Gail Porter has branded her time in the Celebrity Big Brother house as “the worst thing ever” – but admitted she is enjoying being noticed again by the public.
The TV presenter and former lads’ mag pin-up, from Portobello, was evicted from the Channel 5 reality show – which saw six housemates from the UK team up with six contestants from the United States – two weeks ago.
The 44-year-old, who suffers from alopecia, said her Celebrity Big Brother experience was: “The worst thing ever. And I should know, I’ve been sectioned under the Mental Health Act.”
Porter, who has suffered from bi-polar disorder since she was in her 20s, was sectioned in the psychiatric unit at The Royal Free hospital for 17 days in 2011, after she suffered a breakdown.
At the height of her fame in 1999, a large naked image of her was projected on to the Houses of Parliament to publicise an FHM magazine ‘sexiest woman’ poll.
She also presented Top of The Pops and The Big Breakfast.
Speaking of her time in the Big Brother house, she said the “hellish” experience” left her feeling “institutionalised”. “It was like Lord of the Flies and The Truman Show,” she said.
“I didn’t cry all the time, those are just the bits they aired. When they first suggested it I thought ‘No. Yes. Should I?’. But then I thought, it’s only three weeks.
“In the end, those weeks were like dog years – endless.”
“The worst thing was the screaming. The Americans were really loud. I found it too much. I’m sensitive to noise.”
However, after taking part in the programme, Porter now wants to return to television as a presenter.
And she said she was particularly enjoying the attention she has been receiving from the public again when she is out and about in Willesden, north-west London, where she lives.
She said: “It’s like living in a soap. I like a chat anyway, but my Sainsbury’s shopping time has gone from half an hour to about two since I came out of the house.”
Porter was a pupil at Portobello High School and started out her career as a TV runner, before auditioning for a children’s game show on ITV.
In 2005 she developed alopecia and she decided not to wear a hat or a wig in order to raise awareness of the condition.
She became an ambassador for the Little Princess Trust, a charity which provides wigs to children with hair loss, and on Richard and Judy in February the following year, she showed her hair, eyebrows and eyelashes were beginning to grow back.
Talking of her condition in relation to the reality show, she said: “My eyelashes are mine, and so are my eyebrows, and I started to get some leg hair in the Big Brother house.”
She spoke of how she had discussed her condition with fellow housemate James Hill – who appeared in The Apprentice last year.
After he had asked her if alopecia was contagious, she said she touched him jokingly on the knee and said: “Yes it is – see you’ve got it now.”