Former supermodel Carré Otis starved herself, abused laxatives, did cocaine, chain-smoked and exercised nonstop to stay skinny at the height of her modeling career in the 1980s.
While Otis looked healthy on the outside, she was actually malnourished and exhausted, and repeatedly lied to fans and to the media when asked about her diet and workout regimen.
"Whenever asked about my diet/workout, I would cite a healthy routine, the kind touted in women's magazines," Carré told Australian Vogue Aug. 20.
Otis often claimed she did Jazzercise workouts and lifted weights three days a week, when in reality, she exercised a minimum of two hours a day every single day, and subsisted on a diet of cigarettes and coffee. As a result, the 5-foot-10, blue-eyed beauty's weight dropped to an anemic 100 pounds.
"I said I ate oatmeal for breakfast, chicken and veggies for lunch, and fish and salad for dinner, along with a healthy snack like yogurt," Carré, 44, recounted. "But in reality, my big diet staple was four to six cups of black coffee per day, avoiding even a splash of skim milk since I was terrified of extra calories. And to stave off hunger, I went through a few packs of cigarettes daily. Cigarettes with coffee gave me an energy boost."
As a result of the around-the-clock caffeine and nicotine buzz, Otis suffered from chronic insomnia during her twenties, often sleeping less than two hours a day. Even though she looked healthy in sexy photo spreads for Vogue, Elle and Sports Illustrated, Otis was actually exhausted, cranky and hungry from the constant starvation and punishing workouts.
"My body was perpetually fatigued from little to no sleep, over-exercised muscles, starvation and the relentless stream of criticisms inside my own head," recalled Carré. The situation came to a head when she was forced to undergo heart surgery at age 30 due to the years of chronic self-inflicted physical abuse.
"One morning, I was sent to the emergency room with heart palpitations and an irregular heartbeat — a culmination of 20 years of starvation," she recounted. "Turns out I'd created three holes in my heart and I needed an emergency ablation surgery."
While Otis is now healthy and has overcome her drug addiction and anorexia, her story echoes similar accounts of rampant eating disorders, chain-smoking and drug abuse in the modeling industry, where a size zero is the holy grail.
Otis says letting go of neurotic perfectionism has made her happier and healthier in the long run. "Today, thankfully, my happiness has nothing to do with my weight or feedback from others," she said. "And perfection of any kind is no longer the goal.
"I wish I could've told those young fans what I've finally learned to tell myself: Reality — imperfection — is where the real beauty is."