Charlie King: Towie star discusses ‘reaching depths of despair’ with body dysmorphia in parliament

·2 min read
Charlie King (Ash Knotek/Shutterstock)
Charlie King (Ash Knotek/Shutterstock)

Former The Only Way is Essex star Charlie King has discussed his struggles with body dysmorphia and coming to terms with his sexuality in parliament.

Speaking at the Health and Social Care Committee meeting on Tuesday 17 May, King said that he believes his body dysmorphia – a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance – can be traced back to his experience of bullying at an all boys’ school.

“I wasn’t one of the popular kids,” he said. “I was terribly bullied… Sitting here now as a 36-year-old man I see a trauma from school that must have given me an in-built insecurity.”

He added: “It’s been quite well documented that I struggled with my sexuality and came out – I hate that term – quite late, at 29 years old… I’d spent many years through my teens and twenties with an internal turmoil and I struggled with my own identity. One of the only things I could control was my image.”

King, who starred in Towie from 2012 to 2017, continued: “Because I wasn’t sure of my social circuit or where to put myself, the gym became my best friend. It was a way of me being able to work on myself and be around people but not have to say too much.”

He said he became even more aware of his body image while appearing on the ITV reality show Towie, adding: “Then came social media and people’s public opinion of you, and I became quite a visual character… because I hadn’t identified with my sexuality, I was going above and beyond to try to be something I wasn’t. I wanted to be like the cool guys… I wanted to fit in with them…”

King explained how he noticed his followers responded the most when he shared topless photos of himself showing his six-pack. During lockdown, he said he began to feel isolated and started obsessing over his nose, which had been broken around 15 years ago.

King said he decided to get a nose job but it “didn’t go to plan”, instead leaving him with scar tissue and a collapse columella. He had to wait a year for his nose to heal before it could be fixed by the surgeon, and he said that in that time he “reached the depths of my despair”.

“I’ve had to move in with my mum right now because I couldn’t earn money,” he told the committee. “I was depressed.”

King told the committee that he believed surgeons should check in with potential patients to see what their mental state is when they pursue cosmetic procedures.

Those in attendance praised him for his “brave” and “moving” story.

If you have been affected by this article, you can contact the following organisations for support: actiononaddiction.org.uk, mind.org.uk, nhs.uk/livewell/mentalhealth, mentalhealth.org.uk.