Hollyoaks: Cleo McQueen to battle bulimia in hard-hitting new storyline

"I want to portray this accurately and responsibly," says actress Nadine Mulkerrin

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Hollyoaks has announced a major new storyline for Cleo McQueen who is set to battle with the eating disorder bulimia.

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The soap is working closely with eating disorder charity Beat on the plot which begins this week, and hopes to raise awareness of the sensitive issue.

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Troubled Cleo has endured a difficult few years since coming to live with her Auntie Myra in Hollyoaks – having confessed her stepdad Pete Buchanan sexually abused her from childhood she bravely gave evidence against him resulting in a prison sentence, she grieved for boyfriend Nathan Nightingale who fell to his death after a fight with his father Mac earlier this year, and recently broke top with Joel Dexter after learning he hid the truth about her cousin Bart’s death.

In episodes airing this week, Cleo is heartbroken when she discovers Joel has started a relationship with Sienna Blake. On New Year’s Eve, after seeing them together in the village, upset Cleo goes home and binges on food before purging and making herself sick for the first time…

“Cleo’s bulimia is triggered by feeling like an outsider,” says actress Nadine Mulkerrin, speaking about her character’s upcoming battle. “It’s her way of regaining control when she’s struggling to cope.

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“I’m honoured to take on Cleo’s latest issue-led storyline,” she continues. “We’re working closely with Beat and I met a brave young woman who shared her own experiences. I’ve also been doing my own research in order to portray it accurately and responsibly. I really want to do the storyline justice and tell a powerful story to educate people about eating disorders.”

Hollyoaks tackled the topic a decade ago to great acclaim with Hannah Ashworth’s eating disorder, which won several awards at the time for the story and for actress Emma Rigby’s performance.

More recently the show has been praised for dealing with mental health issues such as Lily Drinkwell’s self-harming and Scott Drinkwell’s depression, which won a Mind Media award.

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A spokesperson for Beat said: “Media can play a big part in how eating disorders are perceived, influencing attitudes, beliefs and actions. We support Hollyoaks as the more we talk about these serious mental illnesses the better we can break down stigma and, in turn, encourage individuals to seek treatment.”