Billie Reveals Her Battle With Anorexia
Billie Piper is still only 24 but, having crammed a pop career, a
battle against anorexia and marriage to Chris Evans into her short life, has a maturity far beyond her years.
all in black - skinny jumper, mini skirt, her dyed blonde hair shaggy, her black eyebrows and wide smile still her most prominent
She's trim but not skinny - a size 10 on top and a 12 on the bottom half, she says, and at 5ft 5in reckons she
weighs around 10 stone, although I'd say it's closer to nine. But she doesn't weigh herself any more.
"You become obsessed
with scales when you're anorexic. You'll go into three shops because you think one scale isn't working properly.
think you ever totally recover. It's always there in your head."
Billie's way of recovering was to read, she says.
had hang-ups about seeking help, so I started to read all these self-help books instead of someone telling me what's wrong
and what's right. I've a problem with authority.
"It's a constant struggle, but the fact that I'm so happy is a reflection
of where I am at the moment. I had a little dip when I broke up with Chris, but very quickly I changed that."
written her autobiography, Growing Pains, which reveals her burning ambition from childhood and her insatiable workaholic
mentality, from first attending the famous Sylvia Young theatre school when she was 12, to becoming a pop star at 15, when
she effectively lost control of her life.
Her first single, Because We Want To, went straight to No 1 followed by Girlfriend,
which also topped the charts.
Her hugely hectic work schedule - 18-hour days, recording, making videos and touring - meant
her life became far removed from the normality of her family and friends in Swindon.
It was then the feelings of self-doubt
engulfed her. Was she thin enough, could she sing well enough, could she pull off live performances?
"The anorexia turned
into something which was about me losing control of every aspect of my life and knowing that the one thing people couldn't
force me to do was eat. It was me being rebellious and finally having control over something."
She lived on a diet of cigarettes,
coffee and diet Coke, then moved on to laxatives. At one point she became so ill she stopped menstruating.
"I went down
to about seven stones. At the time I thought I looked fabulous but I look back and realise I looked like a freak."
pressure Billie inflicted upon herself to remain at the top all but destroyed her. Sitting in empty hotel rooms night after
night, she'd reflect on her success and wonder why she didn't actually feel anything.
She pushed her worried parents to
one side and for much of the time they had no idea where she was or what she was doing.
"I yearned for stability when it
suited me. I was incredibly selfish. I would row with my parents and not talk to them for weeks and then suddenly I'd be in
a car on my way home having been out all night and turn up on their doorstep saying, 'Take care of me, please'."
reached crisis point in 1999 when, in a hotel room in Chicago, she made a feeble suicide attempt with a handful of Melatonin,
which she thought were sleeping tablets, before calling her parents in desperation.
"I don't know how much of it was teenage
angst," she says now. "It was a half-hearted attempt, a cry for help."
Billie had begun her recovery when she met Chris
Evans as a guest on his Channel 4 TFI Friday show. She was 18 and he was 34. Shortly afterwards she appeared on his radio
"He was my knight in shining armour," she laughs. He was so taken with her that three days later he delivered a £100,000
Ferrari covered in roses to her house.
"He has this zest for life that very few people have," she beams. "He's the forever
optimist. He's had some terrible times and some fantastic times. Wonderful things have happened to him, but only because he's
gone out there and made them happen."
He wasn't aware of the anorexia initially and when they first started seeing each
other, it would often be for a meal.
"Whenever we were out together I would eat. It changed just like that," she says,
snapping her fingers. "He made me feel so sexy and happy about myself. That's his gift."
They married in Las Vegas in 2001
and enjoyed two years off when her pop career waned and he fell out with Virgin.
During that time, they were pictured in
different places all over the world, often hammered and dishevelled.
She laughs at the suggestion that they were permanently
plastered during those 'gap years', as she calls them.
"There were elements of that, for sure," she smiles. "But we were
also learning about the places. We weren't going to Athens to sit in a bar and get plastered, we were going there to see things
that were there."
That phase came to a natural end, she says, when both of them decided they wanted to return to work.
They came back to live in their big house in Surrey. She cooked, grew vegetables and went to bed at 9pm.
But she also relaunched
her acting career, gaining the part of Rose Tyler in BBC Wales' Doctor Who, which took her away a lot.
"It's hard to say
what went wrong. He didn't have an affair, I didn't have an affair, he didn't abuse me, it's all a bit vague.
"We had been
inseparable and suddenly we never saw each other. That was just too hard for us and our relationship. We fixed each other
and then we had to go and do some stuff of our own again.
"Chris and I are best mates. We speak all the time. I call him
like I would a girlfriend. He lives in the street opposite my street."
Billie says their continuing closeness didn't make
it difficult for her to have another relationship, although they are still not officially divorced.
She now lives with
her boyfriend, Amadu, a 28-year-old lawyer she met at Virgin years ago.
"I'm not supposed to talk about him. It's nice
just to be a peaceful, normal couple."
Meanwhile, her acting career is going from strength to strength.
She'll be appearing
in a TV adaptation of Philip Pullman's The Ruby In The Smoke at Christmas, and is playing Fanny Price in Mansfield Park, as
part of ITV's forthcoming Jane Austen season.
After the book tour, she'll be taking a break to go travelling. She doesn't
want to burn out again.
"I learned quite a few lessons earlier on in life and it's stood me in good stead. It's quite
liberating. I can just work hard on something I really love and then go and have dinner with my mates."
Source: Wales On Sunday / icWales