16 Reality Stars Who Passed Away Too Soon

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They changed reality TV and the lives of viewers. 

Sydney Scott Mar, 30, 2017

Reality television stars have their own special place in pop culture and the hearts of viewers. No matter how you feel about the medium, it’s nice to see relatable everyday people on screen. And, after their shows end, many go on to have normal lives and some go on to other film and TV opportunities. 

Of the reality stars we love, there have been a few who shined too brightly for this world. Here are 16 television personalities we loved, who left this world too soon.


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The Voice contestant, who awed the judges, committed suicide in 2015. Riley had struggled with substance abuse and went public with his issues after abruptly leaving the talent competition. He was 28. 

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Givens was known to many as Real from VH1's Real Chance of Love and I Love New York, two shows he appeared in alongside his brother Chance, real name Kamal Givens. Ahmad passed away in 2015 at the age of 33 after a battle with colon cancer. 

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Gurganious, who competed alongside his wife on NBC's The Biggest Loser, died in 2014 from a rare autoimmune disease that caused bleeding in his brain. His wife, Nicole, told PEOPLE, "Damien was the love of my life – I waited my entire life for him. Damien was made especially for me. I simply cannot imagine living without him." Gurganious was 38.

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A rising culinary talent, Marks came in second on Fox's MasterChef back in 2012. A year later, after struggling with bipolar disorder and mental health issues, Marks died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 26. 

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A ray of sunshine on Bravo's Blood, Sweat & Heels and a member of the ESSENCE family, Lewellyn served as the accessories editor from 2006-2007, the reality star died in 2016 at the age of 36 after a battle with cancer. 

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Competing during season two of American Idol, Smith finished 8th in the singing competition, receiving a heroes welcome when he returned home to Oklahoma. Smith died at the age of 36 after a driver heading the wrong way slammed head-on into his car. 

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A Cuban-American aids educator, Zamora was one of the first openly gay HIV-positive reality stars on television, appearing on MTV's The Real World: San Francisco. He introduced LGBT and HIV/AIDS issues to an international audience through his appearance on the show. Zamora passed away shortly after the finale of The Real World: San Francisco's finale from an AIDS-related illness. 

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Sasser regularly appeared on MTV's The Real World: San Francisco alongside his boyfriend, housemate Pedro Zamora. He worked as an AIDS activist and educator and was open about his HIV-positive status. Sasser and Zamora exchanged vows on the show in a commitment ceremony, the first same sex ceremony to air on television. Years after Zamora's death, Sasser married Michael Kaplan, CEO of AIDS United. He passed away in 2013 from mesothelioma.

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Fairman, who appeared on MTV's 16 and Pregnant, passed away in 2016 after struggling with substance abuse. She died of an apparent overdose after being found unresponsive in a friend's bathroom in Pennsylvania. She was 23. 

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Sarpong was a British actor, model, and musician, who famously appeared alongside Wilmer Valderama on MTV's Yo Momma. In 2015, after hours of negotiation with police and family members, Sarpong jumped from the Colorado Bridge in Pasadena. He was 40. 

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Jewell often appeared alongside former fiancé and Real Housewives of Atlanta star Kandi Burruss on the Bravo hit show, and was known for butting heads with mama Burruss. Jewell died in 2009 after sustaining injuries during a brawl in Atlanta. 

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Singer Simone Battle, who appeared on The X Factor and became a member of G.R.L., the follow-up group to the Pussycat Dolls, passed away at just 25. Her death was ruled as a suicide.

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King became an national figure after being assaulted by the LAPD in 1991, an incident that eventually led to the 1992 Los Angeles riots. In 2008, he appeared on season two of Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, seeking treatment for substance abuse. King accidentally drowned in 2012 at the age of 47. 

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Former Wilhelmina model Joanne Borgella rose to fame after winning Mo’Nique’s Fat Chance pageant in 2005 and appearing on American Idol’s seventh season in 2008. In 2014, Borgella died from endometrial cancer at 32.

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Gabe Ginsberg

Big Black was best known for starring in MTV’s Rob & Big with his buddy, skateboarder Rob Ryrdek. He died in the spring at 45.

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The Project Runway finalist died at age 39 of unknown causes.