’90s supermodel and memoir author Carre Otis says beating her addiction to heroine and cocaine was nowhere near as difficult as she found overcoming a twenty-year long battle with anorexia. In an interview with recovery site, The Fix, Otis shares the moment she knew she needed to get help, the hardest part of recovery, and what modeling was really like in the ’80s and ’90s. (Hint: it involved a lot of drugs.)
Clearly, that’s no surprise to anyone, but Otis’ description of the prevalence and laissez-faire attitude towards cocaine is still shocking.
I’d love to say that’s not going on now, but I’m not a great barometer for what’s happening now in the industry. I do think that in the 80s and 90s, there was sort of this sort of unprecedented fast decadence. Cocaine was just what people were doing. You’re getting ready for hair and make-up and people are doing blow off the table. On top of that, you’re exposed to this grueling pace where your life is given up. You’re working until 2 AM and then going on go-sees all day. People used cocaine for weight maintenance, but also as a way of adapting to that lifestyle.
Otis says things didn’t get ugly for her until she tried heroine.
It was when I started to get into heroin. I was a full-blown user within a couple of months—in way over my head—and the depression around the come down and being addicted was devastating. It was such a drag. Who wants to sit around all day rubbing their nose and nodding out? It’s not a way to live.
As for anorexia, she knew she had a problem when she was diagnosed with heart disease and had to undergo surgery at the age of 30. “The doctor asked what my diet was like and I had to sit down and realize it’s not normal, and hadn’t been normal for about 20 years,” she explains. “I had to start eating.”
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But unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as easy as that.
With drug addiction, you just can’t do [the drugs] anymore. The one time I took pain medication after having surgery, I was so violently ill between nausea and constipation that I was like, “This sucks! I can’t believe this was such a big part of my life at one point.” My eating disorder was so woven into my everyday life, though. With eating, you have to find a way to gain that freedom and eat with the emotions of feeling fat, of feeling out of control for having that cake and not saying, “I’m not gonna eat for three days because I had that cake.” It took a while, but I have a great relationship with food now.
What’s even better is that Carre Otis has been so candid about her career in both its highs and lows. While we’ve been backstage and can safely say that no one is blowing lines off the makeup table, the modeling industry still isn’t remotely regulated — especially compared to other entertainment fields which regularly employ minors, like acting. But for every interview Otis gives, there’s a little more awareness, a little more inspiration, and a little more understanding of the pressures put on impressionable teenage girls.