Former “Big Brother Australia” winner Reggie Bird is now penniless and legally blind. The reality show alum, who now goes by the last name of Sorensen, won the show in 2003, pocketing $250,000.
Reggie won the hearts of the viewers during the fourth series of the show in 2003, prompting her to be named the winner. But not even a decade later, she is now virtually penniless and living on a disability pension.
In an interview with Woman’s Day magazine, Reggie, 40, opened up about how she lost her winnings, and how she fares these days as a single mum to her two children.
“I’m so sick of people who don’t know me thinking I’m rich and irresponsible with money,” she said, clearing an incorrect report that she was moving to an $18 a night caravan park.
The false report started when she joked about moving to a caravan park on Facebook. The UK paper The Daily Mail then reported it as truth.
As Reggie recalled what happened, she went back to Tasmania with her then-husband Adrian after she won “Big Brother.” They then spent the majority of her $250,000 prize money on their mortgage.
“I thought our marriage was fine but it wasn’t and that’s the reason I left Adrian, my home and money behind. Then there were lawyers to pay for my divorce. That took $20,000.”
Reggie spent some of her money to get out of a celebrity management contact, and lost another $40,000 to a conman. She tried to get her money back, but to no avail.
Two years after winning the show, she found it hard to find a “real” job so she had to use what’s left of her prize money on living expenses and rent.
“I finally got my job with Virgin Airlines but that didn’t work out because my workmates got upset when passengers wanted to talk to me and I couldn’t get on with my job.”
Her second marriage failed as well. She had thought that she was finally getting her good luck back when she married Dale Sorensen, but things just went downhill after their split.
“Dale and I had our house and an investment property, but when our marriage broke down, the market had really dropped and we lost a lot of money on both properties. When Dale sold everything and paid our debts, there was nothing left over for me.”
Dale still plays an active part in their children’s lives, according to Reggie's interview with Sydney Confidential in 2013.
Reggie previously admitted to losing her sight from an eye disease called retinal pigmentation.
“I’m on a disability pension because of my eyes,” she continued to Woman’s Day. “I live from fortnight to fortnight. There isn’t any money left over for holidays or taking the kids somewhere special. The last time we went home to Tasmania, Mum and Dad paid because they wanted to see us. Mum gave up smoking so she could save to fly us there.”
Her four-year-old son Lucas suffers from cystic fibrosis, adding financial pressure to their family.
“With the changes coming for doctor visits and paying for prescriptions, it’s going to be tough for us,” she said.
If she’s invited to join “Big Brother” again, Reggie would not hesitate to pack her bags and move in the famous house.
“If I had my time again, of course, things would be very different. I’m older, wiser and not as trusting anymore. If Big Brother wants to put me back in the house – go ahead! I’d do it all again... just smarter this time.”
Reggie isn’t the first reality show contestant who has spoken up about the perils of joining a show.
Earlier in June, “MasterChef Australia” contestant Jules Allen revealed that the show has transformed her from being confident to a “basket case.”
Tully Smyth of the recent “Big Brother Australia” series has also claimed that leaving the show left her financially broke and emotionally and mentally exhausted.