Friends of Big Brother star Nikki Grahame have spoken of their heartbreak following her death, aged 38.
The TV personality had anorexia and friends had set up a crowd fund to pay for her treatment.
Former Emmerdale actress Gemma Oaten fought back tears in a video, saying: “I wish I could have done more.”
Friends also posted on Nikki’s fundraising 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 her video, Gemma Oaten said: “I am so sorry Nikki to lose such a beautiful and bright human being… I wish I could have done more.”
The actress had anorexia herself and founded SEED Eating Disorder Services Charity with her mother Marg Oaten.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live, Marg Oaten said she hoped Nikki’s death would raise awareness of “how cruel this illness is”.
Joanne Byrne, CEO of Anorexia and Bulimia Care, tweeted that she was “devastated”. She said: “A beautiful, fragile girl who struggled with anorexia for over 30 years. We must be able to do more for people like Nikki.”
Harriet Clifford said she had got to know Grahame over several months of inpatient treatment for eating disorders. She described her as “caring, big-hearted and admirably open”.
She told the BBC: “It was a privilege to have met her, even though we were all going through really horrific times in our lives. She brightened up the place with her infectious personality.”
Mental health campaigner Hope Virgo told BBC Breakfast she was hospitalised with an eating disorder aged 17 and hoped Nikki’s story would encourage others to seek help.
She said: “Life on the other side of an eating disorder, there’s just so much positivity and so much potential.”
Nikki Grahame was a much loved housemate and a huge part of the Big Brother family. We are shocked and saddened by this awful news and our thoughts are with her family. pic.twitter.com/31wojcWI6F
— Big Brother UK (@bbuk) April 10, 2021
Former Big Brother presenter Davina McCall led the tributes, tweeting: “I am so desperately sad to hear about Nikki Grahame. My thoughts are with her friends and family xx she really was the funniest, most bubbly sweetest girl.”
Paying tribute to Grahame on Twitter, Clark-Neal wrote: “Thinking of [Grahame’s mother] Susan and Nikki’s close friends and family. A Big Brother Icon.”
TV presenter Paddy McGuinness added: “Definitely one of the stars from the glory years of reality TV. I met her a long time ago and she was a lovely girl. RIP young lady.”
Channel 4 tweeted: We are desperately saddened by the tragic news about Nikki Grahame and our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with Nikki’s family and friends.”
Big Brother Canada added:“Our hearts break for the loss of Nikki Grahame. Nikki will forever be a beloved part of the Big Brother family. Rest in peace.”
Grahame, originally from Northwood in north-west London, took part in the seventh series of Big Brother in 2006.
Her experience of anorexia was well documented, and she released a book about her eating disorder in 2009.
Last month, a fundraising page was set up, asking fans to donate towards her recovery. It eventually raised more than £65,000.
The page said the 38-year-old was in “a very bad way” and needed treatment in a rehabilitation centre. Several Big Brother figures including former winner Rylan Clark-Neal retweeted the appeal for donations.
In a statement to the BBC, Grahame’s manager confirmed “with immeasurable sadness” that Grahame had died on Friday morning.
“Please respect the privacy of Nikki’s friends and family at this tragic and difficult time,” he added.
Grahame was hugely popular with viewers and was known for her tantrums in the Big Brother house.
She would often complain in the diary room about the conditions in the house or fellow contestants, famously shouting “It’s so cold,” and, on another occasion, asking “Who is she?” after a new housemate joined the show.
Grahame was voted back into the house four weeks after she was first evicted. She subsequently finished in fifth place.
She went on to win a National Television Award for most popular TV contender and starred in her own reality TV series called Princess Nikki.
She also guest-starred on programmes such as the Friday Night Project and as a contestant on celebrity editions of shows such as Pointless and The Weakest Link.
Prior to finding fame on Big Brother, Grahame was an aspiring actress. She appeared as an extra in the BBC’s EastEnders and played a footballer’s wife in Sky One’s Dream Team.
Grahame also appeared as a contestant on ITV’s Blind Date and competed in the 2004 Miss Hertfordshire pageant.