EastEnders star Clair Norris says that childhood bullies who taunted her about her weight helped her achieve acting success.
The 24-year-old who plays Bernadette Taylor in the BBC One series opened in a Panorama documentary about obesity.
Clair reveals she was the target of cruel taunts in elementary school but it happened so often that she didn’t realize it was bullying.
She said: “It all started with me in the named playground which now, as I get older, I realize it was bullying.
“I just see it as a name calling because it is going to happen one day and not the next. They will be my friends then not my friends.
“When it happens every day, you don’t associate it with a particular word or person.
BBC / Jack Barnes / Kieron McCarron)
“It took me a long time to realize it was real bullying and not okay and it was another student who told the teacher what was going on in the end.
“I think it prepared me for the industry I’m in and I feel a bit more seasoned in that sense.
“It has led me to success.”
In the documentary, which will be shown on Wednesday, Clair becomes emotional as she looks back on her upbringing in Greenwich, South East London, with her supportive mother Sam.
She hopes the program will help promote greater understanding and kindness towards obese and overweight people.
Explaining her own struggles, she said: “My weight fluctuates all the time.
“I have lost weight. I gained weight. Me and my mom, we talk about it. I’ve taken slimming classes but everyone works differently and my story isn’t for everyone.
“In the industry I am in, there will always be comments made about anything.
“It could be about my acting, it could be about my size, it could be about my makeup or what I wear.
“You have to deal with it but even if you get thinner you will still have people commenting.”
Clair took a four-month break from EastEnders to work on Panorama, called Obesity: Who cares if I’m older?
The program is investigating whether the Government’s strategy to tackle the UK obesity crisis is working 18 months after it was introduced during the pandemic.
According to official surveys, one in four adults in the UK is classified as obese and a third as overweight.
More than a quarter of children aged 10 and 11 are obese, with 15.4% classified as overweight.
In the documentary, Clair meets teenagers on a weight management plan in Sheffield and a young woman with stomach problems.
She also asked experts why some people find it difficult to lose weight and whether you can be overweight and still be healthy.
Clair was approached to star in the documentary last November after her repressed EastEnders character became addicted to diet pills while serving as a surrogate mother to Rainie and Stuart Highway.
“Initially it was about getting the help out there and the different routes – whether it was diet, weight loss surgery or injections,” she explains. When I was younger, there wasn’t much help.
“Critics who watch the documentary will understand better and find that for some, it’s not that simple.
“Not everyone who is overweight just stuffs food in their mouth or is inactive.
“There are so many different ways to explain why people are overweight and if we can accept that and understand that then I think people will be a lot prettier. The main thing I learned is that there’s not much mental health support to do specifically with weight, so that needs to be considered. “
Watching the documentary, Clair removed the gastric band, saying: “I’ve never considered a gastric band because I know what works for my body.
“But I know why people would go down that path if they feel it is their only option. I have learned to accept who I am.
“There have been so many years where you have struggled with it and when I want to lose weight, if I want to lose weight, that’s when I want to do it.
“I think this whole project has given me a little more confidence in being a role model because I don’t remember ever having that person when I was younger.”
She added: “Whichever path people take, it is a personal decision and not one-size-fits-all.
“This program is not about ways you can lose weight. It’s about getting to the root of the problem, not just ‘Let’s say stop eating and move more’.
“Ideally someone up there would see it and think, ‘Oh yeah, we need more funding, we need more support’.
“But ultimately, what I want from this is more understanding, for people to be kinder, and for the stigma and assumptions that people have about being overweight to change.”
Clair joined EastEnders as Bernie in 2017 straight out of acting college in Dartford, Kent and is well aware that appearing in the public eye has to be responsible.
“I know very well that I have people who follow me and relate to me, my face, my shape, my body or the clothes I wear. A lot of people have said that they see a lot in me and it makes them believe that there is someone out there and they don’t feel alone.”
Clair hopes this week’s documentary will show fans her true side after five years in Albert Square.
“My mother said a lot of the facial expressions I made on the show that I did when I was younger and a lot of similarities,” she said.
“But I can’t wait for people to see the documentary and see a different side of me and my childhood.”
Clair said she’s had incredible support from family, boyfriend Lewis Wood, 31, and friends including the cast of EastEnders, adding: “Everyone has been so supportive, encouraging and motivating. tablet me.
“They told me to look at what I’ve achieved, look ahead and stay positive.”
For now, she’s interested in being part of the soap’s famous Taylor family and hopes for more challenging storylines, but wants to explore more of the presentation, including a documentary follow-up.
“I’m really happy where I am, but would love to do another documentary as it’s a small look at such a big subject.”
The Big Picture, Obesity: Who Cares If I’m Bigger? on BBC One at 8:30pm on Wednesdays
https://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/eastenders-star-clair-norris-says-26726739 EastEnders star Clair Norris says bullies pushed her to become a successful actress