News, Culture & Society

How tragic TV star Nikki Grahame cherished her ‘special’ last holiday in Australia

Big Brother star Nikki Grahame cherished her last holiday in Australia making ‘special memories’ with ‘incredible souls’ before she died from anorexia at 38.

The London-born TV personality, who shot to fame after appearing on the 2006 series of the hit reality show, lost her 30-year battle with the mental health condition on Friday – just one day after she was released from hospital.

Her mother Susan Grahame, 66, recently revealed her daughter, who suffered with what she called ‘terminal loneliness’, would get through the year by looking forward to visiting her friends abroad, but Covid-19 brought all her plans to a grinding halt.

Pre-pandemic photos of the star’s final overseas holiday in January 2020 proudly posted on social media show a smiling and carefree Nikki holidaying Down Under with friends.

Pictured, left to right: Tim Dormer, Nikki Grahame and Ash Toweel sitting on a beach in Cairns

Pictured: Nikki Grahame holding a cocktail with Tim Dormer before a full moon party in Far North Queensland

Pictured: Nikki Grahame holding a cocktail with Tim Dormer before a full moon party in Far North Queensland

In January 2020, just months before international borders closed to contain the respiratory virus, the star posted a photo that showed her sitting on a branch overlooking a beach in Cairns, in northern Queensland.

She was joined by Australian Big Brother winner Tim Dormer, who won the show in 2013, and his now ex-partner Ash Toweel.

‘So many special moments shared with these incredible souls,’ she wrote in the caption.

Another photo showed the star standing on a bridge at Turtle Creek Beach in Far North Queensland gazing into the water.

‘On crocodile watch,’ the caption read.

A second photo from the popular resort showed Nikki and Dormer sitting in a hammock holding cocktails before going to a full moon party. 

Nikki Grahame (pictured) on a beach in Cairns in early 2020 before the pandemic hit. She posted a heartfelt tribute to Australia during the bushfire crisis

Nikki Grahame (pictured) on a beach in Cairns in early 2020 before the pandemic hit. She posted a heartfelt tribute to Australia during the bushfire crisis

Australian Big Brother winner Tim Dormer's gut-wrenching tribute to Nikki Grahame (pictured). He said he was 'broken' to hear that she died

Australian Big Brother winner Tim Dormer’s gut-wrenching tribute to Nikki Grahame (pictured). He said he was ‘broken’ to hear that she died

The Australian Big Brother 10 winner and the Big Brother UK star 'became friends for life' after the duo entered the Big Brother Canada house together in 2016 (pictured on holiday in Cairns)

The Australian Big Brother 10 winner and the Big Brother UK star ‘became friends for life’ after the duo entered the Big Brother Canada house together in 2016 (pictured on holiday in Cairns)

In a final holiday post, shared during Australia’s catastrophic Black Summer where bushfires destroyed millions of acres of bushland and hundreds of homes, the Big Brother contestant asked her followers to ‘pray for Australia’.

‘It’s heartbreaking to know that’s amidst all this beauty that I sit in, out of control fires are destroying so many lives of precious animals and people,’ she said.

‘I love Australia so much and it kills me to feel so helpless being all the way out here and and unable to stop this.’

The post was accompanied by a serene photo of the star relaxing on the sand and garnered thousands of positive responses.

Dormer and Toweel, who were engaged at the time before announcing their split in November, posted individual tributes to their friend on Instagram.

Tim's ex-fiancée Ash Toweel also paid tribute to Nikki on social media, writing 'words can’t begin to describe the sadness we’re all feeling losing you'

Tim’s ex-fiancée Ash Toweel also paid tribute to Nikki on social media, writing ‘words can’t begin to describe the sadness we’re all feeling losing you’

Nikki Grahame (pictured) on September 25, 2017 in London. She rose to fame as a Big Brother contestant

Nikki Grahame (pictured) on September 25, 2017 in London. She rose to fame as a Big Brother contestant

‘My Dear sweet Nikki. Words can’t begin to describe the sadness we’re all feeling losing you. You were a pocket rocket of laughs, tantrums but most importantly kindness,’ Toweel wrote.

‘You always called me your sweet precious boy and made me feel like the most special person in the world reminding me when I couldn’t see it myself. I wish I could’ve helped you like you helped me.’

The 34-year-old said he would give ‘anything’ for one more hug or late-night FaceTime, and said he hopes she is ‘free of pain’.

‘I know you’ll be watching over us. Love you,’ he wrote. 

Dormer, who entered the Big Brother Canada house with her in 2016 as ‘wildcard houseguests’, said Nikki’s death left him ‘truly broken’.

‘Our wacky worlds collided in the most unreal of ways when we both entered the Big Brother Canada house together but we became friends for life,’ the 35-year-old wrote.

Nikki (pictured in Queensland in 2020) rose to fame on the seventh series of UK's Big Brother in 2006, before meeting Tim in the 2016 Canadian version of the series

Nikki (pictured in Queensland in 2020) rose to fame on the seventh series of UK’s Big Brother in 2006, before meeting Tim in the 2016 Canadian version of the series

'Life is really really sad right now but when I think of you I will try smile remembering the good times we've shared like picking wildflowers in the sun together,' her friend wrote

‘Life is really really sad right now but when I think of you I will try smile remembering the good times we’ve shared like picking wildflowers in the sun together,’ her friend wrote

Tim's Instagram post began: 'I am truly broken to hear of my good friend Nikki's passing' (pictured at Uluru in 2020)

Tim’s Instagram post began: ‘I am truly broken to hear of my good friend Nikki’s passing’ (pictured at Uluru in 2020)

He described her as a ‘pint-sized princess’ who grabbed his hand while they were backstage waiting to enter the Big Brother house, looked into his eyes and said ‘please look after me’.

‘And in that moment I knew I meant it when I said ‘I will’.’ 

‘You were my kindred spirit, beautiful flower, sidekick of mischief, iconic superstar and true friend in hard times for me… I’m going to miss you so much.’ 

He posted a series of photos that showed the reality star laughing on beaches, picking flowers, relaxing in the sun, and in front of Uluru in outback Australia.  

In the weeks before her tragic death, Nikki’s former boyfriend Pete Bennett, 39, who she met in the Big Brother house, visited the star amid her tough anorexia battle – just weeks after friends set up a Go Fund Me page to help with her anorexia treatment.

Friends managed to raise more than £69,000 since the GoFundMe page’s launch on March 10, with organisers saying they had ‘exhausted every avenue possible’ 

The pair, who’ve maintained a friendship since their split, were seen sweetly cuddling in the snap, with Nikki leaning towards Pete as they wrapped their arms around each other.

Nikki cuddled up to her Big Brother ex Pete Bennett in a haunting final photo of her shared publicly, after he visited her just weeks before her death aged 38

Nikki cuddled up to her Big Brother ex Pete Bennett in a haunting final photo of her shared publicly, after he visited her just weeks before her death aged 38

In the weeks before her tragic death, Nikki's former boyfriend Pete, 39, who she met in the Big Brother house, visited the star amid her tough anorexia battle

In the weeks before her tragic death, Nikki’s former boyfriend Pete, 39, who she met in the Big Brother house, visited the star amid her tough anorexia battle

Captioning the image shared on his Instagram Page, Pete wrote: ‘Pete and Nikki March 2021 ♡ visiting my nikki and still cuddling to this day :).

‘Remember the fundraiser to help get her into a specialist anorexia clinic is in my bio! #savenikkig.’

The pair fell for each other in the house and enjoyed a brief romance after leaving the show.

Big Brother winner Pete called off their romance after just a month, but the pair remained friends. 

Nikki appeared on the seventh series of Big Brother UK in 2006, finishing in fifth place. She returned to the show in 2010 for the Ultimate Big Brother series.

After entering the house dressed as a Playboy bunny, Nikki quickly became known for her temper tantrums and Diary Room histrionics, including the now infamous ‘who is she?’ rant.

Nikki, who rose to fame on the seventh series of Big Brother in 2006, passed away in the early hours of Friday- just one month after her friends started a GoFundMe page for anorexia treatment (pictured in 2006)

Nikki, who rose to fame on the seventh series of Big Brother in 2006, passed away in the early hours of Friday- just one month after her friends started a GoFundMe page for anorexia treatment (pictured in 2006)

WHAT IS ANOREXIA?

Anorexia is a serious mental illness where a person restricts their food intake, which often causes them to be severely underweight.

Many also exercise excessively.

Some sufferers may experience periods of bingeing, followed by purging. 

Sufferers often have a distorted view of themselves and think they are larger than they really are.

Untreated, patients can suffer loss of muscle and bone strength, as well as depression, low libido and menstruation ceasing in women.

In severe cases, patients can experience heart problems and organ damage.

Behavioural signs of anorexia include people saying they have already eaten or will do later, as well as counting calories, missing meals, hiding food and eating slowly.

As well as weight loss, sufferers may experience insomnia, constipation, bloating, feeling cold, hair loss, and swelling of the hands, face and feet.

Treatment focuses on therapy and self-help groups to encourage healthy eating and coping mechanisms.

Source: Beat Eating Disorders

Nikki was evicted on day 58, but went back into the house after the remaining contestants picked her to return.

After Big Brother, she bagged her own reality show, Princess Nikki, which saw her attempt to keep various jobs. 

Her mother revealed how badly Britain’s Covid lockdown affected her daughter.

‘This last year has just about floored her… From the first lockdown, it was hellish,’ she told The Telegraph.

Speaking on ITV’s This Morning last month, she explained: ‘She had terminal loneliness… she was cut off, spending too much time on her own, and nothing to think about other than food.

‘With Nikki, she would get through the year knowing she had friends abroad and would visit them, and she spent a lot of time last year cancelling all her holidays.’

Prior to Big Brother, Nikki, then an aspiring actress, appeared as an extra in the BBC soap opera EastEnders and played a footballer’s wife in Sky One’s Dream Team.

She also appeared as a contestant on ITV dating show Blind Date and competed in the 2004 Miss Hertfordshire pageant.

Nikki also won a National Television Award for most popular TV contender and published two books, the autobiographies Dying To Be Thin and Fragile. 

The TV star was always incredibly open about her anorexia, often appearing on TV to speak about her experiences as well as chronicling them in her books.

After first being admitted to an eating disorder unit at the age of eight, Nikki was force-fed through a tube, which caused long-term damage to her oesophagus from years of purging.

Speaking with the Daily Mail in 2008, Nikki revealed that she spent the majority of her childhood in different institutions including the Maudsley, Hillingdon Hospital and children’s psychiatric unit Collingham Gardens in London.

She was then admitted to Great Ormond Street and treated there for two tears before being placed into care.

Nikki detailed how during one stay at an unnamed unit she was: ‘shoved in a cubicle’.

She said: ‘I had to use a bed pan, have bed baths and it was just awful. I just sat in a cubicle for 24 hours a day with no stimulation. I sat there like that for three months.’

She also detailed how she was force-fed by nurses and by a tube inserted into her stomach which she would rip out. 

The pair fell for each other in the house and enjoyed a brief romance after leaving the show (pictured in the BB house in 2006)

The pair fell for each other in the house and enjoyed a brief romance after leaving the show (pictured in the BB house in 2006)

Nikki's mother recently claimed her daughter's 30-year battle with anorexia nervosa worsened because of the coronavirus pandemic (pictured together)

Nikki’s mother recently claimed her daughter’s 30-year battle with anorexia nervosa worsened because of the coronavirus pandemic (pictured together) 

Nikki's last snap of herself and a pal was shared to Instagram in July 2020, with dozens of fans now filling the comments with tributes

Nikki’s last snap of herself and a pal was shared to Instagram in July 2020, with dozens of fans now filling the comments with tributes

Reflecting on a low point in her teenage years ahead of being admitted to Huntercombe Hospital in Maidenhead, Nikki said: ‘I was a walking skeleton. I was 15 years old and weighed 4st 3½lb.’ 

She was there for eight months and put on 6½lb before trying to overdose, reports the paper.

Due to her condition, she never had a period or produced eggs which would allow her to conceive and in 2019 revealed she had visited fertility clinics in London.

In 2011, Nikki suffered a relapse after reducing her daily intake to just 400 calories. 

During an interview on This Morning, Susan Grahame, 66, revealed the Big Brother icon struggled with the isolation periods and gym closures brought by the nationwide lockdowns, admitting: ‘COVID-19 really put the cap on it.’ 

‘It sounds crazy but even stuff like gyms closing, which is quite important to Nikki as she needs to know she can exercise.

‘The isolation, she couldn’t see anyone. I offered to stay with her but she said ”I need to stay in my own home”. It’s been really hard for her, really hard.

Nikki's friend Leon Dee paid tribute to his late friend and revealed money raised on GoFundMe will be given to a charity in Nikki's memory

Nikki’s friend Leon Dee paid tribute to his late friend and revealed money raised on GoFundMe will be given to a charity in Nikki’s memory

‘She had terminal loneliness… she was cut off, spending too much time on her own, and nothing to think about other than food.’

Nikki’s parent went on to detail the former model’s difficult childhood as she explained: ‘We had a lot of stuff going on, my dad got very sick, she was worried for me.

‘My marriage broke up, my husband at the time had a lot of trouble at work, it wasn’t a happy place.

‘One thing sticks in my mind, we went to a restaurant for Mother’s Day lunch, and Nikki she stood beside me. She didn’t want to sit let alone eat, then of course she started to lose weight, that’s the one time that sticks in my mind.’

Susan also insisted the Northwood native was getting back on track before the pandemic, sharing: ‘It all came to a grinding halt.

‘With Nikki, she would get through the year knowing she had friends abroad and would visit them, and she spent a lot of time last year cancelling all her holidays.’

Her mother urged anyone struggling with an eating disorder to reach out for help. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk