Reality TV stars you didn't know were dead

Reality TV is known for crafting over-the-top drama, but in actual reality, some of the stars of the genre have dealt with extreme issues. Unfortunately, for those on this list, that meant an untimely end to their lives. Many of them suffered from mental illness and addiction issues, while others lost battles with severe health problems. In some cases, tragic accidents were to blame. 

For whatever the reason, these celebs of ciéma vérité passed too soon. However, some of them were pretty far removed from their 15 minutes of fame, so there's a chance you weren't even aware they were dead. From Mob Wives to American Idol to several stars of MTV's The Real World, learn which of these famous faces has given their last confessional. 

Gia Allemand

Former Bachelor and Bachelor Pad contestant Gia Allemand reportedly committed suicide on August 12, 2013. According to ABC News, the 29-year-old "hanged herself with a vacuum cleaner cord tied to the handrail of a spiral staircase in her home" following a nasty fight with her boyfriend, NBA player Ryan Anderson. He reportedly dropped her off at her apartment around 6 p.m. and told her, "I don't love you anymore." Anderson found her later that night. She wrote in a notebook, "Mom gets everything."

In a 2014 interview with Sports Illustrated, Anderson admitted he shut down after Allemand's death, moving in with his parents, reading the Bible, and eating the few things his mother could force him to eat. With time, he slowly began to move forward with his life. "I can finally say after a long time of thinking that there's no hope and there's no future, I can see a hope and I can see a future," he said.

Michael Johns

Michael Johns, the handsome Australian who competed on the seventh season of American Idol, reportedly died from dilated cardiomyopathy on Aug. 1, 2014. TMZ describes the disease as a "condition that inhibits the flow of blood to [the] body," which causes the heart to enlarge. A "fatty liver" also contributed to Johns' death, according to the report. Law enforcement told TMZ that Johns "often drank to excess and did so hours before he died."

A family friend told TMZ that Johns' wife, Stacey Vuduris, falsely claimed her 35-year-old husband died of a blood clot from an ankle injury in an attempt to cover up his alleged alcohol abuse. Vuduris countered in court documents that the friend, Torrey Gambill, was on a "hate campaign" blaming her for Johns' demise.

Joey Kovar

Joey Kovar, The Real World: Hollywood star who left the show midway through its season to enter rehab, died on Aug. 17, 2012 amid rumors of a drug overdose. According to TMZ, the 29-year-old was reportedly found in his Chicago apartment by a friend "who noticed blood coming out of Joey's ears and nose."

Months after his death, a medical examiner confirmed that Kovar — whose battles with cocaine and ecstasy were well documented on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew — died of opiate intoxication. His death was ruled an accident, according to TMZ.

Angela 'Big Ang' Raiola

Mob Wives star Angela "Big Ang" Raiola died Feb. 18, 2016 after battling throat, brain, and lung cancer. She was 55. According to People, Raiola was diagnosed in March 2015 after doctors discovered a "lemon-sized tumor" in her throat. During her battle, Raiola admitted to smoking for 40 years.

The following February, just weeks before her death, Raiola's sister, Janine Detore, revealed Raiola had been hospitalized for stage 4 lung and brain cancer. At the time, treatments for the disease were not working, leading Detore to launch a GoFundMe page to raise money for alternative treatments. The page surpassed its goal of $25,000 in just two days.

A statement released on Raiola's Twitter page detailed her final moments. "She was surrounded by nothing but love from her immediate family, and the closest friends," it said. "YOU, (her fans) were some of the most special people in the world, and she loved you immensely."

Frankie Abernathy

The Real World: San Diego star Frankie Abernathy died suddenly on June 9, 2007 after a long battle with cystic fibrosis. "It was very sudden," her mother told MTV News. Abernathy was diagnosed with the progressive, genetic lung disease at age 3. Her struggles were well documented on The Real World. "She was doing fine," her mother said. "...It seems like her little body just gave out." Abernathy was 25.

Julien Hug

Julien Hug, who competed briefly on Season 5 of The Bachelorette, was found dead off a remote stretch of California highway in November 2010, People reported. The magazine later confirmed that Hug, 35, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He wrote a suicide note to his parents. "In his letter to us he stated that he was suffering from acute depression and he felt it was his only way out," his parents told the outlet. "While publicly outgoing he was an extremely private person who internalized everything." According to RadarOnline, Hug's note was read at his funeral. "I feel terribly about the grief I've caused," the letter said. "This will hurt you...I'm sorry to have to do this to you...I love you both tremendously."

David Gest

British TV star David Gest was found dead at the Four Seasons hotel in London's Canary Wharf neighborhood on April 12, 2016, reported CNN. No cause of death was given. Gest, 62, made a name for himself after appearing on multiple reality shows, including I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! and Celebrity Big Brother. He left Celebrity Big Brother during filming, reportedly for medical reasons. Gest was also known for his brief and bizarre marriage to actress and singer Liza Minnelli, which ended officially in 2007.

Ryan Knight

Ryan Knight, who appeared on The Real World: New Orleans, died in November 2014 "on the heels of a night of partying," reported TMZ. A friend reportedly found Knight the next morning covered in vomit. Months later, a medical examiner ruled that Knight died from a mixture of drugs and alcohol. Among the drugs found in his system were "methadone (a heroin substitute), tramadol (a painkiller), cocaine and Xanax," reported TMZ. He was 29.

Michael Nance

Michael Nance, one of the suiters on Emily Maynard's season of The Bachelorette in 2012, died May 28, 2017, after the Austin Police Department found him unresponsive at about 2 p.m. that afternoon. Although no foul play was suspected at the time of his death, a toxicology report later revealed that the 31-year-old TV star had ingested multiple drugs before his death, including cocaine, heroin, Clonazepam and Gabapentin, People reported. Nance, who had confessed to battling an addiction to prescription pain medicine prior to joining The Bachelorette, was also found with "lacerations on his right forearm and neck," according to the report.

Ahmad Givens

Ahmad Givens, better known as "Real" from the VH1 dating series I Love New York and its subsequent spin-off, Real Chance of Love, died in February 2015, following a lengthy battle with colon cancer, TMZ reported. According to the report, Givens endured stage 4 colon cancer in 2013; the cancer returned in early 2015, prompting chemotherapy treatments. Sources for TMZ said Givens took a fall in January 2015 that left him bed-ridden until his death. He was 33.

Mychael Knight

Project Runway alum Mychael Knight died Oct. 17, 2017, in a Georgia hospital after reportedly battling intestinal issues, according to TMZ. Knight had previously mentioned on social media that he had been battling Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) for about five years. He was 39.

Knight finished fourth on the Bravo show's third season and took home the fan favorite award.

Christopher 'Big Black' Boykin

Christopher "Big Black" Boykin, of the MTV reality series Rob & Big (2006-08) died in May 2017, likely from a heart attack, TMZ reported. He was 45.

Boykin's ex-wife, Shannon Turley, told TMZ that Boykin was hospitalized for several days prior to his death; doctors had feared he would need a heart transplant to survive. Boykin, who reportedly had a defibrillator in his chest, was also living with his ex-wife because of his health, Turley told TMZ. Boykin is survived by his daughter, Isis, reported TMZ.

Jim Raman of 'The Amazing Race'

Jim Raman, who appeared on season 25 of The Amazing Race in 2014, passed away on March 11, 2019. He was just 42 years old. Raman was a South Carolina orthodontist who partnered with his wife, Misti, on the hit CBS show. Variety reports that the couple came "in first place for five of the 12 legs" of the race, ultimately coming in second place behind food scientists Maya Warren and Amy Jeong. 

Raman was found dead in his home, USA Today reports, but no cause of death has been revealed, as of this writing. Lexington County Sheriff's Dept. Capt. Adam Myrick told the newspaper, "No one has been arrested or detained in connection with this [death] investigation. We aren't seeking any suspects or persons of interest as our work on the case continues."

In a statement to USA Today, Amazing Race co-creators Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri said, "We are shocked and deeply saddened to hear of Jim's passing. He was a wonderful and very kind person." 

Lyric McHenry of 'EJNYC'

Lyric McHenry, who appeared on E.J. Johnson's reality show EJNYC, had a tragic death. The 26-year-old was pregnant when she was found dead on a sidewalk in the Bronx on Aug. 14, 2018, PIX11 reported. McHenry was reportedly found sprawled out wearing a pajama top and no pants, though she had on underwear, The New York Daily News reported. Her death was suspected to be from a drug overdose, and a small bag of cocaine was allegedly "found on her person." When police found McHenry, she was rushed to a hospital where she passed away.

While the circumstances of her death remain unclear, as of this writing, The New York Times reported that "the medical examiner ruled her death an accident." However, a Bronx man, Alexis Mejia-Ramirez, was arrested in connection with her death and charged with "charged with concealment of a corpse and tampering with evidence" after he and "two other unidentified people" allegedly "dumped" McHenry on the sidewalk after they left the Dream Hotel in Manhattan earlier that night.

Said to be on the cusp of a "budding film career," McHenry worked as associate producer for Complex Networks following the cancellation of EJNYC. She later found work as a freelance writer and producer (per NYDN). She was the daughter of producer Doug McHenry, who spearheaded films including New Jack City (1991) and Jason's Lyric (1994).

William 'Willbilly' Hathaway from 'Wicked Tuna'

Wicked Tuna star William "Willbilly" Hathaway died at just 36 years old on Dec. 15, 2018. WBOC reported that Hathaway was driving in Salisbury, Md., when he swerved "into a ditch" to avoid another driver who "turned in front of him." After the accident, Hathaway reportedly called his wife to tell her he was fine and reiterated that to passing motorists who stopped to help. By the time emergency personnel arrived, Hathaway reportedly wasn't breathing. He was rushed to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead.

Hathaway was first mate on the Foolish Pleasures ship. Foolish Pleasures captain Dale Lisi wrote after Hathaway's passing, "He lived to fish and you could not have a better time fishing with anyone, he and I killed a lot of fish together and I learned a lot from him, he was one of the most original, genuine and real people you could ever know and anyone who knew him knew this. He will be horribly missed by everyone whose life he touched, words cannot express a tragedy like this." A fundraiser was established for Hathaway's wife and young daughter.

Richard 'Old Man' Harrison of 'Pawn Stars'

Richard "Old Man" Harrison of Pawn Stars died on June 25, 2018 after a battle with Parkinson's disease, the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop announced. He was 77 years old. Harrison's son, Rick, wrote on Instagram of his passing, "He was my hero and I was fortunate to get a very cool 'Old Man' as my dad. He lived a very full life and through the History television show Pawn Stars touched the lives of people all over, teaching them the value of loving your family, hard work and humor." 

Pawn Stars was one of the History Channel's biggest ratings hits ever, chronicling the family's 24-hour Las Vegas pawn shop, which was run by Harrison, son Rick, and grandson Corey. After Harrison's passing, USA Today reported that Harrison left his son Christopher out of his will, but Rick declined to comment on what he called a "personal and private matter."

Joel Taylor from 'Storm Chasers'

Storm Chasers star Joel Taylor was found dead aboard a cruise ship on Jan. 23, 2018. He was just 38 years old. The Discovery Channel personality reportedly passed out on the dance floor of a club aboard the ship, TMZ reported, and sources told the site that they saw Taylor being carried off of the dance floor the night he died. Later tests revealed that Taylor died of "MDMA poisoning" and also had ketamine in his system at the time of his passing.

Taylor was an avid meteorologist. Storm Chasers followed him and co-star and fellow AccuWeather meteorologist and University of Oklahoma alum Reed Timmer as they chased storms in Tornado Alley in their home state. Timmer tweeted after Taylor's passing, "RIP my best friend and storm chasing partner, Joel Taylor. I am shocked and absolutely devastated by the loss of my incredible, caring friend. We chased so many intense storms, and I wish we could have just one more storm chase. I'll miss you forever, Joel. We lost a legend." Taylor was laid to rest in a funeral in his native Oklahoma after his passing.

Sean Milliken of 'My 600-Lb. Life'

My 600-Lb. Life star Sean Milliken died on Feb. 17, 2019, Fox News reported, at just 29 years old. Milliken had been hospitalized two days prior to his passing for an infection, but his official cause of death hasn't been released, as of this writing. Milliken weighed 900 pounds when he sought help on the TLC series. Milliken's time on the show chronicled his complicated relationship with food, which he turned to for comfort from his volatile relationship with his father. Milliken's mother, Renee, confessed on the show to suffering from an eating disorder and enabling his overeating. Further exacerbating his weight was a leg injury that had left Milliken bedridden for most of high school. He grew so large that he had to relieve himself in a bucket because he couldn't get out of bed and standing up was excruciating for him.

In 2017, TLC aired a Where Are They Now? special episode of My 600-Lb. Life (per Fox News). In the episode, Milliken had lost a whopping 400 pounds in an effort to become a candidate for gastric bypass surgery. Unfortunately, his weight plateaued, and some suspected that Renee had opened him back up to his previous poor eating habits. Renee passed away in March 2018.

Jael Strauss from 'America's Next Top Model'

America's Next Top Model contestant Jael Strauss died on Dec. 4, 2018 at just 34 years old. The Detroit native appeared on the competition series in 2007, finishing in sixth place. She struggled with substance abuse and addiction and appeared on The Dr. Phil Show in December 2012 in an effort to get clean. In August 2018, she revealed that she was proudly five years sober.

Strauss battled breast cancer, which ultimately took her life, but before her passing, she was incredibly candid about her illness. Friends of the model set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to help with her medical bills, saying she'd been hospitalized in September 2018 and diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.

Strauss wrote in October 2018, "On October 2nd I was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. It has aggressively spread throughout my body and is incurable. With treatment it may prolong my life longer than the 'few months' doctors said I could make it. I don't want to die. I need another one of those miracles that I got back in 2013."

By November, Strauss revealed that she'd entered hospice care, writing, "First night in hospice. So many things I never knew about life. Or death. So many things." When she passed, her family told TMZ in a statement, "The one blessing was that we were able to show her how loved she was before she passed. She brought so much light to people."

Fatima Ali from Top Chef

Top Chef contestant and fan favorite Fatima Ali died on Jan. 25, 2019. She was just 29 years old. Ali appeared on season 15 of Top Chef. In October 2018, the New York City chef announced her diagnosis with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, in a heart-wrenching essay in Bon Appetit. Ali beat the illness once before, but the disease returned, leaving her with a life expectancy of just a single year to complete her bucket list. That included meeting Ellen DeGeneres, who had her on her show and donated $50,000 to Ali to complete the rest of her wishlist, which also included dining at famous restaurants around the world.

Throughout her struggle, Ali was both candid and witty. She wrote in her essay, "I was looking forward to being 30, flirty, and thriving. Guess I have to step it up on the flirting. I have no time to lose." She was also poignant and gave the rest of us a lot to think about. "When we think we have all the time in the world to live, we forget to indulge in the experiences of living," she wrote. "When that choice is yanked away from us, that's when we scramble to feel. I am desperate to overload my senses in the coming months, making reservations at the world's best restaurants, reaching out to past lovers and friends, and smothering my family, giving them the time that I so selfishly guarded before."

Mike Thalassitis of 'Love Island'

Mike Thalassitis, who appeared on U.K. reality show Love Island, was found dead on March 16, 2019, in his Essex, London home. He was just 26. According to USA Today, reports suggest that he took his own life, as police said that his death was "not being treated as suspicious."

Thalassitis was "in a dark place" before his death, his costar Montana Brown claimed. His death, and his co-stars reactions to it — which included saying they too felt alone and in need of help after leaving the show — prompted Love Island producers and the show's network, ITV, to make changes to how former contestants on the series are treated after leaving.

Love Island contestant Rachel Fenton, who also appeared on the show in 2016, said (via Fox News), "I hope this educates Love Island producers to provide the necessary support to everyone who enters the show. You get a 'chat' with a mental health nurse before you enter the villa but that's it. Not a single thing after you leave." As a result of the outcry, ITV told Variety, "We ensure that all of our contributors are able to access psychological support before, during and after appearing on the show. The program will always provide ongoing support when needed and where appropriate. We also discuss at length with all of our Islanders, before and after the show, how their lives might change and they have access to support and advice to help with this."

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).