BEFORE the release of her new memoir, the model tells EDWIN GILSON about eating disorders and why she wants to help teenage girls

Charli Howard knows better than most how the mind can play tricks on you.

The successful model, who was recently seen in Vogue, struggled with eating disorders in her younger years, exacerbated by anxiety and OCD.

“I told myself over a period of 12 years that I was fat and worthless and ugly and that nobody would ever love me,” she says. “Everyone’s brain gets a bit bruised from time to time.”

That last point is crucial to Charli’s story. Due to a range of factors, she was made to feel inadequate as a young girl and fell into a cycle of self-loathing. Later, having embarked on a career in modelling, she was told she was overweight by the agency she worked for. In fact, she was technically underweight.

This was the last straw for Charli, who had heard similar things from various people in the industry. She posted a status on Facebook denouncing the ridiculous standards of the company.

“I will no longer allow you to dictate to me what’s wrong with my looks and what I need to change in order to be beautiful,” she wrote.

She still works in the industry but is now a “curve model” and body activist – she is passionate about spreading the message of embracing all aspects of one’s self. Her memoir, Misfit, is the book she wishes she could have read as a teenager. She’ll be discussing it with TV chef Gizzi Erskine and author Juno Dawson in Brighton on Sunday.

Charli is keen to point out that it isn’t just fashion advertising and size zero models that lead young girls to loathe their own bodies – although it is an undeniable factor.

“What I try to reiterate in the book is that eating disorders don’t stem from one thing,” she says. “You can’t just blame it on fashion – it comes from a whole range of things. That could be parents, bullying, friends making comments – it’s important to look at the whole picture.”

For Charli, it was OCD and anxiety that triggered and accentuated her bulimia. She sought counselling but stopped after a fellow student found out and spread the news.

“I was good at hiding my eating disorder from my family,” she says. “Keeping it secret became part of the game. I wore baggy clothes. But over time it became more difficult. The more you try and hide it, the more people will find out about it.

“I told my parents about my bulimia when I was 24 and they had no idea. It was hard for them to hear.”

Charli became a model because she thought it would make her happy after years of teenage suffering. However, it was almost a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire as was repeatedly told she needed to slim down.

As she said in a recent interview with a national newspaper, this was a time when “there were Paris Hilton images everywhere – wanting to be thin was extremely normal”.

Agencies would tell her she needed to lose a few inches off her hips. The incident that prompted the impassioned Facebook message was the last in a long line.

“By that point I’d been with that agency for two and a half years and I’d had enough,” says Charli. “When you try and chase someone’s ideals of beauty for so long and try and fit into something you’re never going to be...everyone has their turning point.

“I know a lot of people who have dropped out [of modelling] for that very reason but I’m of the mindset you should always keep going.”

Charli was recently featured in a landmark edition of Vogue – the first under new editor Edward Enninful. She credits him with bringing about much-needed diversity in fashion media.

“It was such an honour,” she says. “Edward is such an amazing man. To have someone like him who is making that world more diverse in terms of colour and size is really important.”

It’s been a rocky road for Charli but now she’s succeeding in the industry – and on her own terms. Surely there can be no better role model for teenagers going through body-related troubles.

“A lot of those kinds of issues stem from adolescence,” she says. “I don’t want anybody to go through the same things I did.”

An Evening With Charli Howard
Waterstones, Brighton, Sunday, 5.30pm.

For tickets and more information visit or call 01273 206017