I went from telly's top presenter to homeless and sleeping on benches… I’m terrified it'll happen again says Gail Porter | The Sun

THERE was a period in the Nineties where it felt like Gail Porter was never off the telly.

From Top of the Pops to ITV's Wish You Were Here and Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast, the bubbly Scottish presenter and model was at the top of her game.

But a decade later the former lads’ mag favourite found herself homeless, trudging around London with a bin liner full of clothes and sleeping on park benches in Hampstead Heath.

That dark period of Gail’s life lasted six months, and she credits daughter Honey, 20, with saving her life.

But now, in an exclusive interview with The Sun, Gail, 52, admits the cost of living crisis has left her terrified history could repeat itself.

She says: “Everything seems to be going up and up, and people are worried about whether they can pay the bills.


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"I think most people spend about 80 per cent of their wages on rent, bills, and everything else. 

“I still get nervous now thinking, ‘Okay, I'm okay, I'm on a level,’ but because I've been there before, and I know that so many people are struggling, I’m thinking at any point, it could all go really badly wrong.”

Gail explains how around 2004, a multitude of things went wrong which culminated in her ending up homeless.

Her blonde hair had fallen out due to alopecia, and she refused to wear a hat or wig, which meant offers for TV presenting jobs dried up.

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Gail was hot property in the 90s with an enviable TV and modelling careerCredit: Rex
In the 1990s Gail Porter, with Donna Air,  found fame hosting Channel 4's Big BreakfastCredit: C4
Gail's three-year marriage to Dan Hipgrave fell apart in 2004Credit: Rex

Gail was also going through a painful divorce from Toploader guitarist Dan Hipgrave – Honey's dad – after three years of marriage.

On top of that, her mum was diagnosed with cancer.

Soon after Gail suffered from depression and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

In 2007 she was sectioned and her then-boyfriend Johnny Davies – a singer 14 years her junior – feared she would harm herself.

Then in 2014, due to a lack of work and financial difficulties, Gail hit rock bottom and was forced to sleep rough.

“Basically everything just went a little bit wrong,” she tells The Sun. “I got divorced, my hair fell out, work just dried up.

“So bills were coming in and money wasn't, because I didn't have any jobs. 

“The problem was just getting bigger and bigger, and it can just happen to anybody.”


Gail found herself sleeping on park benches in Hampstead Heath for a while, with no way of calling anyone, and feeling too ashamed to knock on anyone’s door.

She eventually took herself round to a friend’s house and asked for help.

"I told them, ‘It's pretty bad,’ but I didn't tell him how bad it was, and they let me stay for a couple of nights," Gail recalls.

“I just had to sort of move around and try to keep my dignity with a bin liner filled with some clothes.”

It was scary, I must admit. You’re sitting around thinking, ‘I don't know where to stay. I have nothing to do'

She adds: “It was scary, I must admit. You’re sitting around thinking, ‘I don't know where to stay. I have nothing to do.’

“But I'm Scottish, and we're tough as old boots. I never give up. I don't believe in giving up, and I just thought, ‘Something good is going to come of this'.”

With the help of her friends and family, Gail managed to get herself back on her feet.

The pay cheque she got from her 2015 stint on Celebrity Big Brother helped fund a deposit for the north west London flat she lives in now.

'I'm happy on my own'

When it comes to her love life, Gail says she’s not dating – partly because she doesn’t think any man could handle her insomnia.

She confesses she’s been awake since 3am on the day we speak, so got up to exercise and put a wash on.

"I'm very happy on my own, to be honest, especially with insomnia," Gail tells us.

"When I wake up at three o'clock, I can just put a movie on. I can do what I want, make a cup of tea, put the washing on.

“I think that'd be very annoying if I had somebody living in my house. They'd go, 'What are you doing now? It's three o'clock!’”

She adds: "I haven't got time for dating. I'm quite happy on my own because you know what? Cats don't answer back. 

“So I've got my lovely cat, lovely mates, and I'm not really interested.”

Having experienced homelessness, Gail is working with Virgin Media O2 and Good Things Foundation to raise awareness of the National Databank – which provides free O2 data to people in need. 

Her advice to those struggling is “don’t be ashamed to ask for help”.

"Being homeless taught me you've got to be super tough, and super strong, but don’t be embarrassed to reach out and say to somebody, ‘You know what? I need some help here'," she says.

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“Also, just be kind to each other. One smile makes a difference."

To find out more about the National Databank, visit https://www.o2.co.uk/national-databank.

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