“You are beautiful always – but I need you to eat. I’m begging you”

A girl and her weight. A struggle many young teens must come to terms with but, for Charlotte Hugo, it was a battle that nearly killed her. She explains her fight against Anorexia to feature writer Samantha Johnston.

Charlotte Hugo always hated hospitals, and this visit was no different. Sat beside her dying grandad, clenching his tired hand, tears streaming down her face, he turned to her and said something she would never forget. “You are beautiful always, but I need you to eat. I’m begging you.”

Charlotte, now 21, was 11 years old. She lived in a town just south of Lincoln with her parents and older brother. She went to school and was happy and active, even competing in Riverdance competitions. She loved to dance.

All that ended the day she collapsed.

Being rushed into Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham, Charlotte had never been more scared. It was juvenile arthritis and she needed to take steroids. Steroids that caused unwelcome weight gain.

“From dancing five times a week to not being able to move made me hate myself, especially the way I looked,” Charlotte says, running her hand over her stomach.

She made the decision to start going to the gym and dieting, a decision she didn’t realise would put her life at risk. “It became an obsession, I had to be skinny, I just had to be,” she says.

She began eating less, until eventually she would eat nothing at all, sometimes for days. It would make her sick. She would faint. She was losing weight. Rapidly.

“My mum and dad started to panic. They didn’t know what to do. I remember hearing my dad on the phone. He was crying, begging the doctor to help me. It was so sad,” Charlotte began to cry, “I wanted to tell them not to worry, but that’s their job I guess.”

“When I was 15, I hit my lowest point. I was in the shower and fainted after not eating for three days. I hit my head on the bathroom sink and was bleeding badly. I don’t remember much after that, but I woke up in the hospital,” Charlotte says. She was referred to start therapy after the doctor noticed how underweight she was. 

“I hated it. My parents had to take time off work because I couldn’t be left alone, the man I had to speak to was annoying and I didn’t like the activities he made me do.” Charlotte was told to remove all the mirrors in her house and start writing a journal of things she liked about herself.

Every week, she would go to therapy and be weighed. Her weight was still decreasing. It came to breaking point five weeks in when my therapist told my parents I was going to die,” Charlotte says. “I was dying, and it was my fault. I can’t eat even though I know I should.”

Charlotte’s father, Gary Hugo, drove her home from that appointment without saying a word. Once at home he became aggressive, throwing plates and glasses at the kitchen wall and screaming. He knew he couldn’t save his daughter. He felt helpless. 

Charlotte noticed a change in her family after that day. They started taking control. “My mum had started meal plans and asking me what foods I would enjoy eating the most,” she says.

“My brother would sit with me at the dining table for hours until I had eaten enough. It was sweet how much effort they were putting in but it wasn’t helping. I had to change on my own.” Charlotte hadn’t spoken to her dad in a week. She couldn’t face him. A lot of Charlotte’s family had stopped talking to her. Her grandparents, her cousins. They were all afraid she would die and didn’t know what to say to her. “I got really lonely, she says.

A visit to her see her grandad is what inspired Charlotte to recover. “He was dying. It was one of the last times I would get to see him, and he spent that time asking me to eat. I realised just how selfish I was being. I knew then that I had to get better because I wanted my life to go back to normal.” 

Charlotte started eating again, small amounts, but it was a start. “It takes away your freedom, I was emotionless and numb for years and it tore my family apart.” She apologised to her family for the pain she had put them through and asked for help getting her calorie count up. They worked together and supervised her eating until she was a stable weight. 

It took six years.

“Recovery was the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do but it was worth it. I’m alive and at university studying a degree I love,” Charlotte said, “I’ve found an online community of girls all in recovery that I talk to which helps. I’ve made so many new friends and I’m happy. My grandad was right, I am beautiful, and now, I actually believe that.” 

** If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, contact Beat at 0808 801 0677

De Montfort asks: ‘Are You Okay?’

By Erik Dawson

De Montfort University Students’ Union launched its ‘Are You Okay?’ campaign to help combat mental health and wellbeing issues on campus this Monday (NOV30).

The campaign has been created to give students a space to let the university know how they are feeling, and what they can do to support them.

In a video posted to the DSU website, Academic Executive Laura Flowers said: “I think especially this time of year it can be tough. It can be harder for everybody let alone in a pandemic.”

‘Are You Okay?’: Academic Executive, Laura Flowers introduces the campaign.

‘Are You Okay’ is currently a survey focused on isolation and loneliness at DMU, with each result helping the university create an action plan to help students.

Ex DMU student Paschal Nnedu is no stranger to the negative effects that university life can result in.

“I got depressed and suffered with really bad anxiety while I was at University, the pressure of deadlines coupled with bad results made me feel like I didn’t have what it took.” He said.

The ‘Are You Okay’ survey aims to support the university’s existing health and wellbeing services, by offering a more personalised space where students issues can be identified easily.

Paschal said: “I was aware there was a service to help, but waiting times were so long that I never used them, especially as I didn’t want to take up the limited space instead of people who had it worse than me.”

The campaign will constantly be adapting to cater to students needs throughout the year.

“I don’t know what the next steps are going to be. What I can tell you is it is going to be reactive to exactly what you need.” Academic Executive Laura said in the video.

‘Are You Okay’ has been well received on campus and even by ex-students. Paschal said: “It’s a great campaign and makes speaking about your issues so much easier and more accessible.”

Over the coming weeks, the scheme will highlight support services available, as well as introducing competitions and activities for students to get involved in.

More information can be found on the DSU website as well as their social media accounts, and the survey is available here.

OPINION: Mass hysteria over the coronavirus and the social impact it could have

OPINION By Ben Sanderson

I was privileged enough to receive a thankful and detailed response to my earlier article about mass hysteria which addressed chiefly the economic consequences of this upsurge in self-isolation and near-lockdown, which have the potential to be disastrous.

The detailed response raised a few issues which I had not considered, which may turn out to mean so much more than potentially the greatest financial crash since 1929 and biggest state intervention in the economy since the immediate aftermath of World War II.

Has anyone thought about how the mental state of human beings is affected by an extended stay at home?

Depression is bound to rise. There is no catalyst for depression quite like boredom, and extended stays at home filled with no work and few passtimes will make many people question the point of everything.

My brother, in Year 11, is having a mini existential crisis dealing with the fact that his GCSEs, which his whole time at school has built up to, will not take place this Summer.

While this is a case which will see a recovery, many will not. Think of those people who at around this time may have received the promotion they had been working for their entire careers and the opportunity that had long been their goal.

Knowing this virus and the Twitter-driven hysteria surrounding it has stopped them from that goal will surely make them feel the world has come crashing down on them.

Image courtesy of US National Park Service: The coronavirus

People’s aims will change, sometimes for the worse. Many will fail to keep themselves busy. People will be bored out of their minds and faced with precious little to do will slump into depression.

You may not be one of the people this happens to. If so, congratulations. Many will not be blessed with such a controlled mental state. They are going to face a difficult few months indeed.

Relationships are bound to turn ugly. Facing a long period of isolation with partners, relatives and loved ones will fuel in many cases some contempt over time. Domestic abuse is surely going to rise the longer people are stuck at home together.

If and when there is a lockdown, which there is clearly the propensity for, people will be stuck at home with each other for far too long for many to bear. Things will get very, very ugly.

With the cash-strapped police, hit by years of senseless austerity cuts, losing power to arrest people, adding to the fact that many domestic abuse cases terrifyingly go unreported, taken into account, there is serious potential people may get killed.

Child support services may be forced into cancelling appointments to check up on vulnerable children, which is going to leave them in the control of dangerous parents.

In addition, the racism and bitterness fuelled by the fact that the virus originated in China means the situation will turn even uglier.

Image courtesy of Bay Harbour Islands: The coronavirus

Now, this is all worst-case scenario stuff, much like the hysteria in the other school of thought, but the longer this mass isolation goes on, the more likely these things become.

The response to a lot of the hysteria has been to think it selfish to think that isolation is not a sensible response to the virus considering the people who may be affeced.

All who disagree with the hysteria are very concerned for them. Nobody would wish this virus on anyone. What has happened here and around the world has been a terrible tragedy.

In a very good point the response raised, worldwide fear has proven to be very dangerous throughout history. People in fear do not act logically and when people act irrationally bad things tend to happen.

Bitterness, apathy, wrath and hatred, the ugly side of humanity, will be empowered by the longer stays in self-isolation.

Many dismiss the economic consequences of the mass isolation and hysteria as sacrifices we have to make. I cannot imagine anyone will want to take these kinds of risks, though.

There is petrifying potential for some very bad things to happen over the coming months. If the stock market crash and job losses don’t strike a chord with people, hopefully this will.

There are far more worrying human consequences to the coronavirus than simply those who get it. We are facing a Draconian world order and only with temperance and less hysteria will we emerge from it with civility.

Caroline Flack: Let’s stop blaming everybody for her death

OPINION by Ben Sanderson

Here we go again.

Everyone’s favourite villains, the English media, are apparently at fault for Caroline Flack’s suicide on Saturday.

They reported on her assault charge and her death and not a lot in between, and so led the charge against Caroline Flack, bullying the 40-year-old ex-presenter of Love Island into a position she could tolerate no longer, so say those on Twitter and Facebook who now seek moral vigilance via the usual hatred of The Sun, The Daily Mail and every other newspaper which even dared report on Caroline Flack’s assault charge.

The reason why her assault charge and death have been reported to such great lengths is because of their great news value. These are massive stories that millions of people want to read and the appeal of the English media, which few other national media outlets hold, means that these reports are read by people not just in the UK but all over the world – including, oftentimes, by the very people blaming them for the suicide.

The media also reported on how Lewis Burton, her 27-year-old tennis player boyfriend whom the assault charge was against, sent a Valentine’s Day message via Instagram declaring his love for her, furthering the outreach of his support.

The Sun removed an article concerning a Valentine’s Day card sent to Miss Flack by someone who wrote “I’ll f*cking lamp you!” (in reference to her assault using a lamp as a weapon), but even then this was neither written or endorsed by The Sun, and has most likely been removed due to the poor taste of its unfortunate timing.

In all these cases, the media have reported the facts and have done so to further public discourse. That is their job. It may suit a lot of people to blame The Sun and The Daily Mail for everything that is wrong with the world, but on this instance it is entirely unjustified.

The reach of the blame has reached such worrying levels that there are two petitions, both with hundreds of thousands of signatures, for “Caroline’s Law” to be enacted to regulate press conduct surrounding supposed bullying, prompting Nick Ferrari to correctly quip, “Where was the bullying?”, and to call it “insanity”.

If the media cannot report on news which millions are interested in, which is the only crime they can actually be charged with from all this, they cannot do their work. The fact is that the media had as much to do with Miss Flack’s suicide as they had to do with the origin of the coronavirus: zilch.


The front pages of The Sun and The Daily Star in the wake of Miss Flack’s untimely death

The ill-founded crusade against them has been in turn reclaimed by them to offload to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), who, despite Mr Burton’s not supporting legal action against Miss Flack, pressed ahead with the case to charge her with assault and take her to court, for a court date on Wednesday, 4th March which shall of course now not go ahead.

Again, this does not stand to be fair. The CPS have at many times, including just last month in The Guardian, been accused of not doing enough to defend victims of domestic abuse cases and not taking sufficient action against domestic violence. This is because they give in too quickly when a victim (who may have been coerced and inevitably often has been) relents and decides not to press charges.

The action against Caroline Flack was hence honouring the commitment to defending victims of domestic violence. It is very necessary that the CPS defend victims of domestic violence because they usually cannot or will not defend themselves.

On Good Morning Britain this morning, legal expert Joshua Rozenberg explained why the CPS take action when victims will not and why they have to: “[Say a man and woman] live together [and there is domestic violence reported] and the woman has second thoughts and she says I want to withdraw the charges… or is coerced as you might well imagine could happen in other circumstances.

“Should the CPS say ‘oh well, don’t need to worry about it any more, because she has been persuaded to drop the charges?’ It’s not up to her. It’s up to the state to decide.”

Concerning allegations they continued the prosecution even though Miss Flack forewarned of mental troubles because of it, Mr Rozenberg said: “I’m sure that the CPS is sympathetic as we all are this morning about this tragedy, but if you could simply say to the CPS, ‘I am vulnerable, I am likely to take my own life’, well, a lot of people would say that, and it wouldn’t be true.

“It’s very difficult for the CPS to judge, we don’t know what evidence Caroline Flack’s lawyers gave to the CPS about her state of mind.”

He added that a charge would be dropped in extreme cases such as what this one turned into but as of yet we have no reason to believe that the CPS knew it would escalate to this stage.

Nasir Afzal, a former CPS prosecutor in the North-West, also weighed in that using 999 call recordings, statements, interviews and police body cameras, the CPS managed to convict for 120 domestic homicides all without the use of victim evidence, via Twitter, as reported in the same article which features Mr Rozenberg’s comments.

Miss Flack and Mr Burton’s case was different, as there was no serious injury and he was clearly the far stronger of the two of them, but exceptions cannot be made for the specifics, and it also cannot be ignored that domestic violence is an issue which faces men as well.

They have been accused of using Miss Flack’s case as a show trial, akin to Adam Johnson’s excessive sentence for child sex crimes, but this is important too. When celebrities are made examples of, it sends a deterrent to people against committing these crimes.

This is the low ebb of being a celebrity. Those who want to enjoy a rich and famous lifestyle and are lucky enough to lead one have to be mindful that publicity is a two-way street and that their behaviour hence has to be impeccable.

It is an ugly truth, but there are a million and one people who would jump at the chance to do Caroline Flack’s job, and for stepping out of line, she had to expect a backlash. The CPS raised awareness of domestic violence by prosecuting Miss Flack and this is very important in protecting vulnerable men and women nationwide.

The Twitter trolls who have abused Miss Flack online (or those who, like the card sender, did so in print) have also been blamed by the moral warrior brigade on that same site, but this is frankly ridiculous.

Again, part and parcel of being famous is that one receives flak in equal accord with fandom and strength is needed to rise above this. There was far more support on social media for Caroline Flack, anyway – her social media was consistently full of fans expressing love and support for her and this continued right the way through the mire of her assault charge.

There was even a consensus that although Laura Whitmore was a good host, Love Island  was Caroline Flack’s gig.

Besides, are we really going to accuse @akj78987 (that’s not a real Twitter handle, I checked) or whomever else, of having played a part in her death? No!

That would be ludicrous. When everything else was going on, some nobody having a go at her (at which point she would have been rigorously defended by most other nobodies anyway) would not have had such a dramatic effect.

The point to this whole article is to address a major issue surrounding Miss Flack’s death: Why is anybody being blamed at all?

Caroline Flack killed herself. Nobody else did.


Caroline Flack (picture unedited by Scottish Beauty Blog via flickr.com) was found dead at her house she had been renting in Stoke Newington

She was fearing the loss of her job, her image and reputation, her relationship (Lewis Burton still loved her, but after the charge it would never have been the same again) and her life as she knew it.

In amongst all her sadness, she broke and committed suicide.

Perhaps an opinion should be that she should have been stronger in the face of these struggles, but that would be a worthless contribution. The only lesson that can be learned from this is a valuable one to those of us still on this Earth: to be stronger when faced with these issues ourselves and carry on, because suicide is never way out, but a surrender – and there is light at the end of the tunnel.

There always is, so long as we hope.

It is tragic that Caroline Flack is dead and what we need to do is acknowledge the tragedy and mourn.

Creating a blame game using lies and half-truths to throw more people under the bus, due to aggravation, only makes the event more grotesque than it already is.

Rest in Peace, Caroline Flack. From the reaction felt nationwide, it is clear you will be sorely missed.

It was nobody else’s fault, so let’s not blame anyone, and come together to mourn.

Art classes project provides therapeutic support in Leicester

by Cristina Olaru

A portrait artist has developed an art class project in Leicester, offering ‘a new way to socialise’ and relax through painting.

Ali Agayev, from Azerbaijan, the founder of Leicester Art Zone and member of Beyond Borders UK, has created, along with few volunteers, a place for relaxation through art, where anyone interested in learning to paint or improve their skill can join.

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Artist Ali Algayev drawing at British Museum in London (photo: Instagram page)

Leicester Art Zone is a non-profit organisation for artists and art lovers, launched in March 2014, with the main purpose to morally support everyone – in particular people in need of special care.

Artist Ali Agayev, 45, said: “Our aim is to look after elderly people, disabled people, to not let them stay at home, feeling down. We want to bring them here to enjoy the art and to relax. Many of them come here and paint and they forget their condition.”

Moreover, the artist expressed his genuine desire to bring Leicester Art Zone to an academic level, where individuals can learn the art of painting and drawing.

Artist Ali Agayev, said: “My aim is to see Leicester Art Zone as an art academy with a big gallery. Anyone who comes to Leicester has to visit us because this place will have beautiful paintings to inspire visitors.”

Ali’s passion for art emerged from the joy that he found in painting and drawing at the early stage of studying Electrical Engineering at Leicester College.

The artist said: “I found more joy in art than electronics. Then I felt in myself like a power saying I can make beautiful art and I followed this route.

“When I started many people laughed about me, about my drawings, but with the time they’ve seen I am getting there, I am getting better – and when I made Leicester Art Zone everybody again, was not supportive, but you see, I got a vision.

“I want to create beautiful things with Leicester Art Zone and thorough this project everybody to feel free to come and join, have a coffee, a laugh and paint together. I see it like a new way to socialise.

“Let’s go for a coffee and draw something!”

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Leicester Art Zone painting class (photo: Cristina Olaru)

Leicester Art Zone also organizes day trips to museums throughout England, history lessons about the art of painting, competitions, exhibitions and socialising evenings with DJ, food and drinks. During the week it offers a wide range of art classes, where anyone interested in art and its benefits can participate.

The art classes are designed for beginners too. Artists such as Olabayo Ishola, a De Montfort University PhD Data Privacy graduate, are volunteering to help eager art lovers to develop their painting skills.

Mr Ishola said: “I joined Leicester Art Zone about eight months ago just to have an extra-curricular activity to do away from my PhD, but after meeting Ali, getting to know him and seeing his passion to help people through art, I decided to volunteer as a manager and help achieve his goal.”

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DMU PhD graduate Olabayo Ishola (photo: Cristina Olaru)


Media students from De Montfort University had filmed and photographed one of the art classes for an engaging promo video coming soon for Leicester Art Zone.

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DMU Students Henry, Thomas and Ben (photo: Cristina Olaru)


Mr Agayev encouraged people to do what they love and to pursue it, because eventually it will happen by having the vision and working hard.

He said: “You will get there in couple of years’ time and you will benefit from it in five years’ time and then you will enjoy your life because you are doing what you love to do.”

More information about the project: http://leicesterartzone.org/about-us/