I was on first series of Big Brother & it wasn’t just Nasty Nick who was awful – the Diary Room refused me a s** toy | The Sun

BIG Brother was the series which made contestants into overnight celebrities and paved the way for our reality TV obsession – and finally, it's now back on our screens.

It's been 21 years since a group of 11 unknown strangers first entered the famous house in July 2002, greeted by host Davina McCall.

Among them was artist Nichola Holt, then 29 years old, a shaven-haired Bolton-born lass who made headlines by stripping naked and leaving clay imprints of her body on the walls of the house.

Speaking exclusively to Fabulous about her time on Big Brother, Nichola, now 51, explained: “I made TV history. 

“I pioneered the way for thousands of contestants who came after me.

“I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into, the experience changed my life for better and for worse.”


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Big Brother was the brainchild of Dutch media producer John de Mol who first created the series in 1997 in The Netherlands.

The British version of the show was broadcast yearly from July 2002  to November 2018  and returned to our screens in October.

When it aired on Channel Four in 2002 it was an overnight success pulling in a staggering 4.5 million viewers and was billed as a bold "social experiment".

Nichola recalls: “I was hungover after a night out in Bolton when I saw a television ad looking for participants and I applied as a joke.”

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The mum is busy raising her daughter and working on her career as an artistCredit: Nichola Holt – Supplied
Nichola is a proud single mum to 12-year-old Ava, who she home schoolsCredit: Nichola Holt – Supplied

“We had to film a video as part of our application and mine stood out because I chatted about myself while having a tattoo of an Aztec symbol done on my spine.”

Four weeks later Nichola got the call that she had been chosen, beating over 40,000 people who applied for the firsts series..

Nichola says: “I  wanted to get away from my family and have a time out and this seemed like a fun solution.

“My mum told me not to go and of course it made me more determined.”

Nichola explains that while you might expect five star service, there was no chauffeured car or free train trip to London.

She reveals: “I was so broke I had to borrow fifty quid fare to get there.

“I packed a tracksuit, a couple of vest , shorts and jeans and that was all I had in the world when I went into the house.

“Before we entered the house we were put up in a hotel and got a short briefing from producers.”

Nichola, who had spent most of her life travelling, living in communes and being an anarchist, admits the first night  in the Big Brother house was a shock.

She says: “I walked in and was faced with a room full of strangers who were all so different. 

“I decided I was going to treat it like my home, make friends, be myself, do some art and create some chaos.”

Nichola, who celebrated her 29th birthday in the house, admits  she had no idea that she and her other contestants would make television history.

She says: “We didn't know if it was going to be a success, if anyone was watching it, we had no idea of the response on the outside world.

“We were suddenly cut off and tensions ran high.

"Everything is magnified in there, something that might make you feel a little irritated or insecure in normal situations would feel like a huge deal on the show.”

Nichola, who was dubbed a “no brain northerner” by some fans, instantly became friends with Claire Strutton, Sada Walkington, and Darren Ramsay when she entered the house.

She says: “I saw Nick Bateman, the man we dubbed Nasty Nick and instantly smelt a rat.  

“We didn't get on but it wasn’t just him that I didn’t see eye to eye with.

“I called Andrew Davison the grey man because he was bland, boring and had a grey personality.

“He acted like there was no caffeine in coffee or sugar in chocolate.

“He had a hidden stash of cigarettes and I didn't like the way he only offered them to people that he liked.”

Nichola admits that of all the tasks they had to perform, the shopping tasks were toughest.

She says: “We had to work as a team and everyone had their own agenda.

“I only wanted some booze, fags and pasta but everyone was just out for themselves.”

On day two of filming, the housemates were asked to make a clay bowl and mug using a potter's wheel to win money for the weekly shop.

“We wagered 20% of their weekly shopping budget on the task,” Nichola says.

“We ended up breaking three or more items and we failed and learnt the hard way failure meant less food and alcohol.”

A passionate artist, Nichola was obsessed with using her art skills to decorate the house like her home, long after the potter’s wheel was put away.

She admits: “I mixed together flour and water for glue and ripped up magazines and used them to decorate the walls.

“Some housemates lost the plot because I was using the few magazines they had to read but it was a way of keeping busy.

“You can't just go to the shops or pop to the park and so you have to make your own fun and I liked to spice things up when I could.

“What many people don't know is that most of the diary room moments are not broadcast.

“There was one time the other girls and I piled into the diary room to request a vibrator but Big Brother denied our request.”

Fans of the show will likely remember Nichola’s naked appearances in the house.

“When I got the call I was going to be in Big Brother I didn't have many clothes,” she admits.

"My whole world came crashing down on me, there were so many vultures and very few people took me seriously."

“I didn't take a huge wardrobe into the house and so I spent a lot of the time naked and I think that shocked people.

“These days reality TV stars have stylists and social media campaigns. 

“I didn't have any of that, I was ‘real’ and unscripted and I loved that.

"Of course the final edit showed me to be a bit of a naked northern numpty with a big gob and weird clothes.

"People forget that you’re a real person and it was hard to adapt to that once we left the house.”

Nichola was nominated in the fifth week for eviction, receiving four nomination votes against eventual winner Craig Phillips.

It was  Day 36, Nichola was evicted when 72% of the public voted for her to go.

She says: "My whole world came crashing down on me, there were so many vultures and very few people took me seriously.”

Nichola admits she had good times and bad times after the show.

“I eventually suffered a mental breakdown as a result of the fallout from the show,” Nichola says.

“My mental health really suffered as a result of the negative press that I got.

“I am tougher and more focused than ever now and I really hope that I can inspire people to get the help they need if they suffer depression or anxiety.

Nichola says that by far her biggest achievement since leaving the show is becoming a mum.

She says: “My wonderful daughter Ava- Rose, 12 is the centre of my world, I love being a single mum.

“At the moment I am working on my art at home and prioritising homeschooling Ava.

“It’s something we started in lockdown and I love teaching her so we decided to carry on.”

Nichola is still sporting her shaved head and says she is recognised by fans 23 years after appearing on the show.

“I love talking to fans and sharing the positives of the show,” Nichola says.

“I’m still in contact with some of the contestants and we follow each other on social media.

“For those contestants appearing on this year’s show I say be yourself and have fun. 

“And most importantly be original, don’t just do what your publicist or agent reckons will get you the most likes or followers.

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“Just be real like me.”

Fabulous has contacted Channel 4 for a comment

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