Katie Piper reveals all to TV Times magazine about her new Channel 4 show Bodyshockers (Thursday), her new baby and her inspirational outlook on life, six years after the acid attack that shocked Britain…
What’s your new show Bodyshockers all about?
“I’m always seeing programmes about cosmetic surgery but there’s nothing about people who actually regret procedures and want them reversed. All of us live in a certain way and then our lives take a new direction and our identity changes. We might stop dressing in a particular style or change our hair, but what if we’ve done something permanent to ourselves like tattoos or body modifications – can you undo them? Apparently the answer is yes and we found loads of people who wanted to.”
When you meet people who have had extreme tattoos or piercings, do you have any sympathy for them?
“Ordinary people do extreme things because maybe they were influenced by a celebrity or perhaps they were bullied and wanted to do something to stand out. Some wanted a shock reaction, which then turned into embarrassment a year later.”
Have you ever done anything similar?
“I remember when I was young I would try to do things for attention. I used to pierce my own ears with an ice cube and a needle and dye my hair red with food colouring, which was quite a daredevil thing to do back in the 90s! If I were a teenager now I suppose the way to annoy my mum would be to stretch my ears or tattoo my chest because that’s becoming the norm. Thankfully lots of the mistakes I made weren’t invasive and permanent, so I can just pretend they never happened, but other people are walking around with their mistakes on their faces.”
Your first C4 documentary, Katie: My Beautiful Face showed you coping with years of painful procedures to reconstruct your face afteryour ex-boyfriend hired a man to throw acid at you in the street. Do you think that this experience helped you to sympathise with the participants on Bodyshockers?
“I could relate to them in that they felt like one person on the inside but another person on the outside, and they were being judged for their appearance. Tattoos were stopping people getting a job and it was quite hard for them. Everyone’s problems are relative and I wouldn’t look down on people for having cosmetic surgery. If you have somebody who hates their boobs or nose and that’s stopping them going for a job interview or having an adult relationship, then that’s seriously affecting their life, the same way as somebody who needs reconstruction.”
Were you shocked by what you experienced while filming the show?
“During filming I saw people getting stared at on the street and being called horrible names and I thought, “Well actually I’ve been there”. OK, some procedures are self-inflicted and based on stupid decisions, but is that people’s fault? Or are they victims of the fact that surgery is now mainstream and accessible?”
Did filming the series make you think twice about getting any similar body modifications?
“Tattoos have become fashionable and I really like the ones of retro pin-up girls, like Amy Winehouse had, but there’s no way I’d book in to have it done now. I’ve realised that they really are permanent – some of the people on our show didn’t get the results they wanted because they’re really difficult to remove. Even if they’re cool now, they won’t be in five years – just like tattoos of Chinese writing aren’t popular anymore!”
How does it feel being a role model?
“I think it’s a bit of a pedestal to be put on. I run my charity full time so I get to meet a lot of people that really are genuinely inspirational and go through some horrific things. I’m one of many people, it’s not like I’m special. It’s funny when people use the word ‘brave’ because you don’t have a choice, you just have to get on with things.”
How are you finding pregnancy?
“It’s very exciting to be pregnant, and such a lovely thing to go into the new year with. I’ve only got a few weeks left, so not long to go now!”
Have you thought about how you’d feel if your little girl grew up to want extreme body procedures?
“I’m going to try to be measured about things like piercings, because if you’re too strict with somebody then you create a rebel. That’s probably easier said than done though! When I bring up my child, I want her to do what’s right for her and to make informed decisions, but I would definitely try to guide her in those decisions.”