Michelle Collins, who of course plays Rovers landlady Stella Price in Coronation Street, has revealed to the Daily Mirror that at one time, her battle with eating disorders left her so thin and emaciated, some people assumed she was a heroin addict.
Michelle, who formerly played the role of Cindy Beale in EastEnders, explained that when she was in the grip of both bulimia and anorexia, she would starve herself for weeks at a time before bingeing no food while simultaneously taking laxatives.
The paper states, “But it was not until her agent picked her up on her extreme weight loss that the actress realised she had a problem.”
50 year old Michelle said, “I went to audition for a fashion commercial and they said they didn’t think I was quite right for it because I wasn’t ‘upmarket’ enough…
“Later that day my agent called to see if I was OK and told me that actually I had looked so awful the casters had thought I was a heroin addict and wanted to know if I was on drugs.
“That was the wake-up call I needed.”
Michelle went on to reveal that she then turned to booze instead of food as her weight fell to a dangerously low level.
She explained, “My life felt out of control and I felt if I could control my body I could control my life.
“In my head skinny equalled successful and I thought the only way I could be a successful actress was to be a skinny woman.”
She added, “It was a running joke with friends that I would order a salad without the oil and then drink copious amounts of alcohol like them.
“That was just what I did because I thought it had fewer calories than food.
“Then as I got worse I was drinking instead of eating so I could still go out and have a good time. I went for weeks without really eating any food.
“I’d starve all day then come home late and binge on anything I could get my hands on.
“I raided the fridge and cupboards then stuck my fingers down my throat to feel empty again.
“Soon I was doing it after every meal, it was so addictive.
“My arms and legs were scrawny, I had the body of a child, but when I looked in the mirror I still wanted to lose more.”
Michelle, who has a teenaged daughter, Maia, added, “I’d always wanted to be an actress but been turned away by the drama schools I applied to.
“When I was 19 I joined a band called Mari Wilson And The Wilsations. We went on TV shows and did big concerts.
“Then one day the managers told us that Mari was going solo and we were dumped.
“I went home that night and I thought I’d have a go at acting again. But something had to change – I couldn’t fail again.
“Then I thought, ‘Maybe if I lose a little weight…’. I wasn’t overweight, I was slim, but that was it, the seed was planted.”
As to how she copes with issues regarding her weight now, Michelle said, “I haven’t had scales in the house since because I think they’re bad for me.
“If you’ve been anorexic, it’s always in your head and I have days when I still feel fat.
“But I’ve learnt how to deal with it and look after myself.”
Michelle is now working with charity b-eat helping to counsel others who’re suffering with anorexia and bulimia.
Of the charity’s work, Michelle said, “Young girls need access to info.
“There’s even more pressure than there was in my day and I got ill.
“I see 15 and 16-year-old girls posting photos of themselves in their underwear on Twitter and Instagram because all their self-worth is in their looks.
“I’m scared for Maia and for all her friends. I want to grab them and say, ‘Don’t give in to the pressure’.
“It’s a shame that our society is built this way because it makes me think that feminism is dead and that’s very sad.
“But until that changes I’ll be there because I’ve been through it and I know how it feels.”
To find out more about the charity you can visit www.b-eat.co.uk or call the helpline on 0845 634 1414.
Here’s a reminder of Michelle on EastEnders…