The Scottish TV presenter is finally happy and content as she opens up to Now about how she got there after several tough years...
Cheery is the word that comes to mind when Now meets Gail Porter on a sunny autumn afternoon.
The former FHM model and Big Breakfast presenter, 46, has just spent the weekend in Brighton with her 15-year-old daughter, Honey, her child with ex-husband Dan Hipgrave from alt rock band Toploader. She says they’ve had a blast playing mini golf, adding, ‘It’s my favourite thing ever! My friends say that I’m easily pleased…’
Things are certainly on the up since her appearance on Loose Women over the summer, when she revealed that she had been made bankrupt due to lack of work.
Gail famously lost all her hair in 2005 to the rare condition alopecia and made the brave decision not to hide her hair loss behind a wig, in order to help others who suffer from the devastating condition.
But while she has won plaudits and admiration for her decision to be bald and proud she has publicly wondered if it has cost her television work.
Despite the adversity she’s been dealt with, Gail’s endless positivity is infectious.
She admits that she still has a few low days, but credits her newfound confidence to getting her eyebrows tattooed on and finding a peaceful balance once again in her personal life…
Hi Gail, you had a great weekend in Brighton, would you ever move there?
I think about it all the time but the prices there are pretty much what they are here in London, and I’ve been in the city so long now. I love London. Also I’m getting old now and moving is so stressful. I’ve got a lovely flat and my cat, Holly, is settled. I’m just quite happy staying here for the minute.
What’s been the hardest thing about suffering with alopecia?
Having alopecia hasn’t been the easiest thing in the world but I think I’m extremely lucky. I have a good shaped head and I’m not really ill, I just unfortunately have no hair. But there are advantages. It only takes me five minutes in the shower, and I don’t have to go to the hairdressers. The only thing I miss is the chat at the hairdressers!
How do you stay so positive?
I think because my daughter is just so positive. She doesn’t remember me with hair before and she said to me the other day, ‘You’re still pretty, Mummy,’ and that’s all I need.
I don’t really care what anyone else thinks. As long as my daughter thinks it, then I’ll take that, thank you very much.
I lost my mum to lung cancer in 2009 and when she lost her hair that’s a whole different story so I always think – touch wood – that wasn’t me and I felt for my mum because she was going through a horrible illness. But I’ve got my health, my happiness and my daughter. You have to put things into perspective!
Do you still get down days?
I think everyone does but I never attribute it to my hair, just that I’m having a bad day. My hair is not an issue to me, but I get lots of messages from people with alopecia who are struggling and they ask for my advice. Helping them in turn helps me to cope with it. I think also it helps that I am Scottish and tough. I’ve always believed in being yourself.
Do you still get abuse?
It does happen. There was a van driver who shouted ‘baldy’ at me – not very original, I know. I went up to his window when he was stuck at a red light to talk to him and he panicked and pretended I wasn’t there, which showed him for the coward he was. Another man once asked what cancer it was and seemed shocked when I told him that I wasn’t ill and wasn’t going to die. I know he was well meaning, but people don’t think sometimes.
Was it painful getting your eyebrows tattooed on?
It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. They’ve given me so much confidence and I’m back to my old self. I feel human again. When I lost my body hair it was like, ‘Well, that’s going to save me money and time waxing.’ But when my eyelashes and eyebrows fell out it was like I’d been rubbed out. I didn’t feel human or my old self. Now that I’ve had them microbladed it’s like I’m back to me again. People take them for granted but they really do make such a difference. I even started flirting with people and did a pretend hair flick!
How are things these days with your ex-husband, Dan Hipgrave?
Brilliant. We are all in such a good place. In fact we get on better than ever and it helps that I really like his wife. She’s fantastic and they’ve been an amazing support to me. We all want the best for Honey and that’s what comes across.
Are you dating anyone?
I don’t want to talk about it. There may be someone on the scene but I’m not saying any more than that!
OK, we won’t ask any more about the mystery man, but who’d be your dream man?
I don’t look at looks when it comes to love. For me it’s all about a sense of humour. It’s got to be someone who makes me laugh and who enjoys the same books and films as me – I like old school stuff like Anchorman, basically anything with Will Ferrell. If I had to pick someone, it would be Eddie Izzard as for a start he wears a dress better than me and I’d be in pain as he’s just so funny.
How has having your breast reduction affected your life?
It’s has made a huge difference. I’m the same dress size on my top and bottom for a start! Before, when I was a size JJ, I was having to buy tops in a size 16 and my bottom half was an 8 to 10. Now that I’m a size DD, I can wear the same size all over, which is liberating.
Will we see you back on television soon?
I’m filming a show with Jenny Powell for Vintage TV which is about 80s and 90s music and I do that every couple of weeks.
Has fitness changed your life?
I do my own thing rather than going to a gym and working out with a personal trainer, so I go running – well I’ve just run the Great Scottish Run, which I ran to support the charity Mental Health Foundation. It was a 10K up in Glasgow and I felt great afterwards. I also do Bikram yoga, which is really good for helping me unwind and keeping me positive.
You’ve lost weight recently, how have you done it?
Well my daughter eats healthily so it’s just everything in moderation really. I don’t drink alcohol. My thing is to drink a lot of green tea but life is too short to be on a diet the whole time!
Gail had her eyebrows microbladed by KB Pro. Head to karenbetts.co.uk