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15 Reality TV Stars You Didn’t Know Died

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15 Reality TV Stars You Didn’t Know Died

via mirror.co.uk

Reality television is a controversial concept, since some feel that many of the reality shows on television are contrived. Secrets behind some of the most popular reality shows have revealed some surprising features that make audiences wonder whether or not these shows are truly real. A great example is how The Real Housewives franchise is said to give cast members extra money for taking trips together, so they may not really be as chummy as they might seem.

However, not all reality shows are the same. From competition shows to survival shows to weight loss shows, the public seems to be more interested in the real lives of people rather than something scripted. Since the Osbournes became the first family to make a reality television show, the public continues to crave a more in-depth look at what happens off-stage and off-screen. Since then, more and more families are opening their doors to a camera crew, and a plethora of other reality shows have made their mark on television. With the fact that Survivor is going on 32 seasons strong and new survival shows keep popping up with each passing year, it doesn’t seem like reality television shows are going anywhere anytime soon.

With the public being introduced to so many different families, contestants, and participants; it’s inevitable that some of them would make their mark on the world. From endearing personalities to over-the-top characters, some reality stars have become full-fledged celebrities in their own right. However, there have been some shocking tragedies that have befallen some of our favorite reality TV stars, and snuffed out their light before their time. Check out our list of 15 shocking tragedies related to reality TV, and see how even those in the limelight can fall victim to misfortune.

15. Ashley Sawyer – Catfish

via youtube.com

via youtube.com

MTV’s reality show, Catfish, is based on the Indie film, Catfish, starring Nev Schulman. Capturing the entire saga of an online relationship that turned out to be a middle-aged married woman, this seemed like a great premise for a reality show. With each new episode, fans started to think that it was just the same story retold, until new characters emerged that put a new spin on things. Ashley Sawyer’s story had a definite twist, since it turned out both she and her online beau Michael Fortunato, were both sending each other altered images. A month after her episode aired, Michael was found dead of a pulmonary embolism and Ashley Sawyer was later found dead in an apparent drug overdose. While the pulmonary embolism isn’t exactly a controllable condition, it’s surprising when it takes someone at such a young age. Clearly Sawyer didn’t have the healthiest mind frame, since she admitted to sending photos that featured altered images. Repeatedly trying to pass off these images as unaltered photos of herself, there are a myriad of different issues that people reference in regards to a person that has the capability of being a “catfish.” Whether the drug overdose was a purposeful event or an unfortunate accident, we might never know.

14. Ryan Knight – Battle of the Exes

via twitter.com

via twitter.com

Ryan Knight was a regular on MTV competition shows, but often skipped a few seasons here and there. While the network doesn’t shy away from characters that like to indulge in drinking binges and partying escapades, Knight was known to have substance abuse issues and there was even an instance of violence on a reunion special. Oftentimes, this type of behavior isn’t met favorably by producers, but they gave him another chance when he appeared on Battle of the Exes 2. Everything seemed to go well on the show, with Knight completing his time on the series. It wasn’t until the show’s completion that fans were to learn that he had passed in November 2014. Within just two weeks of Diem Brown, Knight was found Thanksgiving morning unresponsive at a friend’s house. The reports indicated his death was the result of drugs and alcohol, and MTV once again lost another of its reality television stars. The ironic part of his passing was the fact that he had been so distraught over the loss of his fellow cast member, Diem Brown. Posting on social media about how devastated he was over the loss of Brown, Knight may have turned to drug and alcohol abuse as a self-coping mechanism.

13. Damien Gurganious – Biggest Loser

via people.com

via people.com

Damien Gurganious was first introduced to audiences through the reality show, Biggest Loser. The show is revered for being far more than just a voyeuristic appeal to the public in seeing individuals that have become clinically obese. Giving heart wrenching details on the background of the individual’s, fans begin rooting for the contestants to better themselves. Knowing their backstory helps audiences pick their favorite contestants and helps to make for a great storyline on a competition reality show.While one might think that Damien’s death would be due to something related to obesity, he actually died from the rare disease, Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP). This was a sudden onset disease that caused inoperable bleeding in his brain, and it was revealed that he succumbed to the inoperable disease in 2014. Because the show offered such detail in Gurganious background, it really helped audiences to feel familiar with him and his situation. The news of his passing was shocking to audiences, who felt that he would use his weight loss to embark on a whole new journey in life. Since losing all of that weight helped to gain a new persona altogether, it was a shame that he wasn’t able to fully enjoy all the hard work he went through to pursue a healthier lifestyle.

12. Caleb Bankston – Survivor

via cbsnew.com

via cbsnew.com

The CBS show, Survivor, is known for bringing along loved ones and family members with its varying themes each season. However, usually the show brings along loved ones for just a short visit. The family portion of the show usually comes in the form of a surprise visit from one family member or loved one, giving one of the contestants the opportunity to swap their visit to gain favor with the others. Yet, prolonged seasons of the series has helped to create diversity in the rules of the game, including the contestants chosen to compete. Survivor: Blood vs. Water offered a bit of a change to this format and brought back Colton Cumbie onto the show with his then-fiancé, Caleb Bankston. While Colton was known as one of the most memorable villains on the series, his fiancé with his mild-manners and good-natured spirit became a fast favorite. Bankston had a completely different personality that gave a comforting and warm feeling that many of the cast members appreciated. Bankston wasn’t able to make it to hold the title of “Sole Survivor,” but he played admirably in the game and was able to leave with his head held high. After the season concluded, Bankston was working at the Alabama Warrior Railway in Birmingham. In 2014, Bankston was involved in a freight train incident, and he was killed in 2014. Caleb Bankston was 26-years-old.

11. Jennifer Lyon – Survivor

via survivor.wikia.com

via survivor.wikia.com

As a contestant on Survivor: Palau, Jennifer Lyon was one of the favorites among audiences and fellow cast members alike. Survivor has always been a bit tricky when it comes to female contestants, since they aren’t usually the ones doing all the heavy lifting around camp or winning all the strength competitions. In fact, many of the women that have been featured through all the different seasons of Survivor have been painted into certain stereotypes. They are either portrayed as ultra seductive women trying to exploit their looks to further themselves in the game, or ditzy and useless women riding the coattails of their male counterparts on the show. However, Jennifer Lyon was able to thrive during her time on the show, and became a well-respected and worthy component. She used her wits, communication skills, and occasionally her beautiful appearance; she wound up finishing just shy of the final three as the fourth-place contestant. While she may not have been able to achieve her goal of being the “Sole Survivor,” she played a good game that brought her almost to the final at the end of the season. The public was shocked to hear that Lyon succumbed to breast cancer in 2010, and passed away at the age of 37.

10. Russell Armstrong – Real Housewives

via usmagazine.com

via usmagazine.com

Introduced to audiences through the reality show, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Russell Armstrong was the husband of Taylor Armstrong. While men don’t have that big of a role on Real Housewives shows, Russell became a pivotal part of the storyline once Taylor revealed he was physically abusive. While their storyline had previously consisted of him providing an ultra lavish lifestyle for her and their daughter, it had become increasingly volatile before his death in 2011. A huge portion of the storyline revolved around whether or not friends of Taylor would choose to divulge these abuse allegations on the show, as well as the defamation that can come from accusations made unfounded. Ultimately, it became a game of he said/she said, and at many times she said/she said with arguments with almost every other member of the cast. Found hanging in the home they shared together, he committed suicide at the age of 47. Reports indicated he left his family in massive debt, and allegedly there were shady misdealings with some of his business partners. Taylor Armstrong didn’t last as one of the regular Housewives on the show, but not before divulging even more of the disturbing personal details regarding their relationship.

9. Mindy McCready – Celebrity Rehab

via cmt.com

via cmt.com

Many country artists are known for being prone to depression and alcohol abuse, but it isn’t always taken seriously by the media or the public. Jokes are constantly made about depression when it comes to country music, with references to dead dogs and Jack Daniels in regards to typical themes in country songs. It isn’t exactly a rare thing for country stars to have issues with drug or alcohol abuse, with some seeking help and others embracing it. While Blake Shelton embraces his drinking ways (and the public loves him for it), Mindy McCready was an artist that seemed to have more than her fair share of hardships in regards to her battle with substance abuse. She eventually appeared on VH1’s, Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, and the world became more familiar with how deep her addiction had afflicted her life. During the month prior to her death, her children had been placed into foster care and she was under a court-ordered mandate to enter a rehabilitation facility or clinic. Her boyfriend, fellow country star David Wilson, had previously committed suicide and a month later, she followed. She died of a self inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 37.

8. Shain Gandee – Buckwild

via mtv.com

via mtv.com

So many reality shows seem to give fame to those who come from privileged homes or celebrity parents. From the Kardashians to Rich Kids of Beverly Hills, the general rule of thumb for reality shows revolves around highlighting individuals that already have a glamorous lifestyle worth watching. Reality television shows are notorious for highlighting all the jet-setting adventures of its cast, and even all the endorsements they are trying to promote. Yet, MTV has been known as a network that hasn’t shied away from highlighting everyday citizens and focusing on their individual struggles and daily life. Some audiences actually started to crave seeing those that aren’t living the lavish lifestyle. When Buckwild found a home on MTV, the public quickly became interested in these free spirited youths that seemed to make their own fun without all the yachts and fancy designer clothes. One of the most beloved characters from the show, Shain Gandee, had a “good ol’ boy” persona that drew in fans. However, in April 2013, Gandee was found dead with a friend and his uncle inside their vehicle. The tailpipe had been covered with mud on a dirt road, and all the occupants of the vehicle were killed due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

7. Gia Allemand – The Bachelor

via www.hlntv.com

via www.hlntv.com

Gia Allemand was on the reality show, The Bachelor, in 2010 and made it to the final three before leaving the show. Although all the contestants of the show are hoping to win the grand prize in the end (an engagement to the bachelor), many of the contestants also understand how the show can create incredible opportunities for the individuals that don’t win. From becoming the future Bachelorette to getting invitations to A-list events, even those that are voted off of The Bachelor can be privy to some of the red carpet events or parties that are filled with celebrities after the series ends. In 2011 she began dating NBA player, Ryan Anderson, who later spoke out to Sports Illustrated about the heartbreaking details surrounding her death. After an apparent argument between the two, Gia’s mother contacted Ryan urging him to rush to her apartment after a disturbing phone call. There she was found hanging in an apparent suicide attempt. Ryan rushed her to the hospital, but she passed away the following day. Gia’s mother and Ryan Anderson have started The Gia Allemand Foundation to help with suicide prevention and survival, and also work with other suicide groups like To Write Love On Her Arms.

6. Captain Tony Lara – Deadliest Catch

via www.ksat.com

via www.ksat.com

Any show that suddenly replaces one of its main characters often gets a bit of slack from diehard fans. Soap Operas are notorious for spontaneously replacing its characters, and even scripted sitcoms have suddenly fired cast members in the middle of production. Yet, reality shows are a bit different, since it is extremely difficult to completely lose a character. Since reality shows revolve around a close-knit group of friends or a work environment, fans expect to see the same cast of characters throughout a series. However, Captain Tony Lara was a replacement character on The Deadliest Catch that had audiences meeting him with open arms, since everyone understood he had some big shoes to fill. Replacing Captain Phil Harris after he passed from complications of a stroke, Captain Tony Lara was welcomed and served his crew faithfully. However, after only six episodes, fans were shocked to hear of the death of their new captain. Passing away at the age of 50, Captain Lara died of a heart attack while at a private home. The network issued a statement in the wake of his death, saying, “We’ve lost a member of the Deadliest Catch family. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family at this very sad time.”

5. Pedro Zamora – Real World

via wikimedia.org

via wikimedia.org

When Pedro Zamora was first introduced to audiences on the MTV reality show, The Real World: San Francisco, the world wasn’t as aware of HIV and AIDS as they are now. The series took place in 1994, and highlighted the stigma surrounding the disease and the prejudices sufferers faced on a daily basis. Cameras followed all the different and complicated portions of his life, including everything from the dynamic with the other roommates to the hardships involved in having the disease. Some of the most controversial scenes in this season of The Real World had to do with the prejudices from his other roommates that involved sharing food and close living quarters that could seem detrimental to the health of all the other roommates. While some felt that it was completely safe, others seemed to be fear mongering in their views. Living as a gay man, the show also depicted his relationship in a way that audiences had yet to see before firsthand. Although he eventually lost his fight with AIDS, he was a groundbreaking force that opened people’s minds and hearts. President Bill Clinton famously spoke out about his passing saying, “[Pedro Zamora] changed the face of HIV and AIDS in America forever.”

4. Diem Brown – Real World

via www.usmagazine.com

via www.usmagazine.com

Diem Brown started off as an MTV reality star, competing on a number of different challenge shows since her first appearance on the Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Fresh Meat in 2006. The only woman that could tame the heart of fellow cast member, Chris “CT” Tamburello; they had a tumultuous relationship that played out with each new season. While CT quickly gained a reputation for being the over-the-top persona that dominated in challenges and was known for having a hot temper, Brown seemingly had a calming force about her that not only made an impression on CT but all the other cast members of the show. However, it was her brave fight against ovarian cancer that made her a true favorite with fans. Bravely stripping off her wig in front of cameras in order to compete in a challenge, Diem seemed to have finally beaten cancer. When she appeared on Battle of the Exes 2, her and CT seemed to be in a good place and she seemed like her usual bubbly self. So, when she was rushed to the hospital and shown in excruciating pain, fans were shocked to hear that her cancer had returned for a third time. The cancer had spread to her colon and stomach lining, and she ultimately passed in November 2014.

3. Captain Phil Harris – Deadliest Catch

via discovery.com

via discovery.com

Every reality show has a fan favorite that makes it worthwhile to watch, and Captain Phil Harris was that character for the show The Deadliest Catch. Apart from Popeye, most sailors aren’t really thought of as tattooed, and are often portrayed as clean cut and military style in their dress and persona. However, Captain Phil Harris wasn’t your average sailor. He was tattooed, he was rough, and he was beloved by all in a highly dangerous occupation that gained fans from all over the world. Suffering complications from a stroke, he passed at the age of 53. In charge of the Cornelia Marie on the hit reality show, The Deadliest Catch, Captain Phil Harris passed in 2010 and shocked fans. Thought of as extra tough, Captain Harris didn’t seem like anything could take him down. He had been a key factor in why the show was so popular in previous seasons, and he seemed to be the only captain that could be in charge of his crew and the volatile waters. His loss was relayed through the network’s statement, “Discovery mourns the loss of dear friend and colleague Captain Phil Harris. He was more than someone on our television screen. Phil was a devoted father and loyal friend to all who knew him.”

2. Angela “Big Ang” Raiola – Mob Wives

SONY DSC

via sonydsc.com

Every reality show has a fan favorite that makes it worthwhile to watch, and Captain Phil Harris was that character for the show The Deadliest Catch. Apart from Popeye, most sailors aren’t really thought of as tattooed, and are often portrayed as clean cut and military style in their dress and persona. However, Captain Phil Harris wasn’t your average sailor. He was tattooed, he was rough, and he was beloved by all in a highly dangerous occupation that gained fans from all over the world. Suffering complications from a stroke, he passed at the age of 53. In charge of the Cornelia Marie on the hit reality show, The Deadliest Catch, Captain Phil Harris passed in 2010 and shocked fans. Thought of as extra tough, Captain Harris didn’t seem like anything could take him down. He had been a key factor in why the show was so popular in previous seasons, and he seemed to be the only captain that could be in charge of his crew and the volatile waters. His loss was relayed through the network’s statement, “Discovery mourns the loss of dear friend and colleague Captain Phil Harris. He was more than someone on our television screen. Phil was a devoted father and loyal friend to all who knew him.”

1. Steve Irwin – Crocodile Hunter

via shutterstock.com

via shutterstock.com

Steve Irwin became known as “The Crocodile Hunter” and was a beloved television personality through his daring adventures with animals. He had an over-the-top persona that many found endearing, especially when coupled with his thick Australian accent. As one of the few animal activists and television personalities to gain true success and commercial appeal, it seemed like he created a persona that would live in infamy with many more years of success to follow. However, his time in the public eye was not always filled with love and admiration. Famously drawing near to a crocodile while holding his baby girl, this controversial act caused many to wonder whether or not he was being too risky while dealing with animals. Yet, it wasn’t a crocodile incident that led to his death. In 2006, he was pierced in the chest by a stingray barb and died from the injury. He was survived by his wife, and their child even went on to try and follow in his footsteps. Audiences seemed to enjoy the fact that his daughter would still be in the public eye, and she even competed on the popular dance competition show, Dancing with the Stars. With an emotional heartfelt emotional tribute to her late father, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

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