Despite battling life threatening anorexia, Emmerdale actressÂ Gemma Oaten proves that you can achieve your dreams no matter what life throws at you.
Although her fellow cast and crew members were aware of the huge struggle the young actress faced daily, Gemma has only just found the courage to admit it to the world.
She opened up about her deeply personal experience with anorexia, hoping that her experience with the growing illness will encourage young girls to pursue their dreams, no matter what obstacles lay in their path.
At just aged 10, after cruel jokes and jibs in infant school lead her to feel conscious about her weight. Ms Oaten plummeted into a whirlwindÂ of anorexia that she battled to gain control over for 12 long years.
Her early teens were far from normal. The serious illness disrupted her education causing her to miss months of school. It also forced her to separate from her family on several occasions when sectioned into a unit for trouble teens, where she almost died.
Yet astonishingly Gemma never gave up hope of becoming an apsiring actress.
When she finally won her fight against the eating disorder, armed with the determination that saw her healthy once again, she set off toÂ fulfill her acting ambitions.
Her hard work soon paid off when Emmerdale bosses saw her spark and flair on screen and hired to play RachelÂ Breckle – the first member of a new family joined the popular soap.
A wide smiled Gemma, 27, explains: “It’s a dream come true, but I fought hard for it. Going through all that made me so determined.
“It took over my life and there were times I just wanted to die, but there was still some tiny bit of fight left in me.
“It’s hard to talk about, but if one person reads my story and believes they can get better it will make it all worthwhile.”
Gemma knew she always wanted a career in acting. She got her first taste of it when she toured with a production of Evita at just aged ten.
The eating disorder first hit her when problems began with bulling in school.
She recalls: “I looked at my belly and thought it was fat so started cutting back on what I ate. I couldn’t control what people said, but I could control what went inside me.”
Anorexia quickly engulfed her life and she was at her most severe at the tender age of 11.
Alarm bells rang when she lost so much weight that she was too weak to even walk the few yards to school.
Gemma continues: “I was at my worst then. I’d have five cornflakes and a sherry glass of water a day.”
Fearing for her life the young teenager was admitted to a residential adolescent unit psychiatric ward, where received around the clock care for three months.
Unfortunately the positive affects of the treatment did not last long. Just six months after falling ill again at 14 Gemma was hospitalized and once more at age 17 after being on the verge of having a fatal heart attack.
Reminiscing she sadly said: “I knew I was putting Mum and Dad through hell, but I just couldn’t stop.”
Things only got better when a close friend, who had been her first love, committed suicide.
The star tearfully said: “I thought, ‘What am I doing?’ I was basically killing myself too. I owed it to my parents to change.”
Determined to gain full control over her life and the disorder that was ironically eating away at her, Gemma booked herself into a therapist and successfully beat the illness by 22 years-old.
Keen and free to pursue her acting dream, after Graduating from Drama Studio London, she fired off over 500 letters to people in the industry. The gutsy move paid off and she was short listed for a role in ITV’s Coronation Street but finally landed the part of feisty Rachel in Emmerdale.
The actress hopes that speaking out about her troubled past teamed with a happy ending, will inspire others to battle through lifes challengs to archive their hearts desire.