What REALLY happened to Miriam Rivera? Mystery surrounds the Mexican model’s 2019 ‘suicide’ – after she appeared in a dating show where she was exposed as transgender to stunned contestants
- Harsh Reality: The Story of Miriam Rivera details the tragically short life of the Mexican model and her struggles after finding fame on reality TV
- READ MORE: Abbie Chatfield blasts ‘disgusting’ dating show where the twist ending sees the ‘bachelorette’ tell her male suitors she is transgender
She shot to fame from a controversial dating show watched by millions around the world in which six men competed for her affections before it was revealed in the finale she was transgender.
And four years on from her tragic and mysterious death at the age of 38, Miriam Rivera’s family is still looking for answers.
The Mexican model, who was found dead in Mexico in 2019, was only 21 years old in 2004 when she starred in There’s Something About Miriam, which, despite sparking controversy, was a huge hit on Sky One in the UK and Channel 10 in Australia.
Although such a concept would horrify modern-day viewers, and indeed the contestants in the show filed ‘personal injury’ lawsuits to the network for psychological and emotional damage, Miriam often claimed to enjoy the notoriety she had gained from starring in the show.
After going on to find love and moving to New York with her husband Daniel Cuervo, Miriam’s settled-down family life was shattered when she was found dead in what the authorities said was suicide – but Cuervo insists to this day his wife was murdered.
Miriam Rivera, who passed away in 2019 aged only 38, was a Mexican model who rose to fame at 21 after appearing on the 2004 British programme
A podcast released in 2021 by Wondery re-examines Miriam’s life and her time in the public eye before her mysterious death.
Harsh Reality: The Story of Miriam Rivera, delves into the challenging path Miriam’s life took after the show, including a 2007 assault that saw her pushed out of the fourth-storey window of her New York apartment, and outlines the star’s declining mental health before her death.
Close friends of Miriam’s cite a 2007 incident as being a big trigger for the troubles she faced towards the end of her tragically short life.
While past reports have described it as an accident, a friend of the star, Jeanett Ørtoft, has in past clarified to the Daily Mail Australia that it was an assault, saying that ‘some masked men threw [Miriam] out from the fifth floor [of her New York apartment] and she broke almost every bone in her body’.
Nikki Exotica – known in the trans community for her music – who was close with Miriam at that period of her life, told the podcast how horrific Miriam’s injuries were.
‘She was in a whole body cast, half her head was shaved, she had brain surgery, she had haemorrhaging, her whole front of her forehand was cracked open so they had stitches, she had her arms in a sling, she had her legs in a sling – she was badly messed up and she was in a coma for, I think, five days before I found her,’ she revealed.
Determined to move on, Miriam spent most of her time after the attack in Europe, never again engaging in showbiz or music – which was her dream before – and instead getting caught up in the party scene.
She was, during this time, also understood to have taken up sex work to pay off hospital bills, which racked up.
In 2015, Nikki said she saw how much Miriam had transformed over the years when the pair met up for a night out in Las Vegas.
While the cause of death remains shrouded in mystery, her husband Daniel Cuervo, who is based in New York City, has always suspected foul play was involved. Both pictured together
There’s Something About Miriam was a British reality TV show created by Remy Blumenfeld and Gavin Hay and produced by Brighter Pictures, a subsidiary of Endemol. Miriam pictured on the show
Close friends of Miriam’s cite a 2007 incident as being a big trigger for the troubles she faced towards the end of her tragically short life. Miriam pictured in 2004
‘A lot of girls didn’t like her… you know, the same for me. I think that’s how we connected,’ she explained.
However, Nikki admitted that during that visit, she saw a strange new side to her old friend.
‘She would just do weird stuff… like, shady, like exactly what the girls were calling her! I don’t know if it was maybe brain damage from the accident but she was doing some weird stuff she never really did to me in the past.’
Nikki recalled Miriam ‘picking up a guy’ and inviting him back to her place.
‘She brings the guy in an SUV to go back to her place and I’m not interested at all,’ she said.
‘But she’s like “you know I’m trans, right?”. She just, like, blurts it out to him in the car.
‘And he’s like “oh… I’m not into that”. She’s like, “oh well she’s got a pu**y, you f**k her”.
Danish model Jeanett Ørtoft (left), who befriended Miriam (right) while she was enjoying a party-girl lifestyle in Europe, revealed that she could see the star’s growing disenchantment with the scene over time. Both pictured together in an undated photo
Tribute: In a Facebook post, Ms Ørtoft wrote: ‘RIP, dearest Miriam. Jan 1981 – Feb 2019. The news about you being taken away from this world far too early and in this way broke my heart and left me in shock and tears’
There’s Something About Miriam has been widely described as ‘cruel’ and ‘exploitative’, and a similar format is yet to be reproduced anywhere in the world. Miriam pictured in 2004
Harsh Reality: The Story of Miriam Rivera – a 2021 Wondery podcast which looks at the challenging path Miriam’s life took after the show. Miriam pictured on Big Brother
‘And I’m like, Miriam, he’s not even my type! You’re not gonna throw him onto me!’
Nikki, who eventually left, said Miriam then encouraged the man to kiss her despite her protests.
When Nikki later confronted her friend over the bizarre exchange over text, Miriam simply brushed her off, saying: ‘He was somebody famous, we could have created a story or something.’
A hurt Nikki admitted that they’d lost contact after the incident.
Danish model Jeanett Ørtoft, who befriended Miriam while she was enjoying a party-girl lifestyle in Europe, revealed that she could see the star’s growing disenchantment with the scene over time.
‘Miriam sometimes felt like, even surrounded by so many people, feeling so alone,’ she explained.
‘Knowing so many people but knowing that they look at her but they didn’t see her. They listen to her but they don’t hear her.
‘She would just wanna get out of there and say “let’s bounce girl”.’
Robbie Xtravaganza – another close friends of Miriam’s – said it was visible that while she was enjoying her time in Europe, the accident’s aftermath and years of sex work were clearly taking a toll on her.
‘She was really enjoying overseas… but you know, she’d been through some s**t at that point…
‘You know a lot of girls they don’t want to do sex work… but they don’t have a real choice.
‘That’s the avenue that they’re kind of pushed down… so now they have struggles with addiction because they need whatever substance they need… in order to numb themselves to perform in order to make sure they have food… shelter… that night.
Contestants who took part in There’s Something About Miriam also spoke to the podcast about the ‘crass’ and ‘shameful’ casting process they endured. Winner Tom Rooke pictured with Miriam
Tom (pictured learning that Miriam is trans) accepted the £10,000 prize money and a holiday with Miriam, but was still visibly shocked by the revelation. However, he later rejected the prize prior to the show airing and joined the other contestants in a lawsuit
‘She really was in a place where she didn’t wanna be bothered with all that… s**t. Do you know what I mean? She was over it, she just wanted like peace and quiet.’
All of her friends were shocked to hear of Miriam’s death in 2019 – and they were even more bewildered to learn that she had taken her own life in Mexico.
Robbie thinks that the idea that Miriam killed herself is ‘bulls**t’.
‘I emphatically said hell f and no did she commit suicide,’ he insisted. ‘Never ever ever ever in a million zillion years would that be the case.
‘You’d have make her come from Heaven and tell me to my face that that was the truth and I still wouldn’t believe her.’
‘She would never do that to herself and leave her mother alone. There would be no way that she would do that.
‘It wouldn’t even matter if she was in such a dark place personally or if she felt that hopeless… she would suffer the rest of her life in that helpless, hopeless place not to hurt her mother.’
Robbie added that it was especially unusual because Miriam had lost her older brother to suicide just a few years prior.
Nikki was also suspicious of the timing – given that her friend had survived and overcome such horror following the 2007 attack.
‘I don’t know why life got so hard for her again… I just cant understand it,’ she told the podcast.
‘I’m just shocked that she took her own life at that point. She was such a strong person… she wanted to keep on going and get better… I couldn’t understand this, why so later down the line? It didn’t make any sense to me.’
While the cause of death remains shrouded in mystery, her husband Daniel Cuervo, who is still based in New York City, has always suspected foul play was involved.
Mr Cuervo has in the past told Daily Mail Australia that he believed his wife’s death may have been ‘passed off’ as a suicide after she refused to accept work as a prostitute.
The program was filmed in 2003, and aired on Sky One in the UK and Channel 10 in Australia the following year amid great controversy. Pictured, the contestants’ reaction to Miriam revealing she’s transgender
‘On the morning of February 5, Miriam called me [in New York] from Mexico, telling me she was feeling sick and vomiting blood, so I told her to get to the hospital,’ he said, recalling the day Miriam died.
‘She called me again before leaving the hospital at 12pm and that was the last time we spoke.’
At 2pm, Miriam was found dead by hanging at her home in Hermosillo, Mexico.
When Mr Cuervo learned of Miriam’s death, he enquired about the possibility of flying the body to New York.
He was informed the body had already been cremated, leaving no opportunity to perform an autopsy.
Mr Cuervo claimed an unknown male called him when he was trying to arrange Miriam’s funeral and said: ‘Don’t come back to Mexico or we’ll kill you too.’
Miriam’s close friend Jeanett Ørtoft also previously echoed similar sentiments about the death being suspicious.
‘Some say she was killed for going against human trafficking, others say that she took her own life,’ she said.
The news of Miriam’s death shocked Ms Ørtoft, who said her friend was ‘looking forward’ to the future when they last spoke.
‘The last time I was on the phone with her, a few weeks before her death, she told me she was just about to finish a degree and was looking forward to that,’ Ms Ørtoft said. ‘She told me she wanted to write a book about her life.’
Contestants who took part in There’s Something About Miriam also spoke to the podcast about the ‘crass’ and ‘shameful’ casting process they endured to star on the programme, revealing they were probed with strange questions about sex and made to ‘grade’ a catwalk of women based on ‘hotness’.
There’s Something About Miriam also aired in Poland and Argentina in 2005, before being broadcast in the United States in October 2007. Miriam and Tom pictured on the show
Tom Rooke was 23 when he starred in the series. Speaking on the first episode of the podcast, he slammed the bizarre casting process, which saw male prospects quizzed by psychologists and made to appraise scantily-clad models.
Tom, Aron Lane and Toby Green all opened up about an initial gathering at the Cafe Royal in Piccadilly, London, where dozens of young men from all over England arrived and told they were being considered for a show called Find Me A Man.
The atmosphere was initially fun, they revealed, as the guys were instructed to prepare a bit for the camera: featuring dances, singing performances, party tricks and clumsy comedy routines.
‘These people know what they’re doing,’ Tom said. ‘They get you there, they play a few games to get you relaxed, it just gets you sort of up for anything and in the mood. You kinda just get used to it throughout the day…’
Soon, a psychiatrist was brought out and approached the men with questions about sexual preferences and experimentation.
The aim, host Trace Lysette said, was to scope out contestants who would be open to exploring new things sexually – but they were not made aware of this.
One bizarre questions recalled was ‘How would you feel if your best friend and your mum got together?’.
Slowly, the prospects dwindled down to 30-40 men, who were then led into another room with a catwalk that had chairs running up either side of it.
The potential contestants were made to observe women – who were wearing very little – and give each a ‘hotness’ grade on a clipboard. They ‘basically paraded themselves to them like cattle on market’.
Some categories even asked to rate the models on the basis of whether you’d have a one night stand with them, whether they were marriage potential, or if they would be fun to party with.
‘Now thinking about it, it’s not only embarrassing, it’s quite shameful,’ Tom said.
‘I’d like to think that my current self, if I was ever in that situation and that was asked of me, not only would I refuse but I would definitely vocalise my opinions.
Determined on moving on from her 2007 assault, Miriam spent most of her time after the attack in Europe, never again engaging in showbiz or music
‘It was really crass. Horrible.’
Tom accepted the £10,000 prize money and a holiday with Miriam, but was still visibly shocked by the revelation.
However, he later rejected the prize prior to the show airing and joined the other contestants in a lawsuit.
The men alleged conspiracy to commit sexual assault, defamation, breach of contract, and personal injury in the form of psychological and emotional damage.
They eventually settled for an undisclosed amount.
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