Hollyoaks hired me because of the way I looked; Mikyla Dodd tells how heartaches triggered by her weight made her a huge success.
MIKYLA DODD broke the mould when she joined Hollyoaks. In her own words, she was "too tall, too fat and too ginger" - a stark contrast to the rest of the glamorous cast.
But the actress was used to not fitting in. Her own life would make the most outlandish soap storyline appear tame.
Unwanted by her father, she began having sex aged 12 and had an abortion just a year later.
But it was the realisation that comfort eating had rendered her an obese teenager that marked the lowest point in her life.
By the time she was 20, Mikyla weighed 24 stones and struggled to squeeze into size 28 clothes.
Now 29 and a working for a recruitment company in London, she is happier than ever after losing nine stones and slimming to a size 16.
Mikyla - who stopped playing Chloe Bruce in the Channel 4 soap three years ago - said: "I'm aware that to most people I'm still overweight and, being six foot tall, I'm never going to be small.
"But I look the best that I have done for about 16 years. Back then, I never knew anything about clothes or fashion, so I feel much more positive and happy than I have in a long time.
"Those girls in Hollyoaks were the most beautiful in the world, but every one of them would say she didn't like her bum or her nose or whatever.
"Fortunately, my life doesn't revolve too much around my aesthetics. It's about how I feel inside."
As well as shedding weight, Mikyla has spent the three years since leaving Hollyoaks writing her autobiography.
Naming it The Fat Girl From Hollyoaks may have been done light-heartedly but it says much about how Mikyla views herself.
She said: "Being overweight, you do get pigeon-holed. People have a preconception of you and can be prejudiced.
"The upside is I'm different, I'm unusual, I'm unique and stand out from the crowd.
"If I was six foot and skinny with red hair, I would never have got the part in Hollyoaks, or had the life I had and enjoyed all those wonderful things. "I made it, not in spite of how I looked, but because of it. Hopefully I can inspire a few people."
Mikyla became a favourite on the teen soap when she joined in 2000.
Her character, initially meant to appear for only a few episodes, remained a central one for four years.
And her biggest storyline - when Chloe's weight triggered depression and a self-destructive downward spiral - was Mikyla's own idea.
She said: "The experience of being on the show and the response I got from viewers was so great, it really gave me some validation. I hadn't had to change how I looked to achieve that."
That acceptance was a far cry from Mikyla's childhood.
At school, bullies dubbed her Green Giant and Jabba The Hutt.
By the age of 11, she was so large her skirts had to be specially made and she began boozing and smoking cannabis.
At 12, she began having sex with her first boyfriend, a 16-year-old who refused to use condoms, and within a year the child had to go through an abortion.
Horrible enough, but that is not the only harrowing ordeal she recounts in her book. She also tells of being sexually assaulted by a friend and of the cocaine habit she developed on Hollyoaks. Mikyla admits her honesty is likely to shock those close to her, but hopes it could help others who have suffered similar problems.
She said: "I am honest in my nature, I put everything in the book and didn't think ab out the ramifications.
"But as well as giving people an insight into me, if they're feeling low it shows how you can change things.
"Nobody wishes these things on themselves, but I am the person I am because of these things.
"The abortion and everything else made me who I am today. There's not a lot that happens I can't deal with.
"I got through relatively unscathed and have little emotional baggage."
IN fact, the termination had an unexpected silver lining - collecting her daughter from hospital, Mikyla's mum made her promise never to lie to her again and their relationship bloomed.
Mikyla said: "That was a period of my life when I could have gone off the rails. Instead, it made me and my mum very, very close.
"It made me realise that your mum is the one person in your life you never need to be ashamed around.
"She's the one you can go to who will love you unconditionally and always be there to help fix things.
"I now have complete trust and faith in my mum's loyalty and belief in me."
Mikyla still keeps in touch with many of her old TV colleagues.
She's close friends with lads' mag pin-up Gemma Atkinson - who played Lisa Hunter in Hollyoaks and its late-night spin-off In The City - and the pair are going to New York later this year for Mikyla's upcoming 30th birthday.
Former castmates Nick Pickard, Teri Dwyer and Gary Lucy also remain close friends as does ex-Coronation Street star Suranne Jones, whom Mikyla first met when taking acting lessons.
Despite her own efforts to lose weight, Mikyla is scathing of the focus on ultra-thin actresses whose waistlines are monitored in celebrity magazines. She said: "I find the whole skinny trend very offensive. The people who read those magazines-and' are so influenced by them-are young girls.
"It projects the image that's what you've got to look like to be successful.
"It frightens me. We're going to end with real extremes-those who live on fast food who'll have massive health problems and those who eat nothing.
"Where's the balance? I wonder what's going on in their heads."
Mikyla's balance came when she took part in ITV show Celebrity Fit Club, where the fear of failing on national TV gave her the incentive she needed.
She said: "My pride wouldn't let me fail. That pressure was a good way for me to spur myself on. It was exactly what I needed and gave me a real sense of achievement... and a new wardrobe.
"Realising my size was the worst point in my life. When I looked in the mirror and didn't recognise myself, it brought it home that I'd have to make big changes to get back to the person I was."
She's determined to weigh 14 stones for her 30th birthday and, with just one stone to go before the big day in September, she's rightly optimistic.
She said: "Exercise is the difference in my life. I still have treats, but I now have a much stronger resolve.
"I'm not going to deprive myself but I have stopped being greedy-and started being happy."
The Fat Girl From Hollyoaks by Mikyla Dodd is published by Hodder & Stoughton on June 28 priced pounds 16.99.
'The upside is I'm different, I'm unusual, unique and I stand out from the crowd'
DEPRESSED: Mikyla drew on her own experiences to play troubled Chloe in Hollyoaks; PALS: With her Hollyoaks castmate Gary Lucy, right, and Celebrity Fit Club's Anne Diamond, Sharon Marshall and Carole Malone, above
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|Publication:||Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)|
|Date:||Jun 19, 2007|
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