Miriam Rivera, known as the world’s first transgender reality television star, has died. She was 38.
The Mexican model and reality TV personality, who appeared on Sky1’s There’s Something About Miriam in 2003 as well as the fourth season of Big Brother Australia the following year, was found dead in her home in Mexico on Feb. 5, Variety reports. Though she died earlier this year, news of Rivera’s death was only first reported on Friday of last week.
“My adorable wife,” wrote her husband, Daniel Cuervo, in a Facebook post published at the time of his wife’s death. “Rest in peace, darling, until God lets us be together.”
Rivera appeared to have died as a result of suicide, but Cuervo disputed this in an interview with The Daily Mail Australia, suspecting foul play.
Rivera, who had roots in New York City’s ballroom community where she was also known as Miriam Xtravaganza, also received a loving tribute from the House of Xtravaganza.
“Remembering our beautiful Miriam Xtravaganza,” the @houseofxtravaganza Instagram account posted on Feb. 6 with hashtags “#impossiblebeauty” and “#alwaysinourhearts.”
Though trans people show up all over today’s reality TV landscape, from MTV’s Are You the One? to Bravo’s Vanderpump Rules, Rivera’s entrée into the genre — a Bachelor-style show where a group of men competed for her hand — came without precedent.
Many aspects of There’s Something About Miriam, clips of which can be found on YouTube, will feel outdated or even ignorant to the modern viewer, like the fact that Rivera’s trans status was disclosed to the winning suitor only after he won. (And many trans people were critical of the show back when it aired. “Programs like There’s Something About Miriam not only reinforce the stereotype that trans people’s birth sex is real and our identified/lived sex is fake, but they perpetuate the myth of deception and thus enable violence against us,” wrote Whipping Girl author Julia Serano in a 2007 Feministing article.) But her willingness to be the one to break that ground, so that the trans and gender-nonconforming cast members on Are You the One? could be so unquestionably desired, should be celebrated and remembered.