Being Gail Porter, BBC Scotland
- Brian Donaldson
- 13 January 2020
A powerful account of celebrity hell with hope at its core
In the mid to late 90s, Gail Porter appeared to have the world at her feet. A chirpy presenter whose permanently happy demeanour brightened up the lives of kids through BBC shows such as Fully Booked, before providing a welcome adjunct to the series of blokes who frequently helmed Top of the Pops. The Edinburgh-born Porter even made the cover of The List as we dubbed her the face of 1999. But soon, it would all fall horrendously and publicly apart.
Having appeared naked in both GQ and FHM (the latter infamously projected her unclothed image onto the Houses of Parliament for a marketing campaign she knew nothing about in advance and gained zilch in terms of renumeration during the outraged aftermath) her profile shot through the roof. She became the butt (sorry) of the joke on snarky panel shows such as Never Mind the Buzzcocks, while away from the camera her longstanding anxiety started to dominate everything.
In the brutally frank documentary Being Gail Porter, she takes control of the story, narrating her memories of how it all went wrong (alopecia, post-natal depression, homelessness, being sectioned, self-harm and the drying up of work) and making connections with her past (there's a joyful reunion with early-days presenting pal Grant Stott and a less happy meeting with the father she hadn't seen for four years) while striving to make the most of an unclear future.
Ultimately, Being Gail Porter is a story of hope in the face of seemingly unlikely odds. She talks, as she did in her List interview way back then, of crying on a daily basis. But now, her circle of friends, teenage daughter Honey, penning her memoirs and choir-singing are among the people and things that keep her afloat these days. Porter experienced her major struggles when mental health issues were less discussed in the media and across wider society. A documentary such as this might not have been possible to make in the early 2000s, but now it is sure to offer others in similar circumstances a degree of comfort.
Being Gail Porter airs on BBC Scotland, Tuesday 14 January, 10pm.