reality tv

When Nikki Grahame first appeared on Big Brother she was already battling the disease that would kill her.

This post deals with eating disorders and might be triggering for some readers. 

Less than a month ago, the friends of Nikki Grahame - a UK reality television star - set up a 'GoFundMe' page to help pay for her treatment for a debilitating illness that she had suffered from for most of her 38 years. 

Grahame had anorexia nervosa. She had relapsed during the pandemic.

Her friends explained they had exhausted almost all treatment services, with her only option left being a specialist clinic. 

"Nikki constantly feels weak and is struggling on a day-to-day basis," her friends wrote at the time. "She feels trapped and really wants to get better but feels like it’s impossible. It’s heart-breaking and we desperately just want a healthy and well Nikki back with us. She has no energy and is taking each day as it comes."

They raised £65,500 ($A117,000) to pay for the care they hoped would save her life.

Then, on April 9, they shared an update. Grahame had passed away. 

"It breaks our hearts to know that someone who is so precious was taken from us at such a young age," they shared. 

The last public photo of her was from her friend and fellow reality television star, Pete Bennett, who was visiting her at the clinic. 

"Save Nikki Grahame," he put as a hashtag in the caption.  

ADVERTISEMENT

Nikki Grahame rose to fame on the 2006 season of Big Brother UK, loved by the millions of viewers for her bubbly personality and famous for her diary room theatrics. 

As her 58 days in the house played out, the media reported on her history with an eating disorder and many criticised the broadcaster for including Grahame due to her "emotional vulnerability". 

Grahame was diagnosed with anorexia when she was eight-years-old. In her book, Dying to be Thin, Grahame explained she began to feel self-conscious about her weight after a girl at a gymnastics class called her fat, and added that her parents' separation as a little girl compounded her insecurity. 

After her diagnosis, Grahame went to seven different institutions for treatment over a period of eight years. At times, she was sedated so that she could be force-fed through a tube. 

She also attempted suicide twice during that time. 

"I’ve always wanted to be the best at everything I do, so I had to be the best anorexic—and I was," she reflected in her book.

Nikki Grahame was on Big Brother in 2006. Image: Channel 4. 

ADVERTISEMENT

In a 2008 interview with Evening Standard, Grahame remarked: "Anorexia is a life sentence."

"I used to spend hours thinking of ways to lose weight. It was my absolute sole ambition. I didn’t care about Mum or my family. All I cared about was starving myself to death. Anorexia is an unhappy illness. Such a lonely, unhappy illness."

But by 2015, Grahame seemed to be doing relatively well. 

"I am now better and the happiest and healthiest I've ever been. Anorexia is more than just a case of someone not wanting to eat so they can look skinny, it is a mental disease, and although I am better and well I still have certain tendencies and tics that I'm sure I'll have for life," she explained in a social media post.

Then, this year, the news came from her friends and family that Grahame had relapsed, triggered by the lockdown restrictions.

Her mother, Sue Graham, told The Telegraph just last month that the lockdowns had severely impacted her daughter's mental health. 

“This last year has just about floored her," she explained. "From the first lockdown, it was hellish. She struggled because she couldn’t go to the gym. Then in December she fell down and cracked her pelvis in two places and broke her wrist. I stayed with her for three or four weeks because she couldn’t do anything. … I think last year really put the cap on it, with COVID," she explained.

"We’ve been on this road a long time, 30 years on and off, and I’ve never seen her this bad. I’m frightened that I’ll die and she’ll have no one to support her. I don’t want her to go through any of this alone."

About two weeks after that interview, her 38-year-old daughter would pass away. 

Her friends said via GoFundMe: "Nikki not only touched the lives of millions of people, but also her friends and family who will miss her immensely." 

For help and support for eating disorders, contact the Butterfly Foundation‘s National Support line and online service on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or email [email protected] 

You can also visit their website, here.