Bizarre body of work

23:46, May 11 2014
EXAMPLE TO ALL OF US: Katie Piper (left) is fronting Bodyshockers.

Katie Piper was once the victim of a horrifying assault which left her face disfigured. Now she is fronting the series Bodyshockers, which features people who are willingly, but occasionally unwittingly, disfiguring their own bodies, as James Rampton finds.

Six years ago, a stranger hurled sulphuric acid into the face of young British woman Katie Piper.

The horrific assault was orchestrated by another man, who had attacked Katie two weeks previously in a hotel room. The aspiring model went on to have more than 200 operations to repair the scar damage to her face.

Katie decided to waive her right to anonymity and made the Bafta-nominated documentary, Katie Piper: My Beautiful Face.

Now this courageous young woman is rightly viewed as an outstanding role model. She is a successful TV presenter and runs her own charity, The Katie Piper Foundation, to help people living with scars and burns.

So she is the ideal person to front Bodyshockers. In this series, she explores the explosion in all forms of body modifications, from tattoos, breast implants and multiple piercings, to stretched ears and massive hair extensions.

Why are tens of thousands of people enduring excruciating procedures in a bid to stand out from the crowd?

Piper is intrigued by the fact that so many people will voluntarily put themselves through painful procedures to change their faces and bodies in a way that they may one day be deeply unhappy about.

It is true that increasing numbers of people are having regrets about how they have disfigured their bodies.

In Bodyshockers, Piper introduces people who wish to reverse body modifications to those about to embark on more extreme body work. Can the regretters halt the wannabe modifiers?

In the series, Katie interviews Dominic, who after only three days with new boyfriend Stefan, had his name tattooed on his neck.

They split just three days later. And now the inked love tribute is causing difficulties between Dominic and his new boyfriend Darren.

She also meets Merlisa who, to shock her grandparents, had an immense and strange tattoo inked across her chest as an 18 year old.

But now that she is a mother, she is mortified every time she picks up her son at the school gates. So she is preparing to have a painful laser treatment to remove the tattoo.

In the programme, Piper brings together Merlisa and Dija, a striking 19 year old who is eager to have a lion's face inked across her whole back. Can Merlisa dissuade Dija from taking this drastic step?

The presenter, who has also appeared in Katie: My Beautiful Friends, Katie: The Science Of Seeing Again, and Hotel GB, is sympathetic towards those who through low self-esteem, love sickness, rebellious youth, ill-advised bets, body dysmorphia or plain drunkenness have transformed their bodies in this way.

"In life, you can't go around saying, 'Well, you chose that, so however unhappy you are, that's your fault and you're stuck with it'.

"I don't think that's a very reasonable way to look at things. If it's stopping them doing serious things in life that we all want to do, then we shouldn't be dismissive of that just because they chose it at the beginning."

Piper thinks viewers should avoid being judgmental about people who have modified their bodies. "I do understand people looking at visible differences, but I don't understand people being rude and
asking intrusive questions. We don't do that to somebody in a wheelchair, or I would hope people wouldn't.

"I think that's why it's important to raise awareness of burns and scars because some people don't know what it is or understand it, so they may say things that are inappropriate without realising it."

Given what she been through, Katie, who has just had her first child, a daughter called Belle, is in a good place at the moment.

She concludes that, "I enjoy what I do as a career. I'm thrilled the Foundation's going from strength to strength and I'm at a point where I didn't know I'd ever be. I'm really grateful.

"I definitely feel my life right now is at a high point, compared to the extreme lows."

Piper is an example to us all.

TV3, Thursday, 9.45pm

TV Guide

-TV Guide