Michelle Heaton has admitted that she was 'scared' to visit her late friend Nikki Grahame during her final days as she paid tribute to the star in an Instagram post.
The Big Brother star, 38, passed away in the early hours of Friday morning – just one month after her friends started a GoFundMe page for her anorexia treatment.
And Michelle, 41, took to Instagram on Saturday to admit that she was hesitant about seeing the TV personality in such a fragile state as she looked back on happier times.
Fear: Michelle Heaton, right, has admitted that she was 'scared' to visit her late friend Nikki Grahame, left, during her final days as she paid tribute to the star in an Instagram post
Sharing a picture of the pair enjoying a night on the town, the former Liberty X singer wrote: Dear Nikki, I’m so sorry I didn’t come. I was scared to see you .. to say anything that may be a trigger to loose you.. I was a coward and I’m so sorry.
'I just listened to our voices notes, our messages, and the phone calls over the last few weeks .. I think I knew, and I was too weak to know.
'Your last one, telling us you saw me on @lorraine & wished us all better and to call you. YOU thought of us even when on that day you were where you were! Most my “so called friends” didn’t even contact us.
'Nikki, I have so many memories, most I can’t not repeat. The holidays, the events, Ireland... Marbella...'
Tragic: The Big Brother star, 38, passed away in the early hours of Friday morning – just one month after her friends started a GoFundMe page for her anorexia treatment
Referring to the photo she posted, Michelle went on: 'I just came across this one,. Think it was the world music awards.. we went as a couple lol! (Coz we were not as famous as the others to get plus 1’s)
'Hand on hip! wayyy to much fake tan.. pale lips thinking we look amazing. Held our breath every time we had a picture coz we wanted to “look good” then landed in the press comparing us to trash .. as they do!
'But we didn’t care! Coz there was a FREE bar! Mini fish and chips going around! Smoked salmon on soggy crisp bread with crusty bits of wasabi (first time either of us had had smoked salmon)
'Michael Jackson was on stage and we just went looking for the goody bags under every ones chair ☺️.'
Michelle went on to admit that she also didn't want to post a public tribute to her tragic pal, as she added: 'I hate how I have to do this publicly.. coz "apparently if you don’t show respect on Instagram you don’t really care".
Battle: Michelle, 41, took to Instagram on Saturday to admit that she was hesitant about seeing the TV star in such a fragile state as she looked back on happier times. Pictured in 2008
Tribute: Michelle shared a lengthy tribute to her friend as she reminisced about their fun times
'So yes, call me a hypocrite right now for posting this. But we live in a world where unfortunately if you don’t Pay respects publicly then “clearly you really were not her friend”.
'Some of the “respects” I wanna call bull s**t! (You know who u r and I hope u have fun with your 5 mins of fame online .. give yourselves a pat on the back)
'But the real ones.. if it wasn’t for @imogen_thomas over the last few weeks, well, I adore u... #thatisall ❤️❤️ @nicolamclean30 ❤️u #carly xxxxxx needs no words.'
Taking aim at critics, she concluded: 'For the people who laughed, labelled, disregarded her coz “they” knew what she needed like “eat a sandwich.” ... are probably the same ones being “praised with their wonderful public posts”.
'Feel better guys? Who Is she... who is she... She is @nikkigrahameofficial.'
Released: Nikki, who rose to fame after appearing on the 2006 series of Big Brother, was released from hospital in Devon a day before her death. Pictured in 2019
It is believed that Nikki, who rose to fame after appearing on the 2006 series of Big Brother, was released from hospital in Devon a day before her death.
Nikki, from Northwood in London, had struggled with anorexia since she was a child and had recently checked into a private clinic to treat her eating disorder.
Friends managed to raise more than £69,000 since the GoFundMe page's launch on March 10, with organisers saying they had 'exhausted every avenue possible'
Nikki's death was confirmed online by her friend Leon Dee on Saturday.
A statement on the GoFundMe page read: 'It is with great sadness, we have to let you know that our dear friend Nikki passed away in the early hours of Friday 9th April.
History: The Big Brother icon, 38, appeared on the seventh series of the hit reality show in 2006 (pictured with Davina McCall in 2010 after appearing on the Ultimate Big Brother series)
'It breaks our hearts to know that someone who is so precious was taken from us at such a young age.
'Nikki not only touched the lives of millions of people, but also her friends and family who will miss her immensely.
'We would like to request privacy at this difficult time, while Nikki's friends and family process the sad news. Full details will be released as and when we know them.
'All donations have been greatly appreciated and it was heartwarming for everyone including Nikki to see how much she was loved.'
Leon added that all the funds raised in the GoFundMe will be given to a charity as a donation in Nikki's memory.
He penned: 'Funds will be held safely in this GoFundMe until we have established an organisation supporting those suffering from anorexia to which we will make a donation in Nikki's memory.
'We will post updates for you with more details as soon as we have them. We are working with GoFundMe at this time. If you want to request a refund, you can write into GoFundMe's team here.
'Rest In Peace, Nikki. We love you & not a day will go by without missing your smile.'
While a statement from her representative said: 'It is with immeasurable sadness that Nikki Grahame passed away in the early hours of Friday 9th April 2021. Please respect the privacy of Nikki's friends and family at this tragic and difficult time.'
Nikki appeared on the seventh series of Big Brother UK in 2006, finishing in fifth place. She returned to the show in 2010 for the Ultimate Big Brother series.
'Not a day will go by without missing your smile': Nikki's friend Leon Dee paid tribute to his late friend and revealed money raised on GoFundMe will be given to a charity in Nikki's memory
Statement: Nikki's friend Leon Dee announced the sad news of her death on GoFundMe
Icon: Nikki quickly became one of Big Brother's most beloved former contestants, known for her infamous rants in the diary room (pictured with ex and co-star Pete Bennett in 2006)
After entering the house dressed as a Playboy bunny, Nikki quickly became known for her temper tantrums and Diary Room histrionics, including the now infamous 'who is she?' rant.
Nikki was evicted on day 58, but went back into the house after the remaining contestants picked her to return.
After Big Brother, she bagged her own reality show, Princess Nikki, which saw her attempt to keep various jobs.
She also appeared on a slew of shows including Celebrity Scissorhands, 8 Out Of 10 Cats and The Weakest Link, and a Channel 4 poll named her the 12th most 'written about' person of 2006 in the UK.
Prior to Big Brother, Nikki, then an aspiring actress, appeared as an extra in the BBC soap opera EastEnders and played a footballer's wife in Sky One's Dream Team.
'Still cuddling': Nikki and her ex Pete Bennett remained close after their time in the house and split, even catching up just a month before the star's death
She also appeared as a contestant on ITV dating show Blind Date and competed in the 2004 Miss Hertfordshire pageant.
Nikki also won a National Television Award for most popular TV contender and published two books, the autobiographies Dying To Be Thin and Fragile.
During her time on the house, Nikki formed an unlikely relationship with the show's eventual winner Pete Bennett.
Their romance ended a month after they left the house in 2006, however the duo have remained close and even caught up just a month before Nikki's death.
Pete shared a sweet picture of them embracing to Instagram on March 14 and encouraged followers to donate to her GoFundMe page.
He penned: 'Pete and Nikki March 2021 ♡ visiting my nikki and still cuddling to this day :) Remember the fundraiser to help get her into a specialist anorexia clinic is in my bio! #savenikkigrahame'
Speaking after the Big Brother Best Bits show aired in 2020, Nikki reflected on her romance with Pete and admitted that it was never meant to be.
She said: 'I hated it when I realised I was falling in love with Pete Bennett… It was never meant to be. But I loved him at the time. Truly, it was special.'
'It's been really, really hard': Nikki's mother recently claimed her daughter's 30-year battle with anorexia nervosa worsened because of the coronavirus pandemic (pictured together)
Tributes: Former BB hosts Davina (left) and Rylan shared heartfelt words about Big Brother icon Nikki following her tragic death
Words: Taking to Twitter, Davina, 53, penned: 'I am so desperately sad to hear about Nikki Graham x my thoughts are with her friends and family xx she really was the funniest , most bubbly sweetest girl'
So sad: Rylan Clark-Neal called his late pal a 'Big Brother icon' and added that he was thinking of Nikki's friends and family in a touching tribute shared to Twitter
Stunned: Nikki's fellow Big Brother 7 star Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace shared her complete shock at the news, sharing a snap of Nikki with the words: 'I can't breath'
Devastated: While fellow housemate Glyn Wise, who came runner-up in their series, shared a photo of himself and Nikki as he declared he was 'beyond upset' at her passing
The TV star was always incredibly open about her anorexia, often appearing on TV to speak about her experiences as well as chronicling them in her books.
After first being admitted to an eating disorder unit at the age of eight, Nikki was force-fed through a tube, which caused long-term damage to her oesophagus from years of purging.
Speaking with the Daily Mail in 2008, Nikki revealed that she spent the majority of her childhood in different institutions including the Maudsley, Hillingdon Hospital and children's psychiatric unit Collingham Gardens in London.
She was then admitted to Great Ormond Street and treated there for two tears before being placed into care.
A Big Brother icon: Nikki Grahame's best bits on the hit reality show
Get her some BOTTLED water!
Early on into her stay in the Big Brother house, Nikki was suffering from a migraine and only bottled water would help make it budge.
She said: 'I need water, I'm not drinking that tap stuff, it's absolutely disgusting, I actually haven't got energy to talk to you I feel so dehydrated.'
Despite being reassured the water had been filtered twice in the house, Nikki was still not having any of it and burst into tears.
She said: 'I'm not enjoying it, I'm not. I hate it, I f*****g hate it!'
Memorable: Nikki was accompanied by housemate Dawn Blake to the diary room when she launched into a meltdown over bottled water
The stolen bed
A tipsy Nikki also ensured to command attention after repeating 'that's my bed' several times when she found another contestant in her bed.
Sitting in the infamous gold chair she told BB: 'Someones stolen Nikki's bed, it's my bed I don't like it and I just don't like it'
During the rant, Nikki was dressed in suspenders following a challenge the housemates were set.
Air con woes
The star always seemed to be cold in the Big Brother house and arguing with others over the temperature setting on the air con.
After wrapping up as well as she could, Nikki asked BB: 'How are we supposed to get out of bed in the morning with the f*****g air con?
'It's a blizzard, I'm going to catch a cold'
Made the show: The star would often throw her arms around while reclining in the gold diary room chair and making her epic rants
Nikki was left very unimpressed after housemate Richard Newman finished off the cornflakes - and told her there was porridge oats she could have instead.
She explained: 'He's had four bowls of Cornflakes yesterday! Four! And they're not just normal bowls, they're f*****g mountains of Cornflakes!
'Like a mountain, and a whole bag of sugar. We're going to run out of sugar.'
Who is SHE?
Perhaps Nikki's most iconic moment came after housemate Susie Verrico put her up for eviction and the star stormed into the diary room.
Arriving in her bikini, Nikki fumed about Susie decision despite 'not even knowing her', telling BB that she was feeling 'very venomous and angry'.
Nikki's next line cemented her in reality show history - and provided plenty of memes in years to come - as she said: 'Who is she? Who is she? Who is she? Where did you find her?
And Nikki ended the rant with: 'I can feel the venom pouring out of me as I breathe. I hate her, I tell you now. I'm going to find it very difficult to be pleasant to it. I don't even want to look at it.'
Iconic: Perhaps Nikki's most memorable moment came when she declared: 'Who is she? Who is she? Who is she? Where did you find her?'
Nikki detailed how during one stay at an unnamed unit she was: 'shoved in a cubicle'.
She said: 'I had to use a bed pan, have bed baths and it was just awful. I just sat in a cubicle for 24 hours a day with no stimulation. I sat there like that for three months.'
She also detailed how she was force-fed by nurses and by a tube inserted into her stomach which she would rip out.
Reflecting on a low point in her teenage years ahead of being admitted to Huntercombe Hospital in Maidenhead, Nikki said: 'I was a walking skeleton. I was 15 years old and weighed 4st 3½lb.'
She was there for eight months and put on 6½lb before trying to overdose, reports the paper.
Due to her condition, she never had a period or produced eggs which would allow her to conceive and in 2019 revealed she had visited fertility clinics in London.
In 2011, Nikki suffered a relapse after reducing her daily intake to just 400 calories.
Several stars have paid tribute to Nikki since news of her tragic death was revealed on Saturday, with pal and fellow Big Brother alum Rylan Clark-Neal saying he was thinking of the 'icon's' family and close friends.
Top Gear host Paddy McGuinness paid tribute to Nikki Grahame tweeting: 'Bloody hell, just read the sad news about Nikki Grahame.
'Definitely one of the stars from the glory years of reality TV. I met her a long time ago and she was a lovely girl. RIP young lady.'
Coronation Street's Daniel Brocklebank tweeted: 'I'm deeply saddened to hear that Nikki Grahame has passed. We hung out a few times.
'The last time on stage together at Manchester Pride. A sweet, kind & fun lady. My love & thoughts go out to all who knew & loved her.'
And TV star Josie Gibson tweeted: 'Nikki Grahame I can't believe I'm writing this. We love you so much. My heart hurts today. You funny intelligent quirky beautiful soul RIP xxxx'.
Other former Big Brother stars also paid tribute, with Mark Byron, who appeared on the show in 2014, tweeting: 'Most awful news about Nikki Graham.
'Really heartbreaking, she genuinely is an icon and I'm unbelievably blessed to have been lucky enough to work with her over the years. She lead the way for all of us BB housemates.'
Rebeckah Vaughan, who competed in the 2011 series, added: 'I wasn't in Nikki's series of Big Brother but our paths crossed after my series.
'She came across as so fragile. She was a true big brother icon and I'm so sad for all her friends and family. rest in peace Nikki x'
And Channel 4, which aired Big Brother when Nikki appeared as a contestant, said in a statement: 'We are desperately saddened by the tragic news about Nikki Grahame and our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with Nikki's family and friends. For anyone suffering with eating disorders, help is available.'
Just last month, Nikki's pals had launched a fundraised to try and gather funds for her to receive specialist treatment, managing to reach a total of £65,539.
The original page read: 'She has been battling for most of her life and as you can see, Nikki is now in a very bad way so we need to do something quickly.
'Over the past years Nikki's family and friends have tried so desperately to get Nikki all the help possible through the NHS but unfortunately the treatments have failed and we have exhausted every avenue possible, and now Nik is unfortunately in a very bad way, this is now our last hope.
'This is why we feel that getting her treatment in a specialist clinic is the only option left for her.
A host of celebrities donated to the fund including Vanessa Feltz and Nikki's friend, TV presenter Rylan Clark-Neal, who also appealed to his followers to help.
Rylan, who won Celebrity Big Brother 11, said on Twitter: 'This is v hard to read but sharing with permission. If some of the family could help in any way I know it would be greatly appreciated. Sending love x.' (sic)
A further update revealed that Nikki was set to start treatment in mid-March.
A source told MailOnline at the time: 'Nikki would like to thank each and every single person for their kind and generous donations.
'She has seen the wonderful messages and wishes pouring in both personally and through her GoFundMe Page and has nothing but gratitude.
'On hitting the GoFundMe target last weekend, those close to her started the long, and at times difficult, though always productive process of finding Nikki the best possible facility and care she requires.'
They added: 'Due to the incredible donations received we're pleased to report that a private facility which is able to admit her has been found and her road to recovery will begin from Monday (22 March).'
And just two weeks ago Nikki's mother claimed her daughter's 30-year battle with anorexia nervosa worsened because of the coronavirus pandemic.
During an interview on This Morning, Susan Grahame, 66, revealed the Big Brother icon struggled with the isolation periods and gym closures brought by the nationwide lockdowns, admitting: 'COVID-19 really put the cap on it.'
Reaching out: While Stacey Solomon said she was 'broken hearted' for Nikki's friends and family as well as those suffering with an eating disorder
Shock: Former Big Brother star Josie Gibson tweeted: 'I can't believe I'm writing this. We love you so much. My heart hurts today. You funny intelligent quirky beautiful soul RIP xxxx'
Thoughts: X Factor's Joe McElderry shared: 'Really sad to hear the passing of @NikkiGrahame grateful to have spent many fun times together. my thoughts are with her family. Rest in Peace lovely girl'
'Who is she?!' While Big Brother's iconic narrator Marcus Bentley quoted one of Nikki's most famous lines as he penned: ''Who is she'? The best housemate ever! Night, night Princess Nikki!'
On how her daughter took a turn for the worse amid the global crisis, Susan told hosts Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby: 'I think last year really put the cap on it with Covid.
'It sounds crazy but even stuff like gyms closing, which is quite important to Nikki as she needs to know she can exercise.
'The isolation, she couldn't see anyone. I offered to stay with her but she said ''I need to stay in my own home''. It's been really hard for her, really hard.
'She had terminal loneliness... she was cut off, spending too much time on her own, and nothing to think about other than food.'
Nikki's parent went on to detail the former model's difficult childhood as she explained: 'We had a lot of stuff going on, my dad got very sick, she was worried for me.
'My marriage broke up, my husband at the time had a lot of trouble at work, it wasn't a happy place.
Hope: Nikki's two friends set up a GoFundMe in March to raise money for her to have specialist treatment as they said it's the 'only option left' and Nikki was in a 'bad way' (pictured in 2017)
Plea: Rylan Clark-Neal, who won Celebrity Big Brother 11, said on Twitter at the time: 'This is v hard to read but sharing with permission. If some of the family could help in any way I know it would be greatly appreciated. Sending love x' (sic)
Wow: Her pals, Carly Cunningham and Leon Dee, exceeded their £50,000 goal on their GoFundMe page in March, which was set up to cover the costs of Nikki's therapy
'One thing sticks in my mind, we went to a restaurant for Mother's Day lunch, and Nikki she stood beside me. She didn't want to sit let alone eat, then of course she started to lose weight, that's the one time that sticks in my mind.'
Susan also insisted the Northwood native was getting back on track before the pandemic, sharing: 'It all came to a grinding halt.
WHAT IS ANOREXIA?
Anorexia is a serious mental illness where a person restricts their food intake, which often causes them to be severely underweight.
Many also exercise excessively.
Some sufferers may experience periods of bingeing, followed by purging.
Sufferers often have a distorted view of themselves and think they are larger than they really are.
Untreated, patients can suffer loss of muscle and bone strength, as well as depression, low libido and menstruation ceasing in women.
In severe cases, patients can experience heart problems and organ damage.
Behavioural signs of anorexia include people saying they have already eaten or will do later, as well as counting calories, missing meals, hiding food and eating slowly.
As well as weight loss, sufferers may experience insomnia, constipation, bloating, feeling cold, hair loss, and swelling of the hands, face and feet.
Treatment focuses on therapy and self-help groups to encourage healthy eating and coping mechanisms.
Source: Beat Eating Disorders
'With Nikki, she would get through the year knowing she had friends abroad and would visit them, and she spent a lot of time last year cancelling all her holidays.'
The media personality's friends, Carly Cunningham and Leon Dee, exceeded their £50,000 goal on their GoFundMe page earlier this month, which was set up to cover the costs of her therapy.
Admitting she was initially apprehensive about the fundraiser, Susan said: 'It was run by me a day or two before by Nikki's friends. I was apprehensive.
'First of all we were desperate, we haven't had much help with the NHS, we had one place, she had been failed there five or six times.
'I was worried that appeal, Nikki would come in for attack, with saying she was attention seeking, people could be nasty and she doesn't need that.
'I spoke to her and she said, ''please stress how overwhelmed I am by people's kindness, tell everyone I'm going to try my level best to beat this, I'm going to get my life back''.
'It's so frightening for an anorexic because if they start to eat normally, it's gonna go out of their control. She felt it was the one thing that she could keep control over with everything going around her.
'When she started to get sick, she would be like, ''don't be upset, look how well I'm doing''. It was like she was trying to divert the attention.
'[When she was in hospital] I cuddled her. I said, ''come on Nikki, I promise you there is a life out there.'''
Susan also reflected on her daughter's childhood during the TV appearance and gave advice to other parents.
She added: 'I think poor Nikki, she suffered so bad because back in the day, we're going back 31 years. At that time, people found it hard to believe that an 8 year old could be a victim of this, we did not have that kind of treatment, we did struggle.
'The help is a bit more out there than it once was. I would say that if you do see the signs, if they become withdrawn, start to wear baggy clothes, if they start to lose weight… Nikki was ditching her lunch everyday I had no idea…
'Try to get help as soon as possible. I know that as soon as the time is right, Nikki will thank everybody herself.'
For help and support with eating disorders contact SEED on (01482) 718130 or visit www.seedeatingdisorders.org.uk
Honest: Nikki has been incredibly open about her struggles with anorexia, after first showing signs of the condition as a child (pictured in 2019)