Tragic Details About Baywatch Star Yasmine Bleeth

Yasmine Bleeth started working in the entertainment industry in some form since her start in commercials as a child, but fans know her best for playing the role of Caroline Holden on "Baywatch." At the height of its popularity, the action drama series about a community of Los Angeles lifeguards — which ran for over a decade — reached 1.1 billion weekly viewers. And so there was a time when fans may have thought a long and successful acting career was ahead of Bleeth; however, it all ended prematurely.

While some have compassion for Bleeth in light of this, others have been less than kind. Given the differences in how people perceive certain behavior, some seemed to see the course Bleeth's life and career took as the result of a sickness that befell her, while others seemed more inclined to place the blame squarely on her shoulders. 

Either way, the challenges of having to navigate this in the glare of the public eye in and of themselves changed her life as much as anything else, so let's take a closer look at the tragic details that led her to where she is today.

Yasmine Bleeth struggled with substance use

Yasmine Bleeth struggled with substance misuse as a way to forget her problems, and this greatly impacted her life and her career. Her work on "Baywatch" had earned her a large and loyal fan following, but this did not stop such personal issues from eventually overwhelming her. 

In a 2012 oral history of "Baywatch" that appeared in Esquire, Bleeth's castmate Traci Bingham commented on her and her "whole cocaine thing," saying, "Who does that? Really? To the point where she's so out of the business now. Completely M.I.A." 

But Bleeth was also honest about her substance use, notably in an essay she penned for Glamour in February 2003. In the essay, she acknowledged she made mistakes and spoke on the difficulties of staying clean because "many circumstances trigger my desire for it." She continued, "So consciously trying to stay off drugs is now part of my life, and it always will be. But I'm happy to do what I have to do." She also addressed how she was making the necessary changes in her life and trying to take pleasure in the simple things. "Now I'll stay in bed for two days and tell my friends and family, 'Come on over, the door's open,'" she said. 

She was fired from Baywatch because of her drug use

Perhaps the most significant impact of Yasmine Bleeth's drug use on her career is that because of it, she was fired from the show that had catapulted her to a global audience. In Esquire's 2012 oral history, screenwriter Douglas Schwartz discussed Bleeth and offered some insight into how her substance misuse issues were making it challenging for writers and producers to work with her. 

"We had one issue with Yasmine Bleeth, who was doing drugs at the time, and so we were dealing with Yasmine not showing up and having difficulties, again with men," he said. "That's why we let Yasmine go off the show: because it was too difficult to deal with her after a while." 

Bleeth had also commented on the relationship issues Schwartz had alluded to, telling Glamour, "The way I saw it, cocaine was easing me through the problems I was still having with my boyfriend. On cocaine, I didn't think about the problems. I had no pain." 

Yasmine Bleeth turned to drugs when she started 'losing faith in love'

Yasmine Bleeth's Glamour essay went on to get more specific, recounting the changes and challenges she went through in her relationship with businessman Paul Cerrito, whom she met at a rehab center in Malibu. From when they started dating, their arrangement was long-distance, as Bleeth often needed to work on location in San Francisco, while Cerrito remained in Los Angeles.

The difficulties of this caused Bleeth to start questioning her belief in love. "You hear about people who are made for each other; I wanted to be one of those people," she wrote. "I was tired of feeling hurt. I was losing faith in love. I just wanted to feel good again. And I knew an easy way to get that feeling."

For Bleeth, this meant falling back on cocaine. "It was like ordering Chinese food. I made one phone call, and they delivered it to my front door," Bleeth revealed. She went on to explain that she eventually stopped visiting  and ultimately ended their relationship because she "had a new boyfriend: drugs." However, the two would eventually get back together.

Her drug use led to significant health issues

Yasmine Bleeth's fans and loved ones may not have been aware of all of the problems she faced during the peak of her fame. But in some ways, this is unsurprising. As Bleeth also put it herself in her Glamour essay, she had become a master at concealing what was wrong and excusing her substance misuse — at least initially.

However, she went on to open up about her mistakes and the struggles she's endured because of them. In her essay, she also detailed how drugs had taken a toll on her body. A doctor discovered that her drug use had led to gangrene. "I had an infection that had completely eaten out the inside of my nose, leaving it raw and bloody," Bleeth wrote. She described the nasal damage in graphic detail, recalling that she would blow her nose and "pieces of skin" would come out.

Bleeth's doctor informed her of the severity of the infection, which, if left untreated, could have reached her brain and killed her. While she would attempt to become sober after learning this, her habit would resume just six weeks later.

Yasmine Bleeth's behavior left her father in tears

Despite Yasmine Bleeth's addiction destroying her career and impacting her life in various ways, she still had a strong support system, most notably in her dad. She had written about how her drug use did not break their bond in her 2003 Glamour, explaining, "In fact, during that time, we were closer than ever because when I tried to pull away, he forced his way back into my life. I'm a very lucky woman."

But her father's reaction to her made her realize she needed to change her life because she could tell how her behavior affected him. "[H]e took one look at me and started to cry. He said I looked like a shell of myself," she recalled. She noted how her appearance had changed, including losing weight and appearing swollen. 

This incident, which remained in her memory, happened in 2001 when her father collected her from an airport in Los Angeles, and it would be something of a wake-up call for Bleeth. "Seeing the expression on my father's face and knowing his heart was being ripped out of his body — that was the first time I was truly confronted by how I was affecting other people," she said.

She claimed her lifestyle made her look like an alien

Because of Yasmine Bleeth's fame, the changes in her appearance that her father observed also had the drawback of being observed by everyone. In the remarks she wrote for Glamour, she noted that she not only lost a significant amount of weight, but also saw her facial features changing.

"By the end of 1999, I'd stopped looking like myself," she admitted. "I'm a fleshy girl, very curvy and round, but I'd lost my softness. My friends said I looked like an alien, that my eyes were bulging out of my face. I wasn't anorexic-looking, but instead of being a size 6 with a 29-inch waist, I was 110 pounds and a size 0." She also claimed "all the light" from her eyes had disappeared, and she looked "dead."

Her team had tried to cover for her initially, and her publicist would blame addiction-related issues on her sinuses or tell people that "Yasmine just had an allergic reaction," the actress recalled.

The media was unkind to her

The media caught on to Yasmine Bleeth's addiction problems anyway and proceeded to cover them closely, usually in an unflattering light, even when Bleeth publicly commented on her journey away from substance use and toward sobriety. Still, it is interesting to note that the paparazzi seemed to have it in for her even before then.

In fact, Bleeth's "Baywatch" castmate Gena Lee Nolin was quick to acknowledge in a 2017 interview with Cosmopolitan that the media's treatment of Bleeth was extremely unfair. "I remember Yasmine Bleeth, she was at the pay phone where we filmed — this was before cellphones — and she scratched her nose, and the Enquirer had three pictures of her, like front cover, 'Yasmine Bleeth — there's drugs' or whatever," Nolin said. "And at the time, when I knew her, there was none of that going on." In the same interview, she commented on her experience with the paparazzi, saying they were "relentless" and appeared everywhere.

Even now, Yasmine Bleeth's appearance still makes headlines

Very few people look the same now as they did 20 years ago, so the media's continuing attention to Yasmine Bleeth's appearance is, in some ways, surprising. Yes, her looks have changed since she was on "Baywatch," but she is also significantly older. However, this commentary may also be because Bleeth does not often make headlines these days, choosing to stay away from the limelight. In 2020, she caught the media's attention again when she was photographed walking her dog in Southern California.

For the most part, she has retreated from the public eye, and very little is known about her life. Esquire's 2012 oral history of "Baywatch" noted that Bleeth lived with Paul Cerrito, whom she eventually married after all, and that they had two homes, one in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the other in Los Angeles. Her name also made headlines in 2017 when TMZ claimed her husband intended to sue Disney for causing him injury.

She also had a bad online shopping habit

In addition to her troubles with both drugs and the media's obsession with ongoing changes in her appearance, Yasmine Bleeth also became reliant on online shopping and would spend thousands of dollars at a time. Bleeth admitted she did not need these things, but the satisfaction of purchasing them made her continue to shop. As she wrote in her essay for Glamour, it was also the most important part of what had developed into a series of routine, nightly post-work rituals as a result of her drug habit starting to snowball. 

This also included activities like rearranging her linen closet, poring over photo albums, and dancing to music. "But mostly," Bleeth wrote, "I'd shop on the internet. I'd order from Saks Fifth Avenue or Neiman Marcus or Bluefly. It was the biggest joke — I bought all these beautiful things, but I never went out. Forget the money I was spending on drugs — I'd spend literally $5,000 to $10,000 in one night shopping on the Web! I was obsessed. Shopping was instant gratification. Just like the drugs."

A car accident saved her relationship with her now-husband

Yasmine Bleeth's eventual wedding to Paul Cerrito two years after she met him in rehab took place at Bacara Resort in Santa Barbara. Interestingly enough, not even a year prior (in 2001), the couple had been involved in a car accident in Detroit. As a result of the incident, Bleeth was arrested for cocaine possession, which made headlines.

"She was treated just like any other first-time drug offender would have been charged with no prior record," Wayne County assistant prosecutor Chris Coyle told The New York Post. While she may not have realized it at the time, this moment would change her life and her relationship with Cerrito for the better.

Though the couple had attended rehab together, it wasn't long before Bleeth relapsed afterward. She commented on this in her Glamour essay, noting that she "lost control." She continued, "Paul and I were talking about marriage and wanted it more than anything, but I had learned that I couldn't have drugs and love at the same time. Drugs become your best friend, your lover, your parents — they become everything to you. The only reason Paul and I are together today is because we had some divine intervention: our accident." Bleeth and Cerrito are still married more than two decades later.

Yasmine Bleeth's life took a dramatically different direction

Yasmine Bleeth was once a television darling with a role on one of the most popular shows of the '90s. Very little is known about her these days, and she has mostly continued to stay out of the limelight. But in 2021, Bleeth returned to acting with an appearance in a movie called "Whack the Don." The comedy also stars Richard Grieco, with whom Bleeth was previously in a relationship (her other ex-boyfriends include Matthew Perry and Don Johnson). 

Aside from this, however, she remains notoriously private, and the question of what may have become of her career had she found herself able to make different decisions can perhaps never be answered. 

That said, "Baywatch" screenwriter Michael Berk did note in Esquire's 2012 oral history that her life changed because she continued to fight to stay sober, and this may offer some insight into where the path she did take may have led her by now. "Yasmine basically retired," Berk said. "She ended up getting into some drug use but meeting a guy in drug rehab, and she's basically retired. I know she gets offers that she turns down. She was an actress at the time she was a little girl, she was very smart with her money, and I think she invested well."

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).