Nikki Grahame's ex Pete Bennett says 'I thought we could save her…but she’s in a good place now'

SITTING on a gold throne in a bikini in the Big Brother diary room, Nikki Grahame flamboyantly demanded to know: “Who is she? Who is she? Where did you find her?”

She had just been nominated for eviction by new housemate Susie Verrico in the 2006 series — and the tantrum that followed catapulted Nikki to instant fame.

Tragically, she died in the early hours of Friday morning, aged 38, in a private hospital where she was getting treatment for a 30-year-long battle with anorexia.

Ex-boyfriend and series winner Pete Bennett, 39, said through tears yesterday: “I thought we could save her. But it’s OK — she’s in a good place. She’s not suffering any more.

“We love you Nik, man. You were a true winner.”

Big Brother stars, including Rylan Clark-Neal and Aisleyne Horgan- Wallace, paid tribute to the woman whose tantrums, side-splitting catchphrases and melodramatic gestures won her a place in the nation’s heart.

Host Davina McCall said she was “desperately sad” to hear about Nikki’s death, adding: “She was the funniest, most bubbly sweetest girl.”

But despite her sunny persona, Nikki had been struggling against an eating disorder since childhood.

At the beginning of 2020, she completed a course in caring for children with special needs.

Her mum told how Nikki had wanted to help kids as she lost huge parts of her childhood to her illness.

But as the pandemic hit, her family told how the closure of gyms, “terminal loneliness” and an accident had seen her relapse.

Nikki’s anorexia had already left her with bone osteoporosis — meaning her bones can break easily.

Her mum Sue, 66, said last month: “From the first lockdown, it was hellish. She struggled because she couldn’t go to the gym.

“Then in December she fell down and cracked her pelvis in two places and broke her wrist.

“I stayed with her for three or four weeks because she couldn’t do anything.”

Alarmed by her shrinking frame, friends raised £68,000 from fans via a GoFundMe campaign to send Nikki to a private hospital in London — but the star died less than a month after it launched.

Nikki grew up in Northwood, North West London with her mum, dad David and older sister Natalie.

Her childhood — which she once described as the “happiest ever” — changed when she was seven as her parents divorced and her grandad died from cancer.

In Fragile, one of two books she wrote, Nikki revealed: “What I didn’t know then was that the time spent living in that house up until I was seven was my childhood — all of it.”

She first began to obsess over her weight when, amid her difficult home life, a girl at her gymnastics club told her she had a big bum.

Nikki said: “I started to think that to be better at gymnastics and to be more popular, I had to be skinny. Not eating became my hobby.”

She began to lie to her mum about eating lunch at school while doing hundreds of sit-ups a day.

Her mum would sob as she begged a skeletal Nikki to eat.

Doctors brushed off her mum’s concerns as Nikki lied to them about how much she was eating — sometimes just a few bites of food a day.

She was one of the youngest people in the UK with the disease when she received her diagnosis aged eight.

By nine, Nikki was hospitalised as her weight fell to just three stone.

She spent her childhood in and out of hospital for nine years — with one doctor telling her mum it was the worst case he had ever seen.

At 12, she tried to commit suicide in Great Ormond Street Hospital after being told she couldn’t go home for Christmas.

Before her 18th birthday she was given a boob job on the NHS to take her to a B cup after her illness left her flat-chested.

In 2001, she was admitted to Bethlem Hospital in Beckenham, Kent, after a relapse.

She wrote: “The whole experience showed me how horrific those adult units are and made me determined not to spend the rest of my life yo-yoing in and out of them.”

After leaving hospital in 2001, Nikki studied for an NVQ in beauty therapy and worked on beauty counters in department stores.

She applied to appear on Big Brother, vowing to “stick two fingers up at all the people who’d made fun of me”.

Producers rejected her so she reapplied in 2006 and lied about her medical history, telling psychiatrists “what they wanted to hear” in order to become a housemate.

Viral hit 15 years later

ALTHOUGH Nikki’s stint on Big Brother was 15 years ago she recently found a new legion of young fans on social media.

During lockdown her Big Brother rants were shared virally as memes on Instagram. One – watched more than 300,000 times – is captioned: “How are you finding self-isolation?”

Below is a clip of Nikki in the diary room screaming: “I f***ing hate it!”

And on video app TikTok users are lipsyncing to Nikki’s iconic Big Brother whinges.

One sound clip of Nikki’s screaming tantrums has been shared by more than 8,900 users as they re-enact their lockdown experiences to the audio.

A video by Kelsey Stewart using the sound clip has been viewed more than two million times.

Others have been sharing forgotten clips from Channel 4 six-parter Princess Nikki – including 2.7million people watching Nikki freak on a farm after a cow farted on her.

Another video where Nikki is working on the bins has been seen over 665,000 times.

Recalling the day Nikki was invited to go on the show, her mum said: “She was jumping up and down, she was so delighted. I’d never seen the show and I thought, ‘Will she cope?’”

Nikki’s tantrums and her romance with Tourette’s sufferer Pete led to record viewing figures for the Channel 4 show.

She later said: “Before Big Brother, I’d never felt I fitted in or belonged anywhere. But finally I did.”

And when she left the house, Nikki lapped up her new celeb status.

She said: “I was sitting in a trendy photographic studio for a shoot and interview with The Sun newspaper.

“They treated me like royalty, with champagne and chocolate waiting for me when I arrived.”

Her romance with Pete Bennett soon fizzled out when faced with the challenges of the real world.

After winning a National Television Award in 2006, her spin-off series Princess Nikki saw her try normal jobs such as bin man, farm hand and serving up fish and chips — inevitably causing her to kick off.

She later said she “hated it”.

By 2015, Nikki had another relapse of anorexia and suicide attempt after TV work dried up.

She went to Paris and worked in a gift shop but returned to the UK after a relationship ended.

She took part in Ultimate Big Brother in 2010, Big Brother Time Warp in 2015 and the Canadian version of the show in 2016.

In 2017, she discussed her eating disorder in Channel 5’s Celebrities: In Therapy.

Two years later, single Nikki revealed she was considering using a sperm donor to start a family.

Nikki worked with eating disorder charities and hospitals where she comforted anorexia patients.


EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.

It doesn't discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.

It's the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.

And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.

Yet it's rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.

That is why The Sun launched the You're Not Alone campaign.

The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.

Let's all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You're Not Alone.

If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:

  • CALM,, 0800 585 858
  • Heads Together,
  • Mind,, 0300 123 3393
  • Papyrus,, 0800 068 41 41
  • Samaritans,, 116 123

She said in 2009: “I’ll never return to the person I was before I was eight. But I will never slip back into full-on anorexia again.”

Sadly for Nikki, the disease took over. In 2012, she wrote: “I look forward to a future where anorexia’s voice will be silenced.”

It is a wish that her fans and those affected by the disease hope will come true one day.

That famous BB rant

BIG BROTHER: Hello Nikki.

NIKKI: I’m feeling very venomous and angry. (Sighs) How dare she vote for me? She doesn’t even know me. She doesn’t even know who I am, what I’m like. She’s never even spoken to me, wouldn’t even give me the chance. She wouldn’t even look at me.

What have I f***ing done? I would have actually taken this if it had come from the other housemates, to be honest. Because I took it last week and actually, if they’d have voted for me again this week, fair dos.

Because I moan and whinge and all the other reasons they nominated me last week. But she does not know me and she’s just come in here, marched in in her golden gown and f***ing ousted me out and it’s not fair. It’s not fair. I don’t get it.

You lot have made a damn well good decision. I hope you are pleased with yourselves. Let me out. (Nikki jumps up off the chair and heads to the door) Can you let me out? (Walks back to the chair) I’m too angry to talk. I’m going to smash someone’s head in (Punches her own hand with her fist and sighs)

Who is she? Who is she? Who is she? Where did you find her? (Gestures wildly and sighs) I can feel the venom pouring out of me as I breathe. (Sighs) I hate her – I tell you now.

I’m going to find it very difficult to be pleasant to it for the rest of this week, I’m afraid. Very difficult. I don’t even want to look at it. (Cut to CCTV camera shot)

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