Stars From Big Brother You Didn't Know Died

In the world of reality television, CBS's hit series "Big Brother" boasts an impressive 23 seasons, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. The show, which follows a group of contestants, or houseguests, has seen plenty of competitors over the years. Naturally, with so many people competing for a fabulous cash prize, even the biggest fans might not be aware that some of these memorable folks have unfortunately passed away since their time in the house.

These larger-than-life personalities will undoubtedly bring up memories of their days on the series for fans. Some contestants will be remembered for earning criticisms for their actions while on "Big Brother," like U.K. housemate Jade Goody. The late reality star, who rose to fame after her initial season, later caused controversy for racist comments made about a fellow contestant during "Celebrity Big Brother" Season 5. Others, like "Saved by the Bell" actor Dustin Diamond and television personality David Gest, both of whom appeared on separate seasons of the show's Celebrity editions, will also be remembered for various entertainment ventures outside of their time on the reality series.

The first housemate, Cassandra Waldon, passed in 2019

Season 1 U.S. contestant Cassandra Waldon was the first houseguest to walk into the "Big Brother" house. Eventually, Waldon was nominated for eviction, along with Curtis Kin and Eddie McGee, during the tenth week, with the voting results leading to her banishment from the house. Sadly, in 2019, Deadline reported that the former "Big Brother" competitor had passed away at the age of 56. According to the outlet, Waldon was hit by a passing car in Rome, Italy, leading to sustained head injuries that resulted in a loss of consciousness, which eventually led to her death. At the time, Waldon was in Rome working for the United Nations as the director of communication for the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

After her death was announced, "Big Brother" host Julie Chen wrote a heartfelt Instagram post in memory of the show's former houseguest. Chen spoke warmly of the "class and grace" that reflected Waldon's life, also sending her best wishes to the deceased's family. The host finished by saying, "Thank you for bringing your intelligence, warmth and wisdom to the Big Brother house Season 1. You are in my thoughts and in my prayers. May God Bless your soul."

Kent Blackwelder died of a heart attack

Season 2's Kent Blackwelder appeared on the U.S. version of "Big Brother." He became known for forming a close friendship with his openly gay housemate, Bunky Miller, despite Blackwelder's strongly conservative views and admitted homophobia. In a unanimous vote, the Tennessee native eventually went up for elimination and was evicted during the fifth week. 

Later, in 2017, the Inquisitr reported that Blackwelder had passed away at the age of 62 due to a heart attack. The outlet released statements from since-deleted social media posts about the former contestant's passing. His daughter, Maddy Blackwelder, had confirmed the news, stating that her father had a "heart of gold," calling him "the most interesting and funny man in the world." She ended her message by saying, "I will love you and miss you forever daddio."

Similarly, Miller (Blackwelder's previously mentioned friend from the series) wrote a heartfelt, since-deleted Facebook post, also shared by Reality Blurred. In his message, Miller recalled his positive experiences during visits to see Blackwelder and his family, adding that he "never dreamed" the last time he saw his friend would be their final interaction. Robyn Kass, the casting director of "Big Brother," also responded to the news on Twitter, stating that she'd "just heard the very sad news of the passing" and was "sending love to the Blackwelder family."

Jade Goody passed away due to cervical cancer

While not every housemate on "Big Brother" ended up becoming a celebrity, the late Jade Goody became well known after her first appearance on the U.K.'s third season of the series. Goody became a finalist, eventually placing fourth overall. Her persona helped her rise to fame, and Goody eventually returned to the show that made her famous. She appeared on the U.K.'s fifth season of "Celebrity Big Brother," and was later evicted, finishing in ninth place. However, Goody's time on the celebrity spin-off also caused her to face controversy for bullying her Indian housemate, Shilpa Shetty.

Goody learned that she had cervical cancer while filming for the Indian version of "Big Brother," called "Bigg Boss." During her second day in the house, Goody was told to take a call from a consultant, who delivered the devastating news. The conversation was filmed, despite higher-ups telling Goody otherwise. In 2009, after Goody publicly battled cancer, and The Guardian announced that the mom of two had lost the fight against cancer at just 27 years old. PR guru Max Clifford reported to the outlet that Goody passed with her mother, Jackiey Budden, and her husband, Jack Tweed, by her side. Budden allegedly told Clifford, "My beautiful daughter is at peace." Publicly, Budden stated, "Family and friends would like privacy at last."

David Gest suffered from a stroke

Known for being a producer and television personality, David Gest was a housemate on Season 17 of the U.K.'s "Celebrity Big Brother." Unfortunately, the founder of the American Cinema Awards Foundation ended up leaving on Day 13 for medical reasons. Famously, a mix-up during a conversation between Tiffany Pollard and Angie Bowie led to Pollard misinterpreting Bowie's message "David's dead," believing that Gest had passed away even though Bowie had been referring to her own ex-husband. Pollard's meltdown led to numerous memes, gifs, and even t-shirts. Unfortunately, the joke lost its humor after Pollard's statement became an eerily accurate prediction of Gest's fate.

In 2016, BBC News reported that Gest had been found dead in his hotel room at the Four Seasons in London. He was 62 years old. At the time of his death, Gest had been planning to do a July tour in the U.K. with a show called the David Gest Is Not Dead But Alive With Soul Tour! The show's title was a cheeky play on the "Big Brother" misunderstanding. Additionally, after Gest's death was announced, Pollard released a statement of condolence on Twitter. "I'm so sad to hear about the passing of #DavidGest. My thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family..#Rip." Later, The Sun reported that a post-mortem confirmed that Gest died of a stroke.

Dustin Diamond passed away from stage 4 lung cancer

Though Dustin Diamond is better known for playing Screech on "Saved by the Bell" than being on the U.K.'s "Celebrity Big Brother" Season 12, it doesn't make his time on the reality series any less memorable. Unfortunately for Diamond, the actor became the fourth housemate to be evicted on Day 16. According to Digital Spy, Diamond reportedly told presenter Emma Willis that it "was time" to leave after his departure from the house, adding, "I had a great time. I loved everybody in there." "Celebrity Big Brother" wasn't Diamond's first venture into reality television. He'd previously appeared on "Celebrity Fit Club," "Hulk Hogan's Celebrity Championship Wrestling," and "World's Dumbest" (via IMDb).

Sadly, on February 1, 2021, TMZ reported that the actor had passed away from stage 4 lung cancer just weeks after his first round of chemotherapy. Diamond was only 44 years old at the time of his death. The late star's former "Save by the Bell" castmates expressed their sorrow in the wake of Diamond's passing. Mark-Paul Gosselaar told Entertainment Weekly, "My sincere condolences to his family and friends." Similarly, Mario Lopez and Tiffani Thiessen shared social media tributes. On Instagram, Lopez stated that Diamond would be "missed" while also offering condolences to his family. Likewise, Thiessen expressed her grief on Instagram, reminding her followers, "Life is extremely fragile and it's something we should never take for granted."

Sophia Brown's cause of death is unclear

Former "Big Brother" contestant Sophia Brown lasted nine days on the U.K.'s tenth season of the reality series. Of course, even though Brown's time on the show was brief, the petite bank worker still managed to make a lasting impression. Sadly, in 2018, The Daily Mirror announced that Brown had passed away at the age of 30. Her cause of death remains listed as unknown; however, according to the media outlet, the bubbly television star had lupus, which is believed to be connected to her passing. Many of Brown's former housemates wrote heartfelt messages on social media expressing their sadness and offering condolences.

Before her death, Brown shared her story as a lupus patient with Lupus Trust shortly after being evicted from "Big Brother." Brown spoke about her diagnosis, saying that she'd found out that she had the autoimmune disease when she was only 7 years old. She described herself as "just a normal girl with a normal life." Still, the former houseguest revealed that she experienced visible signs of health issues and that her mother was the one who pushed to discover the cause of her illness. Additionally, Brown stressed the importance of learning body awareness and using it to one's advantage as a lupus patient. She ended her story by stating, "You can actually begin to live rather than exist, which is what I've chosen to do."

Gordon Sloan passed in 2007 under mysterious circumstances

Former houseguest Gordon Sloan appeared on Australia's first season of "Big Brother." He was known for his mohawk hairstyle and was later evicted on Day 35, ending his run on the series in 11th place. According to Now To Love, after his time on the show, Sloan had a short-lived romance with Rogue Traders lead singer Natalie Bassingthwaighte. Later, in 2007, it was announced that Sloan had collapsed in a nightclub in Beijing and was admitted to a city hospital in a coma. Unfortunately, the former reality star tragically passed away soon after.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Sloan never regained consciousness, and a CAT scan revealed that he was brain dead after the incident at the club. Sloan's cause of death is unclear. His family rejected the idea of illegal drug use, stating that the doctor who examined Sloan said that his body's reaction to the substances discovered in his body proved Sloan wouldn't have knowingly taken them. The Brisbane Times reported that the New Zealand native's life was celebrated at his funeral by friends, family, and "Big Brother" production crew members. Sloan was praised for his work in Baghdad as a human shield and his assistance in creating an orphanage in Kenya.

Nikki Grahame passed away in April

Former reality television star, model, and author Nikki Grahame appeared on the U.K.'s seventh season of "Big Brother," coming in fifth place. She later returned for "Ultimate Big Brother," the U.K.'s Season 16 of "Big Brother," "Big Brother Canada" Season 4, and various related spin-offs (via IMDb). In 2020, when speaking to The Guardian about her experience on the reality series, Grahame said, "I hold fond memories of Big Brother, even though there were times where it looked like I was having a meltdown." Towards the end of her statement, the reality star praised "Big Brother" for its financial boost, saying that she "never had to get a 'normal' job" thanks to the show. She ended by saying the experience "had a positive effect on my life."

In April, Variety reported that Grahame had unfortunately passed away at the age of 38. According to a GoFundMe page that Grahame's close friends had set up, the star had a longstanding struggle with anorexia. After her passing, Grahame's friend Leon Deen said this on the page: "It breaks our hearts to know that someone who is so precious was taken from us at such a young age. Nikki not only touched the lives of millions of people, but also her friends and family who will miss her immensely." In memory of the late entertainer, the donations provided to Grahame's page will go to an organization that helps those suffering from eating disorders.

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 died under mysterious circumstances

Model Miriam Rivera was well-known in Mexico for being the first openly-trans reality star. Rivera made a guest appearance on Australia's fourth season of "Big Brother." Before entering the "Big Brother" house, the entertainer told host Gretel Killen about being a transgender woman in Mexico. "You have to be really strong, I went through a lot." She added, "But I'm a strong woman!" Fans knew her for the 2004 British show "There's Something About Miriam," where a group of men would compete for Rivera's affections. According to Variety, the reality dating series caused a backlash when former contestants filed personal lawsuits against the production company.

In 2019, BBC News reported that Rivera had passed away; she was only 38 years old. The Daily Mail states that Rivera's New York-based husband, Daniel Cuervo, suspected foul play after Rivera's death was ruled a suicide. Cuervo said that he'd spoken to Rivera on the day she reportedly took her own life, stating that "she was feeling sick and vomiting blood." Cuervo added that he'd also inquired about having her body flown to New York, but was told she'd already been cremated. One of Rivera's close friends similarly believed there was more to what happened. She stated that she'd spoken to Rivera weeks before her death and that the model had been excited about the future, that she was hoping to "finish a degree" and wanted "to write a book about her life."