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Big Brother Houseguests You Might Not Know Passed Away

Since its debut in the Netherlands in 1999, the television reality series "Big Brother" has bloomed into a global entertainment franchise with versions in more than 60 different countries, special "Celebrity" editions, and as of 2016, even an online-only iteration called "Big Brother: Over the Top." Key to the show's popularity is its format, which brings together contestants to live as housemates, or "houseguests," in a specially devised dwelling. The contestants must secretly nominate each other for eviction based on behavior, strategy, and execution of tasks assigned by the unseen Big Brother until one houseguest remains to win the contest.

However, as many fans know, the show's other attraction is the often-colorful competitors. Like most successful reality series, "Big Brother" has spawned its share of heroes and villains. Popular American players include William "Dr. Will" Kirby, Daniele Donato, and world-class schemers like Mike "Boogie" Malin. Many "Big Brother" contestants have gone on to fame in other media platforms, while others have returned to their pre-reality stardom lives. A select few have died over the course of the show's two-decade run on the small screen. The following is a spoiler-laden list of the "Big Brother" houseguests you might not know passed away.

Jade Goody captured attention as a hero and a heel

Few "Big Brother" contestants captured the attention of Britain's television audiences like Jade Goody. She made her first appearance on Season 3 of the series where she drew criticism for her behavior, including a streak through the house, intoxication, and sex with housemate PJ Ellis. Pilloried by the press, Goody parlayed her popularity with viewers into appearances on other reality series, which led to a return to "Big Brother" with her participation in Season 5 of the celebrity edition. However, racially charged comments made at the expense of South Asian housemate Shilpa Shetty largely undid the good will generated by her TV appearances and product endorsements.

Goody apologized for her behavior and seemed to attempt to reframe the perception of her as racist by appearing on "Bigg Boss 2," the Indian version of "Big Brother." While participating in the series, Goody was informed that she had been diagnosed with cervical cancer. She returned to the U.K. and began treatment, but the disease spread quickly and was deemed terminal.

News of Goody's diagnosis was credited with inspiring a surge in U.K. women seeking cervical cancer screenings in 2009, as well as a review of the National Health Services policy of screening for the disease after the age of 25. The British press, which had praised and damned Goody with equal fervor, again turned its attention to her in her final days: media coverage of her death at the age of 27 on March 22, 2009, was both extensive and laden with praise.

Cassandra Waldon spawned a long-standing Big Brother myth

Season 1 contestant Cassandra Waldon entered the pop culture history books as the very first contestant to enter the "Big Brother" house when the reality series debuted on American television in 2000. Waldon, who worked for the United Nations, was a stellar player and avoided nominations for banishment — which in the debut season were handed out by viewers, a decision that was later reversed for the American series — for several weeks. She also captured one of the "Mr. and Miss Big Brother 2000" awards.

Her run on the series ended on Day 72, which made her the sixth ousted housemate. Waldon's dismissal also kicked off the long-running urban legend about the "First to Enter Curse," which alleged that no contestant who entered the "Big Brother" house first could ever win. However, Tamar Braxton disproved the myth by winning the second season of the U.S. "Celebrity Big Brother" in 2019.

In 2019, Waldon was struck by a car in Rome where was serving as the Director of Communications for the U.N.'s International Fund for Agricultural Development. According to TMZ, she remained unconscious for two months until dying on September 25 of that year. Waldon was 56 at the time of her death.

Big Brother helped change Kent Blackwelder's beliefs

Though "Big Brother" houseguests are often best remembered by their combative natures, one Season 2 contestant earned his place in series history by his ability to transcend longstanding beliefs and befriend a fellow competitor that was, in many ways, his direct opposite. Kent Blackwelder, a 62-year-old mortgage broker from Tennessee who entered the "Big Brother" house in Season 2, was noted for his conservative perspective on social and political issues. However, that did not stop Blackwelder from befriending gay houseguest Bunky Miller.

Evicted in week five by a unanimous vote, Blackwelder remained friendly with Miller after both men's tenures on the series. In a social media post, Miller said (via Inquisitr) that he and Blackwelder had surpassed their differences and "built a bridge" forged in mutual appreciation and respect of each other. The pair reunited shortly before Blackwelder's death at the age of 62 on December 24, 2017. His passing was the first houseguest death in "Big Brother" history.

David Gest was at the center of a shocking mix-up

Former publicist and talent manager David Gest oversaw the careers of many top music celebrities of the 1960s and 1970s, including Al Green, Tom Jones, and the Doobie Brothers, and produced the TV special "Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Celebration" and the documentary "Michael Jackson: The Life of an Icon." He also found lasting pop culture fame for his allegedly combative marriage to singer Liza Minnelli, which fueled his second career as a reality show and game show contestant in the U.K.

Gest placed fourth on the 2006 edition of "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!" and logged time on series like "Are You Smarter Than a 10 Year Old" and "Celebrity Ding Dong," which we assure you is a real television program, before joining the cast of "Celebrity Big Brother" in 2016. His tenure on the series played largely to his strengths — he produced a talent show and judged a dance competition, both featuring his fellow houseguests — but was completely overshadowed by an unfortunate miscommunication involving fellow contestants Angie Bowie and Tiffany Pollard on day seven.

Gest was reportedly feeling unwell and resting in bed when Bowie revealed to Pollard that her ex-husband, singer David Bowie, had passed away. Pollard took her statement — "David's dead" — to mean that Gest had died, and frantically informed the other housemates. A stampede to Gest's room revealed that he was alive, which did little to console Bowie or make Pollard feel less foolish. Unfortunately, Gest's own health declined, and he departed "Big Brother" on day 13. Two months after the series concluded, Gest was found dead of a stroke in his hotel room on April 12, 2016.

Dustin Diamond tried to halt his career slide

"Saved By the Bell" star Dustin Diamond was already far along on his career spiral from teen TV comedy star to reality show fixture by the time he appeared on Season 12 of "Celebrity Big Brother." At the time, shows like "Celebrity Fit Club" and "Celebrity Boxing" were his primary professional showcases outside of low-budget comedies and an unfortunate association with an adult video, so the U.K. reality series seemed a logical next step.

Diamond's tenure on "Celebrity Big Brother" proved brief: he netted six nominations by day 14 and failed to retain his grip during the "gunge dip" challenge, which earned him a bath in slime. He did manage to pull off a challenge with Courtney Stodden that required the pair to act like a couple, but the win wasn't enough. Diamond was the fourth houseguest evicted on Season 12.

Diamond's fortunes did not improve after his "Big Brother" appearance. In 2015, he was convicted on charges of disorderly conduct and carrying a concealed weapon related to a bar fight from the previous year. He served the majority of a four-month sentence and was arrested again in 2016 for parole violation. Diamond's acting career had petered out by 2017, but sadly, the worst was yet to come: Diamond was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in 2021. A round of treatment failed to halt the disease's advancement and he died on January 1, 2021, at the age of 44.

Sophia Brown appeared in the least popular Big Brother season

Londoner Sophia Brown appeared on Season 10 of the U.K. "Big Brother," which aired in 2009. The bank worker, who stood 4 feet 11 inches, was one of the original 16 contestants to walk into the house that season, which earned mixed critical response and the lowest ratings of any "Big Brother" series that aired on Channel 4. Her group competed to remain housemates while an additional six players were added in subsequent weeks.

Brown's time on the show was brief. She failed to earn houseguest status during the first run of competitions, and after a fierce squabble with fellow contestant Saffia Corden, found herself nominated for eviction on day six. Three days later, she became the second houseguest to exit the series, and remained largely out of the public eye. In 2012, Brown died at the age of 30. No cause was announced, but it was publicly known that she suffered from the autoimmune disease lupus.

Gordon Sloan's death was controversial

Gordon Sloan was a Season 1 contestant on the Australian edition of "Big Brother" in 2001. Noted for his Mohawk haircut, he lasted just two weeks on the series before falling to eviction. However, he remained a fan favorite and enjoyed post-competition fame thanks to humanitarian work and a public romance with singer-slash-actress Natalie Bassingthwaighte of the Australian rock band Rogue Traders.

However, Sloan's brief flirtation with fame was overshadowed by the mystery surrounding his death in 2007. The 34-year-old was hospitalized after collapsing at a nightclub in Beijing, China, on September 1, and lingered in a coma until dying on September 13 of that year. Allegations of a drug overdose as the cause of death — spurred by the revelation that foreign substances were found in his system — were denied by the family. A family member told the Sydney Morning Herald that Sloan's death was associated with oxygen deprivation.

Tragedy overshadowed Nikki Grahame's fame

U.K. television presenter Nikki Grahame rose to fame on "Big Brother" and returned to the franchise on several occasions while also enjoying star status on other reality series. The aspiring actress entered the "Big Brother" house in 2006 and drew attention for her volatile temper and frequent outbursts in the Diary Room. Grahame became so popular with viewers that she was voted back into the house after being evicted on day 58 and completed the series in fifth place.

Grahame parlayed her love-to-hate-her status into other reality series, including "Princess Nikki," which challenged her to hold various jobs over a six-week period. She later returned to "Big Brother" as a correspondent for the spinoff series "Big Brother's Little Brother," and competed in both "Ultimate Big Brother" in 2010 and Canada's "Big Brother" in 2016. She was the runner-up on the former series and ranked 10th on the latter program.

However, Grahame struggled with a long-standing eating disorder which prompted a suicide attempt at the age of 12. She later relapsed and was hospitalized on several occasions, including a March 2021 incident that prompted her family to launch a fundraiser to pay for treatment in a private hospital. However, Grahame died shortly after her discharge in April; complications from anorexia nervosa were listed as the cause of death for the 38-year-old.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).

Miriam Rivera lent a hand to Big Brother Australia

Transgender reality star Miriam Rivera was a guest — but not a houseguest — on Season 4 of "Big Brother Australia" in 2004. The former model was invited on Day 41 to help the housemates with a salsa dancing competition, which made for a decidedly less controversial appearance than her previous reality TV effort. Her 2004 series, the Sky1 dating show "There's Something About Miriam," focused on six male contestants as they pursued Rivera while unaware that she was transgender until the final episode. The contestants brought a lawsuit against the producers, claiming defamation and psychological and emotional damage among other charges, and settled for an undisclosed amount.

Rivera, who was discovered while performing with a girl group in Mexico, made several appearances on Australian news and TV programs after her "Big Brother" appearance, but devoted her energies to the New York ball scene in later years. According to various reports, Rivera was found dead in her apartment in Mexico on February 5, 2019. The death was attributed as a suicide by police but her husband, Daniel Cuervo, suspected that she was the victim of foul play.

Jackie Stallone went from celebrity mom to Celebrity Big Brother

Few "Celebrity Big Brother" contestants earned as memorable an entrance as Jackie Stallone when she arrived at the house in Season 3. The mother of actor-slash-director Sylvester Stallone and singer-slash-actor Frank Stallone and a longtime celebrity astrologer, Jackie shocked her fellow housemate and former daughter-in-law Brigitte Nielsen, who exclaimed "Oh my God, Jackie!" upon her arrival. Stallone responded with, "Yeah, Jackie" — a phrase that remains one of the show's most memorable quips. Stallone was later evicted on day seven, but not before noting that her fellow contestants spent the majority of their time talking about "frankly, nothing."

In addition to her astrology career, Stallone also operated a salon, appeared on the original "GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling" from the 1980s, and was believed to have created a means of telling a person's future by reading their backsides instead of their palms known as rumpology. A memorable presence on "The Howard Stern Show" and other TV and radio programs, she died in her sleep at the age of 98 on September 21, 2020.

A Big Brother appearance preceded Verne Troyer's tragic end

Comic actor Verne Troyer was featured in the sixth series of the U.K.'s "Celebrity Big Brother" in 2009. Troyer, best known as Mini-Me from the "Austin Powers" film franchise, joined fellow Americans Coolio and La Toya Jackson in the Big Brother house that year and managed to earn fourth place in the series. Troyer also earned headlines for ramming his scooter into the Diary Room door after consuming several glasses of champagne.

Though noted with amusement by the press, Troyer's behavior was indicative of a larger problem with alcohol, for which he sought treatment after being hospitalized for dependency issues in 2017. Troyer, who became a staple of reality series like "The Surreal Life" in the mid-2000s, returned to the hospital in 2018 following an incident in his home and died on April 21 of that year at the age of 49. The official cause of death was ruled a suicide by alcohol poisoning.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Celebrity medium Derek Acorah was a staple of reality TV

Former footballer turned celebrity medium Derek Acorah was featured on the 20th edition of "Celebrity Big Brother" in the U.K. He proved to be a durable contestant on the series, placing fourth on day 25, and spared no quarter when it came to slamming opponents like series winner Sarah Harding during the nomination process. Acorah also put on displays of his alleged powers during the series between being "gunged" (aka doused with slime), taking a dunk in a hot tub, and dressing in various costumes, including that of a cheerleader and a weightlifter.

After an injury ended his football career, Acorah fell back on his alleged psychic abilities, which he claimed to have possessed since childhood. He became a popular guest on television talk shows before earning his own program, the long running "Most Haunted" in 2002. He departed the program in 2005 under allegations that his revelations may have been manufactured.

Acorah continued to parlay his supposed talents as a medium on various television specials, including a critically reviled live séance designed to contact the spirit of the late Michael Jackson. He also appeared as himself in a 2006 episode of "Doctor Who" called "Army of Ghosts," and participated in numerous celebrity-based reality series and panel shows. Hospitalized with pneumonia in 2020, Acorah died after developing sepsis on January 4 of that year.

Colin Newell only lasted 20 days on Big Brother

An exuberant presence on Season 18 of "Celebrity Big Brother," Colin "Heavy D" Newell was known to U.K. TV audiences for his appearances as a buyer on "Storage Hunters" — the British version of "Storage Wars" — and the catchphrase "Boom!" which earned him a second nickname, "the Boominator." However, his popularity did not translate into a long stay at the house. Newell was the fourth housemate to exit that season.

Newell attempted to parlay his reality status into an acting career, which resulted in minor appearances in various film and video game projects, including "Rise of the Footsoldier: Origins" released in 2021. He returned to reality television in 2018, albeit as a defendant on the "Judge Rinder" courtroom program; Newell's landlord was suing him for thousands of pounds in damages and owed rent on his North London flat. Newell died at the age of 47 on November 25, 2020.