‘Reality TV Star’ is a much over-used description. It usually causes many a raised eyebrow, because it seems like a contradiction in terms. Some people deserve it though. Nikki Grahame was one of those people.
She was reality royalty, back in the days when Big Brother still meant something.
The show was a national institution, event TV at its finest, front page fodder all summer long.
Nikki was one of the greatest characters to have ever sat on the Diary Room chair, where she gave unforgettable, off the cuff monologues so good they seemed written, long before scripted reality was even a glint in a cynical telly producer’s eye.
No-one would write her most famous catchphrases anyway – “Who is she?” “I’m so cold.” They’re nothing on the page, it was all in the delivery.
The perfect comic timing, the gesticulations, the exaggerated emphasis.
This was way back in the day, before contestants were savvy and wise to the schtick, the need for an effective backstory, the things that played well with the public.
In 2006, participants were more innocent – and, as the makers of Big Brother always insisted, no-one can keep up an act 24 hours a day for 14 weeks anyway.
There was never any doubt Nikki was being anything other than one hundred per cent herself – high maintenance, scene-stealing, drama queen and all.
There’s a reason she’s remembered, fifteen years later, so affectionately, when most people would struggle to name another housemate from that year, and indeed who “Who is she?” was even about. (Golden Ticket winner Susie Verrico, just in case it ever comes up in a pub quiz.)
It’s desperately sad that Nikki has died.
Recently her friends set up a Go Fund Me page to pay for treatment, aiming to raise £50,000.
They far exceeded that, racking up £65,539, and alongside each donation, perhaps just as importantly, came well wishes, heartfelt messages of support, tangible evidence in black and white that she was loved.
There were so many people rooting for her, most of whom had never met her in real life. There is just no denying the impact she had.
This was not the ending anyone wanted to Nikki’s story. It’s a cliché – but true – to say that she will never be forgotten, but we can do better than that.
The one question no-one will ever ask about Nikki Grahame? Who is she?
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