TLC Stars Who Suffered Heartbreaking Losses

Reality television has been showcasing the best and worst of human behavior since 1948 when the show "Candid Microphone" first aired on ABC. However, the genre hit its heyday in the late 80s and early 90s with shows like "Cops," "The Real World," and "A Baby Story."

Today, channels such as TLC rely heavily on reality-based programming to supercharge ratings. Much to our delight, shows like "Sister Wives" and "Little People, Big World" introduce us to a diverse group of people and situations that might otherwise remain undocumented. We become invested in their worlds by celebrating their successes and stalking their social media accounts as though they were beloved friends (or spiteful enemies) who live just down the street. 

But there's a darker side to reality television, too. It's one that leaves nothing out, not even the heartbreaking ravages of loss. And when a famous reality star suffers a tragic event, it inevitably becomes big news, garnering both support and sometimes even criticism from the fanbase.

Stacy London: What Not to Wear

TLC's "What Not to Wear" was a bit like having a front-row seat to a mean girls' pajama party, hosted by uber-fashionable on-screen besties, Stacy London and Clinton Kelly. The show lasted a decade, winding down in 2013. That's when the co-hosts' paths diverged and London began searching for her next long-term gig, but was startled by what she found.

"Every channel was like, 'No, thank you. We're not interested in middle age, it's not sexy,'" London told InStyle. The fashionista was in her late 40s by this time, still bubbly, still attractive, but finding herself "battered" by circumstances over which she had no control. Then came spinal surgery, the death of her beloved father, and perimenopause. As a result, she began a downward spiral that left her feeling lost, confused, and physically ill.

Fortunately, London could pull herself up and out of her downward decline, wondering if others were experiencing any of the same challenges. She first became an advocate for, and then the CEO of, a company called State Of Menopause that manufactures health and beauty products for those struggling with menopausal symptoms. Today, she has rebounded from that dark time in her life, crediting her long-time partner Cat Yezbak with much of the happiness she now experiences. In 2022, she posted a birthday greeting for her partner on Instagram and give followers more insight into how joyful her life is today.

Buddy Valastro: Cake Boss

On-screen, he's the overly confident, assertive "Cake Boss." But in reality, TLC star Buddy Valastro is as vulnerable to hard times as the rest of us, as was proven in 2012. That was the year his mother was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease or ALS. "I've seen the most independent, lively person that I've ever met in my life — I mean, she was just like a ball of energy — reduced to not being able to do anything for herself," he told People. "The worst part about ALS is that one day you're able to brush your teeth, then you'll never be able to brush your teeth again. One day you're able to walk — you're never going to walk again." 

In 2017, Valastro's mother died at the age of 69. The celebrity baker announced the news on his Instagram page where he spoke of her lengthy struggle with the debilitating disease. "Her battle with ALS has ended, she is no longer suffering and I hope she's dancing to "I Will Survive" with my dad right now."

More recently, Valastro shared a collection of images to his Facebook page for Mother's Day, including heartfelt wishes to "all the moms out there and to the best moms I know." He included his sisters and mother-in-law in his message, referring to them as important parts of his life. 

Amy Roloff: Little People, Big World

Amy Roloff, one of the stars of TLC's "Little People, Big World" also lost her mother. Matriarch Patricia Knight died in 2019 from undisclosed causes at 86. "I am so sad about my mom's passing but comforted by all the memories I have and that she lived a happy, long life with my father," she stated in a 2019 interview with People

Roloff, who frequently travels home to Michigan to visit with family, still posts tributes to her mother on her Instagram account, the most recent on what would have been Knight's 90th birthday. In her post, Roloff shared an image of herself celebrating the occasion at dinner in Ann Arbor with relatives, confessing it felt "good to be 'home' to visit with family."

"Little People, Big World" aired its 24th season on TLC in 2022, and rumors imply that another season is imminent. Though Roloff and her ex-husband, Matt Roloff divorced in 2016, the show still focuses on the day-to-day lives of the original family that includes Roloff, her then-husband Matt, and children Zach, Jeremy, Molly, and Jacob. 

Amanda Wilhelm: 90-Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days

Amanda Wilhelm of "90 Day Fiance: Before the 90 Days" is no stranger to loss. She lost her husband Jason Wilhelm to cancer in March 2022 and her sister Ashley just a month later to undisclosed causes. Not only this, but her mother died in 2019 at just 48. That's a lot of heartbreak for a young woman in her early 30s. Still, Wilhelm went on to care for her two children Aleena and Jr. alone. She joined the cast of the TLC show less than a year after the death of her husband, connecting with Romanian native Razvan Ciocoi.

Wilhelm's ability to pick herself up and move on has certainly brought criticism from fans. But it's also brought her support, as evidenced by many of the comments on her recent Instagram post. While some are critical, the majority lean toward sympathy, praising Wilhelm for her strength, but encouraging her to give herself and her children more time to grieve.

Amy Slaton: 1000-Lb. Sisters

Amy Slaton of "1000-Lb. Sisters" suffered heartbreak of a different kind in April of 2022, when her best furry friend Little Bit was diagnosed with cancer. She posted a picture of the chihuahua on Instagram writing: "Rip Little Bit. I love you so much." 

Little Bit appeared on "1000-Lb. Sisters" intermittently, providing love and support throughout Slaton's weight loss journey with her sister, Tammy. According to InTouch, Slaton explained what happened with her pet in more detail in response to a fan's inquiry, explaining they had taken him to the vet for suspected allergies and learned he was actually suffering from cancer. The pet was then put on medication to provide comfort. Further details on Little Bit's passing were not available, but fan reactions were overwhelming, with more than 52,000 people liking the post. 

In December 2022, Slaton added another Instagram post, announcing the addition of a new chihuahua/pomeranian mix named Daisy Mae to the family. In the post, she expressed hope that her infant son Gage would grow to love Daisy Mae just as much as she loved Little Bit. 

Clinton Kelly: What Not to Wear

Clinton Kelly's most recent show was "The Chew," a cooking-based talk show that aired for 7 seasons on ABC, ending in 2018. Once upon a time, however, Kelly was the co-host of TLC's "What Not to Wear." A well-known staple of daytime television, Kelly's fame, sadly, has not made him invulnerable to loss, as he explained in this Instagram post in May 2022. It was then Kelly lost his best furry friend Mary, a rescue dog that he and his partner had adopted from Pet Rescue NY in 2009. In his post, Kelly shared the imprint Mary had left on his life. 

"Mary passed away peacefully on Friday morning. I loved her more than I ever thought I could and will miss her more than words could ever express," he shared online. "Thank you for all the kind comments about her over the years."

Pet Rescue NY is a cause that's near and dear to Kelly's heart. So much in fact that he often posts giveaways on Facebook and Instagram to reward fans for donating to the charity that rescues pets from high-kill shelters and brings them to New York to be adopted into loving homes. If you live in the New York area and are interested in helping rescue a pet from a desperate situation, you can visit their Facebook page for more information. 

Uncle Dale and Aunt Kiki: Outdaughtered

Uncle Dale and Aunt Kiki, known to friends and neighbors as Dale and Crystal Mills, are staples in the lives of the Busby quintuplets from TLC's "Outdaughtered." So it came as no surprise when fans were saddened to hear of the passing of their dog, Kobe, in August 2022. Kiki, aka Crystal, authored an Instagram post to keep fans in the know. 

"I'm tearing up just having to type this out, but we wanted everyone to know. Kobe was one of the best dogs we could have ever been blessed with! Although we were only together for a short year and a half, we loved all the memories and sweet cuddles. RIP Kobe!" The post featured an image of the Mills family, smiling together, with Kobe at its core.

In November of that same year, the Mills clan joyfully welcomed Tiger into their home. "Introducing the newest member of the Mills family, Tiger!" Dale wrote in an Instagram post. Tiger is a petite golden doodle, which is a mix between a cocker spaniel, a golden retriever, and a toy poodle. 

Alana Thompson: Here Comes Honey Boo Boo

Alana Thompson, better known to the world of reality TV as Honey Boo Boo, is now 17. Grown-up and looking glam, she resides with her sister Lauryn Efird, who goes by the nickname Pumpkin. 

Thompson got her start in the pageant circuit when she was just 5 years old as one of the stars of TLC's "Toddlers and Tiaras." It was her down-to-earth attitude, her mother's unfaltering support, and her family's unusual lifestyle that helped her land her own show, "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" in 2012.  However, things have gone downhill between Thompson and her mother June Shannon since the Honey Boo Boo days, and Thompson recently posted a TikTok video to express her feelings. In the video, she dances to Soulja Boy's "Pretty Boy Swag" in the trend that features a before-after scenario. In Thompson's version, the "before" showcases her dancing on camera with the caption: "Sister who needed a momma." The video then switches to Pumpkin for the "after" with the caption: "The sister who came in clutch and raised her." 

The video seems to allude to Thompson's feelings of disappointment toward her mother who chose to remain in a relationship with an addict against her daughter's wishes. Thompson later moved out of the home she shared with her mother and into her sister's home because "she did not feel safe in the house," according to Efird (via The Sun).

Janelle Brown: Sister Wives

Janelle Brown, of TLC's "Sister Wives" suffered the loss of her beloved pet, Jack, in March 2023. In a heartbreaking Instagram post, the TLC star shared her sadness by writing: "My sweet Jack passed away this morning. Thanks to the vets @canyonpethospital who worked so hard to save him these past few days but sadly his body just couldn't overcome the disease that struck him suddenly late last week." 

Jack initially belonged to Brown's mother, who died in December 2020, but he was adopted into the Brown household where he quickly became a beloved member of the family and featured prominently in Brown's social media posts.

"Sister Wives" has aired for 17 seasons on TLC and features day-to-day life in a polygamous household where Brown lives as an ex-wife in a spiritual union with her ex-husband and three other women. The families share a combined 18 children.

Olivia Plath: Welcome to Plathville

Olivia Plath, of TLC's "Welcome to Plathville," received devastating news in May 2023. That's when her younger brother, 15-year-old Micah Meggs, was killed when a car struck the electric bike he was riding. The tragic accident took place along Route 220 in Virginia. 

Afterward, Plath penned a touching and somewhat revealing Instagram tribute to her brother whom she hadn't been permitted to see for years because of religious differences between herself and her family. "I can't stop thinking about all of the memories we never got to make and how I missed out on the last few years of his life," she lamented. "Micah was only 15 and died in a tragic accident. Life isn't promised; hug your loved ones a little tighter today." 

According to Plath, she was 9 when her brother was born and did much to parent him as a baby. Her touching tribute reflected how deeply his death affected her, as she wrote: "You'll always be in my heart, Micah Titus. You deserved so much, and I don't think you knew just how loved you are. I will miss your laugh so much."