Trans Big Brother star dies unexpectedly aged 32

Trans Big Brother star dies unexpectedly aged 32

Rebekah Shelton on the Judge Rinder TV show in 2016 (Photo: ITV | YouTube)

A former contestant on the UK version of Big Brother has died. Rebekah Shelton, from Brazil, appeared on the TV series in 2009.

The news was announced via her official Twitter account on Thursday evening.

The message said: ‘We’re sorry to inform everyone of the sad news that our wonderful and lovely Rebekah died unexpectedly on Wednesday night. We ask that you respect the family’s privacy at this time.’

Big Brother

She appeared on the Channel 4 show in 2009 while she was in the UK as a student living in Leeds. At the time she presented as a man. She remained on the show for just under three months (making it through to the final), and was a much-liked housemate with the viewing public.

Shelton went on to undergo gender reassignment surgery in her home country in 2014.

However, in interviews, she spoke of having suicidal thoughts and having to deal with many issues linked to her public profile from Big Brother and the physical and emotional challenges involved with transitioning.

She later told OK! ‘My advice to anyone considering transition would be think very carefully about your decision. I am the happiest I’ve ever been in myself, but I lost so much along the way.

‘I lost friends, it divided my family and I had to undergo 16 surgeries. I’m not sure what I would do if I could go back in time.’


In 2016, she appeared on ITV’s Judge Rinder show (similar to Judge Judy in the US), and talked about her transition.

‘People think it’s easy. People think “She looks good now, she can go out, have sex now with guys or get married or things”, but people don’t know the journey I’ve been through. I’ve been through the worst three years of my life.

‘I’ve suffered so much.’

She said she’d spent a month in hospital and had little support from her family during her initial surgical transition process, leaving her feel very alone and isolated.

She also said she had felt forced to leave home before undergoing her surgery and turned to sex work for six months.

‘So many times I wanted to kill myself because I had no one to talk to.’

Transgender people are disproportionately affected by depression. A 2016 study found ‘Gender-based victimization, discrimination, bullying, violence, being rejected by the family, friends, and community; harassment by intimate partner, family members, police and public; discrimination and ill treatment at health-care system are the major risk factors’ impacting the mental and emotional health of trans individuals.

Shelton’s Twitter account revealed that she experienced illness in 2014. Her family posted that she had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. She later said she had made a full recovery.

According to her social media, she was based in Dubai at the time of her passing. No cause of death has been revealed.

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