In the late 90s and early 00s, Gail Porter was everywhere - in newspapers and magazines, on TV and, famously, splashed all over the Houses of Parliament.
As well as presenting TV shows like Top Of The Pops, Live and Kicking and The Big Breakfast, she was a fixture in the era's 'Lads' Mags', and in 1999 even had a nude photograph of herself projected on to the Palace of Westminster in a publicity stunt for FHM magazine.
She married popstar Dan Hipgrave in 2001 and they had a daughter, Honey, in 2002. However the pair split in 2004, and in 2005, Gail suffered from total hair loss - and was subsequently diagnosed with alopecia.
Here, Gail speaks out about what it’s like living with the condition during Alopecia Awareness Month, and reveals how her diagnosis has made her stronger.
She has Alopecia Totalis – meaning total hair loss
“I have Alopecia Totalis which means complete hair loss, so my eyebrows and lashes went altogether. That’s why it was such big thing getting my brows microbladed last year with Karen Betts, it’s transformed my face and boosted my confidence like you wouldn’t believe. The thought of microblading can be a bit daunting, but Karen makes you feel so comfortable, she’s so clever and makes your new brows look so natural.”
She lost her hair very quickly at the age of 34.
“I was actually in Vegas filming a television programme. I was showering in my hotel room and felt the water rising around my ankles, only to look down and realise it was my hair in the bottom of the shower.
“All of my hair had pretty much fallen out by the time I got the chance to be diagnosed. It was so quick, which made it all the more shocking.”
“I have no clue as to why it happened to me. A lot of people do say stress is often a factor or it can run in your family, but I’m not sure that was the case for me.”
She doesn’t like having mirrors in her house
“You never really get used to seeing yourself bald, but the first time was so shocking - you just don’t ever think something like that will happen to you. I never really liked having mirrors around the house after losing my hair.”
She gets shouted at by strangers
“As for strangers (and how they react), I’ve had it all. I’ll be walking down the street and someone will shout 'Hey baldy', and it’s like, you came up with that all by yourself? It’s odd how people feel the need to point it out. With kids it’s a bit more understandable from a curiosity point of view, they’ll ask their mum 'Why’s that lady got no hair?' and I just tell them 'Oops, I must have left it on the bus!'
She’s not a fan of wigs
“Wigs are itchy! Of course, I’ve experimented with them, tried quite a few on that people have kindly sent me, but it’s just not me now. My daughter was only young when I first lost my hair, I didn’t want her to see me with hair then without hair, it would be too confusing for her.”
She’s proud of how far she’s come
“In some ways I’ve come a really long way, and I think I should be proud of that. My mindset has definitely changed, I don’t take much for granted. I also make sure I look after myself in every way I can - I love to exercise, I drink lots of water. Little things like having my brows back make the biggest difference.
“(Having alopecia) has made me stronger. My career changed almost instantaneously when I lost my hair, which was difficult. I’m more thick-skinned now, you have to be.”
She wishes people understood alopecia
“It’s an autoimmune disease, it can’t be cured. If I had a pound for every time someone said to me ‘have you tried this shampoo, or this treatment…’ and it’s like, if there was something that worked, I’d have my hair back! It’s only out of kindness though, people want to help."
She tries not to worry
“I’m always trying to be mindful that there are people in the world in much worse situations than I am. You have to be grateful for what you do have, and try to worry less about what you don’t have – it is hard though, I wouldn’t deny that.”