Big Brother Nikki Grahame has died at the age 38 – just one month after her friends started a GoFundMe page for anorexia treatment.
Nikki rose to fame after appearing on the 2006 series of Big Brother and had struggled with anorexia since she was a child.
She had recently checked into a private hospital to treat her eating disorder and her friends had started a crowdfunding page to help with her treatment.
Tragic: Big Brother Nikki Grahame has died at the age 38 – just one month after her friends started a GoFundMe page for anorexia treatment (pictured in 2019)
Her sad death was confirmed online by her friend Leon Dee on Saturday.
A statement on the GoFundMe page read: ‘It is with great sadness, we have to let you know that our dear friend Nikki passed away in the early hours of Friday 9th April.
‘It breaks our hearts to know that someone who is so precious was taken from us at such a young age.
‘Nikki not only touched the lives of millions of people, but also her friends and family who will miss her immensely.
‘We would like to request privacy at this difficult time, while Nikki’s friends and family process the sad news. Full details will be released as and when we know them.
‘All donations have been greatly appreciated and it was heartwarming for everyone including Nikki to see how much she was loved.’
History: The Big Brother icon, 38, appeared on the seventh series of the hit reality show in 2006 and she developed an eating disorder as a child (pictured with Davina McCall in 2010)
Leon added that all the funds raised in the GoFundMe will be given to a charity as a donation in Nikki’s memory.
He penned: ‘Funds will be held safely in this GoFundMe until we have established an organisation supporting those suffering from anorexia to which we will make a donation in Nikki’s memory.
‘We will post updates for you with more details as soon as we have them. We are working with GoFundMe at this time. If you want to request a refund, you can write into GoFundMe’s team here.
‘Rest In Peace, Nikki. We love you & not a day will go by without missing your smile.’
While a statement from her representative said: ‘It is with immeasurable sadness that Nikki Grahame passed away in the early hours of Friday 9th April 2021. Please respect the privacy of Nikki’s friends and family at this tragic and difficult time.’
Nikki appeared on the seventh series of Big Brother UK in 2006, in which she finished in fifth place, and had developed an eating disorder as a child.
‘Not a day will go by without missing your smile’: Nikki’s friend Leon Dee paid tribute to his late friend and revealed money raised on GoFundMe will be given to a charity in Nikki’s memory
Icon: Nikki quickly became one of Big Brother’s most beloved former contestants, known for her infamous rants in the diary room (pictured with ex and co-star Pete Bennett in 2006)
Nikki was always incredible open about her struggles with anorexia, after first showing signs of the condition as a child.
Due to her condition, she never had a period or produced eggs which would allow her to conceive and in 2019 revealed she had visited fertility clinics in London.
After first being admitted to an eating disorder unit at the age of eight, Nikki was force-fed through a tube, which caused long-term damage to her oesophagus from years of purging.
In 2011, Nikki suffered a relapse after reducing her daily intake to just 400 calories a day.
Several stars have paid tribute to Nikki since news of her tragic death was revealed on Saturday, with pal and fellow Big Brother alum Rylan Clark-Neal saying he was thinking of the ‘icon’s’ family and close friends.
Tributes: Former BB hosts Davina (left) and Rylan shared heartfelt words about Big Brother icon Nikki following her tragic death
Words: Taking to Twitter, Davina, 53, penned: ‘I am so desperately sad to hear about Nikki Graham x my thoughts are with her friends and family xx she really was the funniest , most bubbly sweetest girl’
So sad: Rylan Clark-Neal called his late pal a ‘Big Brother icon’ and added that he was thinking of Nikki’s friends and family in a touching tribute shared to Twitter
Stunned: Nikki’s fellow Big Brother 7 star Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace shared her complete shock at the news, sharing a snap of Nikki with the words: ‘I can’t breath’
Devastated: While fellow housemate Glyn Wise, who came runner-up in their series, shared a photo of himself and Nikki as he declared he was ‘beyond upset’ at her passing
Top Gear host Paddy McGuinness paid tribute to Nikki Grahame tweeting: ‘Bloody hell, just read the sad news about Nikki Grahame.
‘Definitely one of the stars from the glory years of reality TV. I met her a long time ago and she was a lovely girl. RIP young lady.’
Coronation Street’s Daniel Brocklebank tweeted: ‘I’m deeply saddened to hear that Nikki Grahame has passed. We hung out a few times.
‘The last time on stage together at Manchester Pride. A sweet, kind & fun lady. My love & thoughts go out to all who knew & loved her.’
And TV star Josie Gibson tweeted: ‘Nikki Grahame I can’t believe I’m writing this. We love you so much. My heart hurts today. You funny intelligent quirky beautiful soul RIP xxxx’.
Hope: Nikki’s two friends set up a GoFundMe in March to raise money for her to have specialist treatment as they said it’s the ‘only option left’ and Nikki was in a ‘bad way’ (pictured in 2017)
Plea: Rylan Clark-Neal, who won Celebrity Big Brother 11, said on Twitter at the time: ‘This is v hard to read but sharing with permission. If some of the family could help in any way I know it would be greatly appreciated. Sending love x’ (sic)
Wow: Her pals, Carly Cunningham and Leon Dee, exceeded their £50,000 goal on their GoFundMe page in March, which was set up to cover the costs of Nikki’s therapy
Just last month, Nikki’s pals had launched a fundraised to try and gather funds for her to receive specialist treatment, managing to reach a total of £65,539.
The original page read: ‘She has been battling for most of her life and as you can see, Nikki is now in a very bad way so we need to do something quickly.
Nikki’s rise to fame
In 2006 she appeared in series seven of Big Brother, placing fifth.
Following her stint in the house she appeared in her own reality series Princess Nikki.
Nikki then returned to Big Brother for the tenth anniversary series celebration.
She would return again for Ultimate Big Brother where she placed second.
The icon also appeared in Big Brother Canada in 2016, coming sixth.
‘Over the past years Nikkis family and friends have tried so desperately to get Nikki all the help possible through the NHS but unfortunately the treatments have failed and we have exhausted every avenue possible, and now Nik is unfortunately in a very bad way, this is now our last hope.
‘This is why we feel that getting her treatment in a specialist clinic is the only option left for her.
Nikki’s friend, TV presenter Rylan Clark-Neal, also appealed to his followers to help with donations.
Rylan, who won Celebrity Big Brother 11, said on Twitter: ‘This is v hard to read but sharing with permission. If some of the family could help in any way I know it would be greatly appreciated. Sending love x.’ (sic)
And just two weeks ago Nikki’s mother claimed her daughter’s 30-year battle with anorexia nervosa worsened because of the coronavirus pandemic.
During an interview on This Morning, Susan Grahame, 66, revealed the Big Brother icon struggled with the isolation periods and gym closures brought by the nationwide lockdowns, admitting: ‘COVID-19 really put the cap on it.’
On how her daughter took a turn for the worse amid the global crisis, Susan told hosts Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby: ‘I think last year really put the cap on it with Covid.
‘It sounds crazy but even stuff like gyms closing, which is quite important to Nikki as she needs to know she can exercise.
‘It’s been really, really hard’: Nikki’s mother recently claimed her daughter’s 30-year battle with anorexia nervosa worsened because of the coronavirus pandemic (pictured together)
‘The isolation, she couldn’t see anyone. I offered to stay with her but she said ”I need to stay in my own home”. It’s been really hard for her, really hard.
‘She had terminal loneliness… she was cut off, spending too much time on her own, and nothing to think about other than food.’
Nikki’s parent went on to detail the former model’s difficult childhood as she explained: ‘We had a lot of stuff going on, my dad got very sick, she was worried for me.
‘My marriage broke up, my husband at the time had a lot of trouble at work, it wasn’t a happy place.
WHAT IS ANOREXIA?
Anorexia is a serious mental illness where a person restricts their food intake, which often causes them to be severely underweight.
Many also exercise excessively.
Some sufferers may experience periods of bingeing, followed by purging.
Sufferers often have a distorted view of themselves and think they are larger than they really are.
Untreated, patients can suffer loss of muscle and bone strength, as well as depression, low libido and menstruation ceasing in women.
In severe cases, patients can experience heart problems and organ damage.
Behavioural signs of anorexia include people saying they have already eaten or will do later, as well as counting calories, missing meals, hiding food and eating slowly.
As well as weight loss, sufferers may experience insomnia, constipation, bloating, feeling cold, hair loss, and swelling of the hands, face and feet.
Treatment focuses on therapy and self-help groups to encourage healthy eating and coping mechanisms.
Source: Beat Eating Disorders
‘One thing sticks in my mind, we went to a restaurant for Mother’s Day lunch, and Nikki she stood beside me. She didn’t want to sit let alone eat, then of course she started to lose weight, that’s the one time that sticks in my mind.’
Susan also insisted the Northwood native was getting back on track before the pandemic, sharing: ‘It all came to a grinding halt.
‘With Nikki, she would get through the year knowing she had friends abroad and would visit them, and she spent a lot of time last year cancelling all her holidays.’
The media personality’s friends, Carly Cunningham and Leon Dee, exceeded their £50,000 goal on their GoFundMe page earlier this month, which was set up to cover the costs of her therapy.
Admitting she was initially apprehensive about the fundraiser, Susan said: ‘It was run by me a day or two before by Nikki’s friends. I was apprehensive.
‘First of all we were desperate, we haven’t had much help with the NHS, we had one place, she had been failed there five or six times.
‘I was worried that appeal, Nikki would come in for attack, with saying she was attention seeking, people could be nasty and she doesn’t need that.
‘I spoke to her and she said, ”please stress how overwhelmed I am by people’s kindness, tell everyone I’m going to try my level best to beat this, I’m going to get my life back”.
‘It’s so frightening for an anorexic because if they start to eat normally, it’s gonna go out of their control. She felt it was the one thing that she could keep control over with everything going around her.
‘When she started to get sick, she would be like, ”don’t be upset, look how well I’m doing”. It was like she was trying to divert the attention.
‘[When she was in hospital] I cuddled her. I said, ”come on Nikki, I promise you there is a life out there.”’
Susan also reflected on her daughter’s childhood during the TV appearance and gave advice to other parents.
She added: ‘I think poor Nikki, she suffered so bad because back in the day, we’re going back 31 years. At that time, people found it hard to believe that an 8 year old could be a victim of this, we did not have that kind of treatment, we did struggle.
‘The help is a bit more out there than it once was. I would say that if you do see the signs, if they become withdrawn, start to wear baggy clothes, if they start to lose weight… Nikki was ditching her lunch everyday I had no idea…
On screen: Nikki appeared alongside pal Imogen Thomas on the series (pictured together)
‘Try to get help as soon as possible. I know that as soon as the time is right, Nikki will thank everybody herself.’
The TV star began suffering from anorexia aged eight, and has never had a period or produced eggs which would allow her to conceive due to her condition.
After first being admitted to an eating disorder unit at the age of eight, she was force-fed through a tube, and has caused long-term damage to her oesophagus from years of purging.
Prior to finding fame on Big Brother, Nikki, then an aspiring actress, appeared as an extra in the BBC soap opera EastEnders and played a footballer’s wife in Sky One’s Dream Team.
She also appeared as a contestant on ITV dating show Blind Date and competed in the 2004 Miss Hertfordshire pageant.
After entering the Big Brother house dressed as a Playboy bunny, Grahame became known for her temper tantrums and Diary Room histrionics, including an infamous ‘who is she?’ rant.
She formed an unlikely relationship with the show’s eventual winner Pete Bennett, but their romance ended a month after they left the house.
Nikki was evicted on day 58, but went back into the house after the remaining contestants picked her to return. She eventually finished in fifth place.
After Big Brother, she bagged her own reality show, Princess Nikki, which saw her attempt to keep various jobs.
She also appeared on Celebrity Scissorhands, 8 Out Of 10 Cats and The Weakest Link, and a Channel 4 poll named her the 12th most ‘written about’ person of 2006 in the UK.
Grahame chronicled her battle with anorexia in the book Dying To Be Thin.
For help and support with eating disorders contact SEED on (01482) 718130 or visit www.seedeatingdisorders.org.uk
Honest: Nikki has been incredibly open about her struggles with anorexia, after first showing signs of the condition as a child (pictured in 2019)