Katie Piper’s life was devastated by a horrific assault, however in her darkest days this former atheist discovered emotional solace in an unlikely place, as she tells Julia Llewellyn Smith

At her lowest level, Katie Piper was in fixed, agonising ache. She was simply 24 when Danny Lynch – a person she’d dated for under two weeks – raped her then paid a hitman to assault her with sulphuric acid. Initially medical doctors doubted she’d survive. The acid had melted away her options, burnt her oesophagus and blinded her left eye. She spent 12 days in an induced coma adopted by seven weeks in intensive care, and needed to be fed by a tube for a yr.

As medical doctors needed to rebuild her face and imaginative and prescient, Katie, then an aspiring TV presenter and mannequin, discovered herself going through a lifetime of ongoing therapy. Previous mates shunned her after they went out partying. Remoted and depressed, she did one thing that by in the present day’s requirements appears astonishingly uncommon: she turned to faith. ‘I began going to church twice every week as a result of I used to be horribly lonely,’ she says. ‘It felt like a secure place. I felt I wouldn’t get abused or rejected and have nasty issues mentioned. And I used to be proper – it was the primary place after my accidents I may safely be in a crowd.’

It’s fascinating listening to Katie speak so overtly about her religion. Whereas nobody bats an eyelid at celebrities who meditate or imagine within the energy of crystals or horoscopes, it’s uncommon to listen to somebody so younger and glamorous praising old school church. ‘I believe Christianity wants a brand new PR,’ she jokes. ‘There are such a lot of misconceptions.’

Katie had by no means hidden her beliefs however nobody paid a lot consideration till she was appointed presenter of the BBC’s Songs of Reward final yr. ‘A great deal of individuals have been shocked. I had a number of constructive reactions but in addition some unfavourable and I misplaced [social-media] followers. Some thought I shouldn’t be influencing individuals both manner. Quite a lot of my followers are like-minded people who’ve confronted adversity. Some have come by the opposite aspect however others are nonetheless in a spot of anger, asking, “Why has this occurred?” and really feel anti any form of God.’ Katie understands this rage. Recalling her early days in hospital, she says, ‘My life was in tatters. I felt so empty, crammed with nothing however concern and disgrace. How may I ever get by this?’ It took a nurse saying, ‘Issues occur for a cause. God has nice issues in retailer for you’ to encourage Katie – who’d been introduced up an atheist – to start praying.

Nonetheless, she was so despairing she resolved that as quickly as she left hospital she’d take her personal life. Then ‘the weirdest feeling’ crept up on her. ‘I felt as if I used to be full of sunshine,’ she recalled. She heard a voice in her head saying, ‘All the things’s going to be OK. Your journey’s simply begun.’ After all it took various prayers for Katie to show her life round, however her religion has been her bedrock.

 My mum advised me: “you’re simply going to need to get on with it, pricey

In the present day, aged 38, she’s a panellist on Unfastened Girls, an envoy for haircare model Pantene and the writer of a number of bestselling books. Greater than one million individuals comply with her on Instagram and, having feared her disfigurement would stop her discovering love or having kids, she’s fortunately married to carpenter Richie Sutton and so they have two daughters, Belle, seven, and Penelope, three.

Though Katie’s packed schedule means she will’t now get to church usually, she nonetheless worships. ‘I do it in a really fashionable manner with an app referred to as Lectio 365 that every single day sends you a prayer then a conventional scripture associated to Bible studying, with recommendation on how one can apply them in a contemporary sense.’ There are some verses from the Bible included in her newest guide A Little Little bit of Religion, which provides a constructive affirmation for every single day of the yr, but in addition ideas from nice authors and even Katie’s mum Diane, a retired major faculty trainer (her father David is a barber), who, at certainly one of Katie’s lowest factors, firmly advised her, ‘You’re simply going to need to get on with it, pricey.’

‘Mum’s very empathetic and smooth, however she’s not gushy. Now if something dangerous occurs all of us use that phrase as a joke within the household WhatsApp group,’ grins Katie, who grew up with elder brother Paul and youthful sister Suzy in a Hampshire village. ‘But it surely was truly actually good recommendation about residing life as it’s, moderately than mourning what it isn’t. Whereas generally you should wallow, to be indignant, to have self-pity, you additionally have to know when to place that behind you.’

Her manner of doing that was to ascertain the Katie Piper Basis to supply burns and scars victims with providers akin to physiotherapy and psychotherapy – areas the place, as a affected person, she’d felt the NHS was missing. However as donations dried up throughout lockdowns, her rehab centre needed to shut and now consultations are solely accessible on-line. ‘We acquired half of the cash we had earlier than, however the want for our providers elevated by 5 occasions through the pandemic. Home violence has elevated, as has self-harm and in addition accidents. Some information exhibits that’s due to hand gel – it’s very flammable, and folks have been rubbing all of it up their forearms then going out to make use of the barbecue, lighting cigarettes, getting too near candles…’

It’s stunning to assume that she has endured greater than 400 operations, though she says she’s stopped counting: ‘I simply settle for that operations are a part of my life and so they’re a privilege. In numerous international locations individuals don’t have entry to one thing just like the NHS and get to some extent the place there’s no extra that may be completed for them. And truly,’ she continues mischievously, ‘an operation is a break day from the youngsters.’

Katie with husband Richie and daughters Penelope and Belle

Katie with husband Richie and daughters Penelope and Belle

 She’s equally philosophical in regards to the trolling she encounters on social media. ‘One in all my greatest affirmations is “Damage individuals harm different individuals”,’ she says. ‘You at all times know trolling comes from a spot of ache, so that you attempt to take the stance “Thank God I’m not in that a lot ache as a result of that will be horrible.”’

It’s onerous to not be humbled by Katie’s grace nevertheless it’s one thing she shrugs off. ‘For plenty of individuals, knowledge would include age however I wasn’t afforded that luxurious. Within the early days I used to be getting by in 24-hour home windows – seeing the physio, staying alive – moderately than having large, long-term plans. Then I started writing [her autobiography Beautiful]. That was cathartic and therapeutic and gave me a career, which does loads for you psychologically – provides you confidence and function and a distraction.”

Katie stresses that she’s not at all times in some Zen-like state of calm, although. ‘It’s an evolving factor. Up to now 18 months, probably the most strong individual may need struggled.’

It’s been particularly powerful for her seeing so little of her mum, who for the previous seven years has suffered from bowel most cancers, which unfold to the liver, lungs, pores and skin and lymph glands. ‘We didn’t see them for greater than a yr; Christmas on Zoom was s***. However now we are able to do a lateral-flow take a look at and go to see them. We simply don’t go to large occasions like we used to, however that’s nice; it’s not what you do collectively that’s vital, it’s the time you spend collectively.’

As soon as once more, it’s not possible to not be wowed by Katie’s positivity. ‘Nothing is ever placed on to us that we are able to’t take care of. The hardest journeys are given to the strongest troopers as a result of they’ll do them,’ she says. ‘So when life will get actually, actually s***ty, I believe, “Nicely, it have to be as a result of I can deal with it.” Different individuals may need a breakdown – and I wouldn’t need that, so I’ll take the brunt, I’ll be nice.’

 Katie’s new guide A Little Little bit of Religion is revealed by SPCK Publishing, value £14.99*. To donate to Katie’s charity, please go to katiepiperfoundation.org.ukTo order a duplicate for £12.74 till 31 October, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or name 020 3308 9193. Free UK supply on orders over £20.