TLC Stars You Didn't Know Passed Away

TLC is one of the most popular TV channels, with unique show concepts that have hooked viewers to their screens for years. We've watched emotional weight loss journeys on "My 600-lb Life" and beautiful love stories on "90 Day Fiancé." We've seen extraordinary home transformations on "Trading Spaces" and extravagant creations on "Cake Boss." As unique and captivating as the show concepts are, it's the characters that viewers connect and resonate with. Whether we meet them briefly for one episode or follow them for a season-long journey, we become deeply invested in their lives. This is why when a beloved TLC celebrity dies, it hits viewers especially hard.

Sadly, there are many people from these shows that have left us too soon. We've rounded up a list of TLC stars you didn't know passed away, and take you through their unique journeys, accomplishments, and the loved ones they left behind. 

Kailia Posey from Toddlers And Tiaras

You might know Kailia Posey from her time on the fourth season of TLC's "Toddlers and Tiaras," when she was just five years old. Or you might know her as the star of the popular "Grinning Girl" meme, after a clip of her smiling on the show went viral. Either way, fans were devastated to learn that she died by suicide in May 2022, just days after she celebrated her 16th birthday and high school prom.

Posey was found dead in her car at Birch Bay State Park on May 2. "Although she was an accomplished teenager with a bright future ahead of her, unfortunately in one impetuous moment, she made the rash decision to end her earthly life," her family told TMZ. The child star started competing in pageants from the age of three and won numerous crowns and trophies, including Miss Lynden, Washington Teen in 2021 and Miss Springfield, Missouri Teen in 2022. She also performed with Cirque du Soleil as a contortionist and appeared in the Netflix film "Eli." According to the family, Posey was selected to be in her high school cheerleading squad the following fall, and her dream was to pursue her commercial pilot's license.

To honor her memory and help other "students in crisis," Posey's family set up the Kailia Posey Teen Crisis Intervention Fund.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat

Yoji Harada from Miami Ink

In 2019, legendary tattoo artist Yoji Harada and star of TLC's hit show "Miami Ink" died at just 46 years old. His friend and fellow tattoo artist Tommy Montoya confirmed his death on Instagram on March 27, writing, "Another friend gone!! so sad. rest In PEACE Yoji. you will be missed!"

Harada's love of inking started at 19, after he gave himself his first tattoo of his then-girlfriend. Fans watched as he worked his way from apprentice to full-time tattoo artist on TLC's hit show "Miami Ink." The show launched his career, and he eventually opened up his own tattoo parlor in Amsterdam in 2016. However, his talents were not limited to inking. In 2001, he appeared in the movie "Suicide Club," which follows the investigations of a string of mysterious suicides in Japan. He formed a children's clothing label called "Ruthless & Toothless," with his Miami ink co-star Darren Brass. He also loved playing guitar, and often posted pictures of himself rocking out on social media.

Harada is survived by his daughter, who he ironically said is never allowed to get a tattoo. Following the news of his death, social media was flooded with messages from friends and fans grieving the loss of the legendary artist that inspired so many. "Wow, #RIP Yoji Harada! I remember watching #miamiink all the time when I was younger, and my love for tattoos begun," one fan tweeted.

Jason Hitch from 90 Day Fiancé

"90 Day Fiancé" star Jason Hitch died from COVID-19 complications on December 14, 2021. He was unvaccinated and just 45 years old, with no preexisting conditions. According to his sister Shannon, he died in a Florida hospital with his family nearby.

Fans first met Hitch when he appeared on Season 2 of the hit TLC show in 2014, where he married Brazilian native Cássia Tavares. The two met on Facebook, but Avares was actually in an online relationship with one of his friends at the time. Despite the large age gap (Hitch was 38 and Tavares was 23 when they got married), the pair seemed like they were going to make it work. "I don't think I'm going to sleep at all for the next 90 days because I'm going to walk around thinking, 'What am I going to do to keep her happy?'" he once said on the show (via Deadline).

After getting married, the couple started their own mail-order snack business called "Gifting Fun" together. Unfortunately, after only three years of marriage and a domestic violence report, they separated. Their divorce was finalized in 2018, with Hitch telling Radar that it was due to a "lack of communication." Tavares took to her Instagram Story to express her shock at the news and send her condolences to his friends and family. "It's always sad when someone you spent part of your life with stops breathing," she wrote. "Rest in Peace, Jason." (via ScreenRant).

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Barbara Babs Thore from My Big Fat Fabulous Life

Viewers of the TLC show "My Big Fat Fabulous Life" fell in love with Barbara "Babs" Thore, the mother of Whitney Thore. Season 10 followed her diagnosis with cerebral amyloid angiopathy, an untreatable disorder that causes brain bleeds, strokes, and dementia. Unfortunately, at age 76, Thore died "just as the credits rolled on her favorite movie," her daughter announced on Instagram. "It was 10:32pm, the same exact time she brought me into this world almost forty years ago."

Thore had her first stroke in 2017, and had two more before her death on December 7, 2022. Whitney posted a sweet video montage of her mother, describing "her southern charm, her hilarious sense of humor, her well-timed witty remarks, her beauty, and her ability to make everyone around her feel comfortable and cared for." She described how the show brought happiness to her mother during one of the darkest periods of her life. She also thanks the fans for their love and support. "It gave her such a sense of purpose and excitement and something to look forward to every time the crew came around," she wrote. "This last year navigating life after her second stroke was, perhaps surprisingly, the best of our lives. We never had more fun or laughed as much as we did the past year."

Frank Bielec from Trading Spaces

Fans of TLC's home improvement show "Trading Spaces" mourned the loss of designer Frank Bielec in 2020, who died from heart attack complications at age 72. Although appearing on the show from 2000-2008, and again for the 2018 reboot, Bielec's reality TV career actually happened by accident. After filling in for a demonstrator at a decorative paint convention in Nashville, he impressed an audience member who happened to be a producer from Home & Garden TV. During his time on the show, he was known for his witty quips and signature style, and quickly became a fan favorite.

Messages of support and sadness from fans and co-stars flooded social media following the news of his death. Host of "Trading Spaces" Paige Davis shared a touching tribute on Facebook, writing: "He was my biggest champion and I adored him. Everyone adored him. It was a treat every time he was around. Full of one-liners, quips, dirty jokes, and salty musings, Frank made us laugh, forget our troubles, and never take life too seriously." On Instagram, his co-star Genevieve Gorder wrote, "As the youngest and oldest designer we had a special bond, much like siblings." She explained that, "to know Frank Bielec was an experience... not simply a relationship." Co-star Ty Pennington, who also hosted "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," wrote that "Frank made everyone smile, he was the glue that held our show together." It's clear Bielec left a mark on everyone he met and will be greatly missed.

Caleb Willingham from 1000-lb Sisters

Caleb Willingham, husband of Tammy Slaton from the TLC show "1000-lb Sisters", died at the age of 40 in July 2023, only months after their November 2022 wedding. "I am devastated to share the news of my husband's passing. He was my best friend and I loved him dearly," she said in a statement to People. "When I met Caleb he became my guardian angel and now he really is watching over me." 

The couple met while both living at the Windsor Lane Rehabilitation Center in Gibsonburg, Ohio, and got engaged shortly after. "I know it's only been three weeks but I've never felt this way about anybody," she said on an episode. "The last two relationships I was never this happy." In November 2022, they tied the knot in the same rehabilitation center where they met, in front of 30 of their friends and family. The two seemed eager to start their lives together, with Willingham saying, "We're gonna get married, we're gonna have a couple of kids, hopefully. Life's gonna be great."

Willingham's official cause of death has not been released, with Slaton describing it as "personal." There were also rumors circulating that the couple was separated at the time. "I'm in the stages of grief. Yeah, we were having problems, but I loved that man and I still do," she said in a TikTok video. "I miss him like crazy but I wanted to thank everybody for your comments."

Larry Myers Jr. from My 600-lb Life

Gospel singer Larry Myers Jr., who appeared on Season 10 of "My 600-lb Life," sadly passed away from a heart attack, just three days after his 49th birthday in 2023. The fan-favorite captured the hearts of viewers and earned himself the nickname "Mr Buttermilk Biscuits," after a clip of him singing about his favorite food went viral.

Myers went on the show to overcome his binge-eating disorder, revealing how food is his coping mechanism. "I eat to comfort myself. When I'm cooking, it's the only time I'm happy, besides when I'm eating," he said, per Unilad. However, he remained dedicated to Dr. Now's program and managed to lose a whopping 118 pounds. Things seemed to be turning around for Myers, who looked to be maintaining a healthy lifestyle on social media and was set to release a book called "The Weight of Grief: One Man's Journey to Overcome Addiction & Find Hope."

Sadly, his cousin Todd Darell took to Facebook to announce his death in June 2023, and shared a GoFundMe Page set up to cover funeral costs. The sweet tribute celebrated his kind-hearted nature and love of singing. "From a small storefront church in his hometown to the big stage of the Apollo theater, Larry always made himself available to sing at special events anytime anyone asked, most of the time free of charge," it read. "His struggle with weight gain/loss never dimmed his drive to show love and kindness to all he met" (via Daily Mail).

Gary Rathgeber from 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way

On August 6, 2019, "90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way" star Corey Rathgeber lost his father Gary Rathbeger. Viewers met Gary on the first episode of the show, when Corey announced his plans to move to Ecuador to be with his fiancée, Evelin Villegas. Unfortunately, it was while Corey was away that he received the tragic news. 

On the show, we saw a supportive but worrisome father, concerned about the differing views on religion and children between his son and his fiancee. "I hope they're happy but I don't know how they're gonna work out their differences," he said in a confessional (via SceenRant).

In a heartfelt Instagram post, Corey expressed his sadness and scribed his dad's wonderful character. "You were the best dad I could ever ask for. You helped me, loved me, cared for me. You were my friend. It's not fair; you went too soon." He also lamented the plans they could no longer do. "You were supposed to come visit me in Ecuador so we could fish and surf together. All the different foods you were supposed to try. I planned on building a place down there for you and mom." He ended the post by thanking fans for their support, and sharing advice from his father. "One thing he always said is 'if you don't shoot you won't score.' In remembrance of my dad I want everyone to take that shot and score whatever it may be!"

Sal Picinich from Cake Boss

Sal Picinich, veteran baker of the hit-show "Cake Boss," died from cancer in 2016 in New Jersey at 63 years old. Picinich was one of the longest-serving employees of Carlo's Bakery, the Hoboken-based location where the show was recorded. He worked there for 45 years.

Born in Susak, Croatia, in 1948, Picinich moved to the United States in 1963. A year later, he started working with Buddy Valastro Sr. It's reported that his son, Buddy Valastro Jr., better known as "The Cake Boss", saw Picinich as "a second father," per the Los Angeles Times.

Picinich left the show after being diagnosed with cancer in 2009. However, on the bakery's 100th anniversary, he was invited back to accept the "Employee of the Century" award. According to his obituary, he was a parishioner of St. Joseph's Church and loved politics, soccer, and fishing. He was also described as a "loving father" and "cherished grandfather." He is survived by his wife of 37 years, Lucille, two children, and two grandchildren.

Glenda Standridge from 90 Day Fiancé

It was supposed to be the happiest day of her life when "90 Day Fiance: Happily Ever After?" Star Angela Deem got married to her long-distance boyfriend Michael Ilesanmi in Nigeria. However, just hours after tying the knot, she received news informing her that her ailing mother Glenda Standridge had been taken to the ICU. "I'm trying to get a plane to get to the States because we don't know the condition of my mother and all I know is she can not be there when I get back," she said on the show, per InTouch. The final episode left fans wondering whether or not Standridge would be okay, and whether Deem would make it back in time to say goodbye. A week later, Deem confirmed her mother's death on social media but it seems she was able to get back to the US before she passed. She was 77 years old.

Deem was already apprehensive about leaving her mother, who had cancer, behind in Georgia, but Standridge urged her daughter to go ahead with the wedding. In the days after her death, Deem paid tribute to her mother, sharing pictures and sketches from fans. "We love you moma, But God love you more! Rest in peace mama," she captioned one post on Instagram.

Laura Ann Perez from My 600-lb Life

Laura Perez shocked viewers with her weight loss when she appeared on Season 3 of "My 600-lb Life." Unfortunately, in November 2021, she died from unknown causes at just 48 years old.

When viewers were first introduced to Perez, she weighed almost 600 pounds and relied on a wheelchair and oxygen tank. She remained dedicated to Dr. Now's program, and her transformation is one of the most drastic and impressive ones we've seen on the show. She shed almost 300 pounds, but her journey wasn't easy. After undergoing a gastrectomy, where four-fifths of her stomach were removed due to an enlarged liver and spleen, Perez almost died from pneumonia. However, she pulled through and reached one of the show's lowest-ever weights — 182 lbs. Her obituary includes a link to a Sympathy Store, where friends and family can plant a tree in her memory, or send flowers.