Aimi Robinson racked up debts of £85,000 living the high life before banks finally pulled the plug
Originally published 23 June 1999;
Trying to copy the extravagant lifestyles of A-list celebrities left Aimi Robinson in so much debt, she was forced to declare herself bankrupt twice -the first time when she was just 21.
But despite this, she still can’t stop spending beyond her means. And Aimi isn’t alone -- last week, shocking research revealed a surge in bankruptcies among young women.
In 2008, 55 per cent of bankrupts under 24 were female, as they succumbed to the temptation of spending sprees in a bid to imitate the lives of celebrities like Victoria Beckham and Paris Hilton.
“I can’t go without new clothes, Botox, or nail and hair extensions. I’ve got low self-esteem and shopping boosts my confidence."
“I know people think I’m crazy, but I can’t help myself. It’s an addiction,” claims Aimi, 34, who lives in Cooden, East Sussex, with her 35-year-old builder boyfriend Marc Veness.
“I can’t go without new clothes, Botox, or nail and hair extensions. I’ve got low self-esteem and shopping boosts my confidence. I love the glitz of the celeb lifestyle - it gives me a buzz to feel like Posh. But my bankruptcies mean I can’t buy a house, which really upsets me.”
Aimi’s descent into debt started when she split with the father of her son, Harry, now 13, in June 1997. “I had a part-time job as a beauty therapist, but was on the minimum wage,” explains Aimi. “I didn’t want to move back home, so I used credit cards to pay the bills and rent on my two-bed flat. I was so depressed and lonely after the split, I’d go clothes shopping every day to cheer myself up.”
In just two years Aimi ran up £20k of debt. “I buried my head in the sand, which I realise was stupid,” she says. By June 1999, she could no longer afford the repayments on her cards.
She says: “I went to the Citizens Advice Bureau and they advised me to borrow £350 from my parents to pay to declare myself bankrupt. They hadn’t had a clue about my situation and were upset when they found out. But they agreed to pay it for me.
“I didn’t feel ashamed, just relieved. I couldn’t believe I didn’t have to pay back anything. But I didn’t realise it meant I wouldn’t be able to get credit cards, loans, a mortgage or even a contract mobile phone. My family thought I’d been silly, but felt sorry for me too.”
She says: “Some nights I’d earn £20k from rich men. I was socialising with celebs like Simon Cowell. It was the kind of lifestyle I’d dreamed about.”
Aimi could afford to be extravagant while she was earning thousands a night.
She says: “In my spare time I went to premieres with footballers and never wore the same dress twice. When I was 24, I bought a brand-new MX5 for £20,000 in cash.”
But in 2003, Aimi slid into debt again when her lapdancing bookings started drying up. “By 2004, I was earning a fraction of what I had been - about £4,000 a month. It sounds like a lot, but it soon ran out when I kept buying expensive cars, exotic holidays, £800 Dior handbags and £500 Jimmy Choo shoes. I did worry, but convinced myself work would pick up again.”
Aimi also spent thousands on plastic surgery. “I spent £10k on breast implants, going from a 34A to a 34DD, £1,000 on hair extensions every month, and had my teeth whitened regularly. I also had £1,000 worth of Botox injections and £2,000 worth of lip injections every 12 weeks.
“I’d got totally caught up in that lifestyle,” she admits. “Like Paris Hilton, I once spent £1,000 on a whole Louis Vuitton wardrobe for my dog that included trainers, a baseball cap and a pink tutu. And I always made sure my son had the latest PlayStation or Nintendo game.”
By then, five years had passed since Aimi’s first bankruptcy, so she was offered credit again. Soon, she was juggling 30 credit cards and store cards.
"Like Paris Hilton, I once spent £1,000 on a whole Louis Vuitton wardrobe for my dog that included trainers, a baseball cap and a pink tutu. ”
Shockingly, she says: “I didn’t think twice about the fact I’d already been bankrupt. The banks constantly sent me new cards. I just thought I’d get lucky and make a load of money again.”
By June 2006, Aimi had run up £85k of debt and once again declared herself bankrupt. “It was so humiliating going through my finances with the bank, and my family told me I needed to get counselling,” she says.
Aimi is now blacklisted -she can no longer have a credit card and won’t be able to get a mortgage or bank loan. But, unbelievably, she confesses she hasn’t tamed her desire to spend. “I can’t get credit, but I know if I was allowed credit cards again, the same thing would happen,” she admits.
Since going bankrupt, she’s not had a full-time job. She says: “I dance part-time, which earns me some money, but I’m still obsessed with looking good. I get my nails and hair done every month, and have Botox every six months at a cost of £600.
“My boyfriend pays for some things. I persuaded him to rent a penthouse, even though we can’t afford it. I couldn’t bear to live in a semi- I’d feel so average.
“I do recognise that I was living in a fantasy world. Meeting Marc last October was a big reality check. He was horrified by my history and has helped me see sense. I now shop on the high street.
Marc says: “I find the amount Aimi spends ridiculous. I prefer it when she looks more natural. But I love her, so I want her to be happy and would never row with her about money.”