Viewers broken by ‘harrowing’ documentary on first trans reality star Miriam Rivera

‘Harrowing, disgraceful treatment of a vulnerable human being’ said one upset viewer

Maira Butt
Tuesday 30 April 2024 09:05 BST
Miriam Rivera reveals she is transgender

Viewers have been left “broken” by a new Channel 4 documentary on one of reality TV’s first trans stars, Miriam Rivera.

Miriam: The Death of a Reality Star aired on Monday (29 April), and documents the life of the Mexican-American model as she rose to fame as the star of Sky One’s 2004 dating show, There’s Something About Miriam.

In the series, six men spent three weeks trying to win the affections of the glamorous star, while unaware that she was a trans woman. They discover this only at the end of the series, in a reveal that provoked widespread tabloid fascination, a lawsuit and, later, abject condemnation.

In 2019, Rivera was found dead, having apparently taken her own life aged 38.

Over twenty years later, viewers have been left shocked at the controversial format of the show and the “cruel” treatment of its star.

“[The] documentary is harrowing... disgraceful treatment of a vulnerable human being. There’s people involved that in my view should have their heads in shame,” said one viewer.

Another added: “Just finished watching and I am a little more broken. Miriam’s father at the end, strong words too from India Willoughby [a trans broadcaster and journalist]. Is it really so difficult to let trans people live their lives?”

Others described the show as a “Pandora’s box of a documentary exposing one of the grimiest TV shows of all time,” adding, “It was just putrid and cruel. I remember seeing it advertised and thinking... no thanks. Who gave that debacle the go ahead?”

Miriam passed away aged 38
Miriam passed away aged 38 (Sky One)

Rivera was subjected to transphobic treatment once her reveal was made public to the men who courted her, with reports that some flew into a violent rage, tearing down parts of the set. Multiple comments were made about her genitals via a voiceover on the show – the star was 21 at the time.

“Even in a world where people treat ‘the other’ disgustingly — this was pure hate,” said one viewer on the model’s treatment. “Hard to believe what this trans woman was put through,” added another.

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Although the Sky One channel is now defunct, viewers watching the documentary reflected on the hostile climate at the time and Rivera’s reception following her reveal.

“I remember this and all the transphobic ‘jokes’ and cruel mocking,” said one person. “The way Miriam was exploited like a freak show exhibit and demonised thereafter was abhorrent, as is the continued lack of humanity in many quarters towards trans women in particular.”

Another added simply: “Miriam Rivera deserved better.”

If you are experiencing feelings of distress, or are struggling to cope, you can speak to the Samaritans, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you are in another country, you can go to to find a helpline near you.

If you’re travelling abroad and want to watch ‘Miriam: Death of a Reality Star’ then you might need a VPN to unblock your streaming app. Our VPN roundup is here to help: get the best VPN deals on the market.

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