Miriam Rivera, reality TV’s first trans star, found dead at 38

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Miriam Rivera in 2004Image copyright
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Miriam Rivera wooed six men on Ibiza for the TV show before revealing her secret

Miriam Rivera, the star of 2004 dating show There’s Something About Miriam, which revealed she was transgender at the end of the series, has died.

The Mexican model died in February, but the news has only just emerged. She was 38, according to the Daily Mail.

Rivera’s husband Daniel Cuervo posted an online tribute to her in February.

Her Sky One series caused controversy at the time, with the male contestants winning compensation after saying the programme had “a devastating effect”.

She went on to appear in Big Brother Australia later that year.

Mr Cuervo told the Daily Mail she was found dead, but that she was cremated before an autopsy could be carried out. He said he had received a death threat while organising her funeral.

Remy Blumenfeld, who created There’s Something About Miriam, told BBC News: “She was a very warm and generous person who seemed much more mature than her years.

“She was very empathetic to other people’s feelings, and really wanted to be a trailblazer in her own way, because she grew up at a time where there were no trans role models.”

Mr Blumenfeld spotted Rivera in a girl band and decided to put her in a TV show.

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Getty Images

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Questions have been raised about the circumstances of Rivera’s death

“She fought a very hard battle,” the TV producer added. “It says something about what a kind of strong and courageous and brave person that she was, that she managed to challenge those agreements that were so prevalent in the world, and especially in Mexico at the time.”

There’s Something About Miriam caused a stir when she spent the series choosing one of six contestants to be her romantic partner, and winner of a £10,000 prize.

It was not until the series finale that she told them she was transgender, and the show was pulled from Sky One’s schedule after the men sued for emotional distress, claiming Sky One was complicit in a “conspiracy to commit sexual assault”.

The reality show was eventually screened after the men were paid compensation.

In 2017, trans writer and comedian Shon Faye, who watched the show when she was in her teens, told the New Statesman it had simply confirmed “that I was a joke, that this world wasn’t built for people like me [or Miriam] and that society was fine with that”.

Mr Blumenfeld told the BBC: “Yes, there was controversy around the show. What has continued to surprise me is the support that I’ve had from the trans community online and on social media, despite the fact that the mainstream press continue in their assertion that it was a step back for trans people.

“We were led in our editorial decisions by her and what she was comfortable with.”

Rivera was also a member of the New York ballroom scene’s legendary House of Xtravaganza, which paid tribute on Instagram.

In 2007, Rivera was injured after falling from the 4th floor window of her New York apartment. She said she fell trying to escape a burglar, but some reports suggested she had been deliberately attacked.

After her death in February, a friend, Susan Nielsen, wrote on Facebook that she had been “subjected to murder attempts” before her death.

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