'I can't do this', but I took a deep breath and got on with it.

"The other thing I didn't want was people thinking I had cancer - if I'd tried to hide they might have jumped to that conclusion.

"There were so many photographers there and I was terrified. I was in tears at one point, but it had been a long night and I'd had enough by then. I just wanted to go home.

"They were quite shocked because I didn't tell anyone what had happened. But they've all been very supportive and said I looked great."

Gail has certainly had a tough 12 months. On top of struggling with post-natal depression and the battle to shift the weight she gained when she was pregnant with her daughter Honey, she has also gone through a messy divorce from musician Dan Hipgrave.

In March, she even tried to kill herself. She was found by Dan after she'd swallowed more than 30 painkillers, but later said that the suicide attempt was just a "cry for help".

Since then, things have started getting better. Her LivingTV programme, Dead Famous, has been a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, and 11 months ago she found love again with 31-year-old cameraman James Lloyd.

Then, just when she thought she'd finally turned the corner, her hair started falling out in great clumps. …

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