Charli Howard: ‘Wearing lingerie empowers me to be confident’

The model and author, 32, on boarding school syndrome, salt obsession, believing in ghosts and getting some good advice

We moved as a family every few years – Germany, Belgium, London, Portsmouth – because my dad was in the Royal Navy. I found it tricky to navigate, but it made me independent. I can get up and go to a different country, live on my own and be quite comfortable.

Boarding school syndrome is real. To give me stability my parents sent me to one when I was 12, but I’m not good with authority or sleepovers. In order to cope I developed a massive binge-eating disorder. Suddenly I was bigger and people started making comments.

Eating disorders are tied into feelings of low self-esteem. They’re so much more than wanting to look good. During mine, I could have been hit by a train and I wouldn’t have given a shit. We have to stop telling girls that their body is indicative of worth.

At my worst, I was terrified of food and obsessed with cooking without salt or fat. Recovery was like beating a phobia. Now, I make a very good roast dinner. My nan is northern and her mushy carrots with loads of butter and pepper is always part of it.

‘This too shall pass’ is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given. There’s always something better coming. The other is, “Don’t go to places where you’re not welcome.” You don’t need to prove that you deserve to be there, or force yourself to be someone you’re not.

Over time you learn to know when enough is enough in a relationship. I’m a trier, but if you’re flogging a dead horse, just leave. After a bad breakup last year I started acting lessons. I’m quite British in that I find therapy difficult, so it’s been amazing to channel my emotions in a way that’s also fun.

I believe in ghosts. I lived in a creepy apartment in New York where two mirrors smashed at the same time, plates would fly out of the cupboard, a candle burned blue. The girl who lived in the room before me had the Bible thrown at her.

Lingerie empowers me to become more sexy and confident. I love wearing it, but I also have an introverted side. Most of the time I’m literally like a grandma, in my dressing gown and slippers, drinking tea.

It’s powerful when curvier models are on the cover of magazines, but the lack of bigger bodies on the catwalks this season was disappointing. It should be part of normality, not tokenised or seen as a trend. I hate to think of young girls with puppy fat feeling the same way I did.

Jacqueline Wilson and her characters are a huge inspiration when I write for children. I loved her growing up. She provided a quote for the cover of my first book and I thought, “Oh my God, it’s come full circle!”

A teacher told my mum not to have high hopes for me. Comments like that can stick, but I like to think I’ve proven them wrong.

Charli Howard’s edit, from £95 and in sizes from 32B to 34F and XS to XL, is now available at


Hayley Myers

The GuardianTramp

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