She suffered life-changing burns to her face and neck in 2008 after her jealous ex-boyfriend recruited an accomplice to target her in a pre-planned street attack outside her north London home.
And on Tuesday’s Loose Women, Katie Piper, 38, told her ‘Life Before Loose’ story, detailing how her world changed after the acid attack which left her disfigured and recalled the abuse hurled at her during her recovery.
As well as looking back on the moment that simultaneously changed her life and found her purpose, Katie also spoke fondly of happy childhood growing up in Hampshire, her teenage rebellious years and moving to London.
Brave: On Tuesday’s Loose Women, Katie Piper, 38, told her ‘Life Before Loose’ story, detailing how her world changed after the acid attack and the abused hurled at her during her recovery
Talking to panellists Christine Lampard, Coleen Nolan and Janet Street-Porter, Katie candidly reflected on how her world changed aged 24.
She admitted: ‘When I look back on it and reflect, it does feel like two separate lives. I’m 38, but I sort of feel in my 70s or 80s.
‘Because what’s happened to me, I’ve condensed so much into such a short period, and that happen to some people in their whole lifetime.
‘In some ways you can take that as a positive – life experiences enrich us, they build our character and we can go onto use that in our future, but in other ways it was a lot. It took its toll on me mentally and physically. Some of the physical changes are still ongoing in my medical journey.’
Throwback: In 2008, at age 24, a corrosive substance was thrown over her, during a terrifying ordeal which left her disfigured
Before: Katie was living a glamorous life in London before being attacked aged 24
She added: ‘Nobody prepares for that.. It was like my life was turned upside down in a matter of seconds. Lots of different things happen to people and what’s happened to me is obviously more visual, but we all experience trauma in varying degrees. Trauma’s a fact of life, but it needn’t be a life sentence.’
The sulphuric acid, some of which Katie had swallowed, blinded her in her left eye, and caused partial thickness and full thickness burns.
On how her parents dealt with the situation, Katie said: ‘It was quite complex because when people think of burns, you think of military heroes or burns in the kitchen or fireworks.
‘I don’t think any of us realised how much it affects so many functions and so many other internal medical problems that we had to educate themselves on…
‘It wasn’t an accident that happened to me. A long legal trial, several different charges that the whole family was affected – my siblings, my parents…’
Reflecting: ‘It does feel like two separate lives. I’m 38, but I sort of feel in my 70s or 80s because what’s happened to me… It took its toll on me mentally and physically’
Katie also reflected on why she made her first documentary – Katie: My Beautiful Face – in which she spoke candidly about what had happened to her.
She explained: ‘How people reacted was my motivation to do the documentary because initially I looked very different to how I sit here today, I wore a face mask for two years, I had a shaved head, very purple/red appearance…
‘People reacted by asking me to leave shops, shouting at me in the street. I wasn’t famous, I wasn’t known, people didn’t understand why I wore a mask…
‘I wanted to explain people why I looked this way, educate people, relieve myself of that isolation]… I’m not contagious, I’ve not going something which means I need to be rejected from society.’
Recovery: ‘People reacted by asking me to leave shops, shouting at me in the street. I wasn’t famous, I wasn’t known, people didn’t understand why I wore a mask…’ explained Katie
The presenter also opened up about how Simon Cowell helped her in her journey to set up the Katie Piper Foundation, where she mentors burns survivors.
Katie – who recently received an OBE – said: ‘Taking back that empowerment and having that voice became very important to me….I believe that in life there are some things we’re sometimes out of control, we’re the captain of our own ship. Your life is ultimately in your hands… what a privilege to find your purpose at 24.’
Elsewhere, Katie reflected on her ‘great’ childhood, growing up in a small village, recalling: ‘I was a tomboy. I had a dreadful haircut – a bowl haircut. My dad was a barber in the local village, and my mum a teacher, so you either had a haircut from my dad or detention from my mother.’
Helping others: The presenter also opened up about how Simon Cowell helped her in her journey to set up the Katie Piper Foundation, where she mentors burns survivor
She added, ‘It was innocent, I never had any real pain or trauma at all growing up. My mum and dad were invested in us… They weren’t about big ambitions, but about independence and making your own way in life.’
Speaking about her teenage years, Katie said she was a ‘disappointing’ teenager. She revealed, ‘I grew up in such a small town, I really wanted city life… I rebelled, I was the smoker, the drinker, I used to jump out of the window to go out at night, I pierced my nose… used to dye my hair with food colouring because I couldn’t access hair dye.’
Katie then went on to say she studied a college hair and beauty course, admitting: ‘I wasn’t really academic. It wasn’t because I wasn’t bright, I just wasn’t interested… I was more interested in going out and boyfriends.’
Family: ‘It wasn’t an accident that happened to me. A long legal trial, several different charges that the whole family was affected – my siblings, my parents…’ said Katie of how her family coped (Pictured with her mum in a childhood snap)
Aspiring for more, Katie moved to London ‘to seek out a different life’, moving into a house share with actors, dancers, those in theatre, promo girls, which ultimately became the path she took.
She told: ‘It felt exciting, who knew where it may or may not take me? It was more money than I was earning at that time .I worked on shopping telly selling solar panel lights, quiz shows until 4 in the morning, furniture catalogues and adverts,…’
Katie explained that there was ‘a lot of partying around this.’ She said, ‘ Monday-Thursday, clubbing, drinking, eating. I’ve always been a real people person. I’ve always grabbed life and loved glamorous things.’
Katie also revealed she watched Loose Women back then, telling the panel: ‘I always wanted to be in that world and talking on telly, connecting with people, I used to watch Loose Women, I’ve watched it since I was a child. I think Coleen Nolan was back on it, even then!’
Fond memories: Katie also spoke fondly of happy childhood growing up in Hampshire, her teenage rebellious years and moving to London