Entertainment

Benefits Street star White Dee says the show ‘ripped apart’ her life

Benefits Street star White Dee has claimed that the controversial Channel 4 series ‘ripped apart’ her life at the time.

The reality star, 50, real name Deidre Kelly, soared to fame on the documentary show in 2014, which followed residents on James Turner Street in Winson Green, Birmingham, as they survived on handouts.

Speaking in a new candid interview, Dee claimed that her life was ‘turned upside down’ after appearing on the series and it has ‘destroyed’ James Turner Street.

‘Ripped apart’: Benefits Street star White Dee has claimed that the controversial Channel 4 series ‘ripped apart’ her life at the time (pictured on Loose Women in 2016) 

The reality star, who appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in 2014, also said that she doesn’t keep in touch with her former neighbours turned co-stars.  

Talking to Birmingham Live, Dee said: ‘It was just a crazy crazy time. My life was turned upside down and I just wasn’t expecting it. 

‘Benefits Street caused such a storm and the people in James Turner Street were shocked by it and totally overwhelmed.’

After the success of Benefits Street, Dee went on to make TV appearances and has now made a new home for herself in Handsworth. 

Fame: The reality star, 50, real name Deidre Kelly, soared to fame on the documentary show in 2014, which followed residents on James Turner Street in Winson Green, Birmingham, as they survived on handouts (pictured in 2014)

Fame: The reality star, 50, real name Deidre Kelly, soared to fame on the documentary show in 2014, which followed residents on James Turner Street in Winson Green, Birmingham, as they survived on handouts (pictured in 2014) 

Dee continued: ‘The show ripped apart my life at the time. It changed my life forever and it destroyed the James Turner Street I knew before the show.’

The reality star noted that it’s a ‘real shame’ she doesn’t keep in touch with any of her neighbours turned co-stars from the show. 

Dee added that they are some residents she still talks to on James Turner Street but they didn’t feature on the documentary at the time. 

Other people involved in the documentary included Samora Roberts, who uses the moniker Black Dee, 50p Man, real name Stephen Smith, and Fungi, real name James Clarke, who tragically passed away aged 50 in 2019. 

'Destroyed': Speaking in a new candid interview, Dee claimed that her life was 'turned upside down' after appearing on the series and it has 'destroyed' James Turner Street (pictured in 2016)

‘Destroyed’: Speaking in a new candid interview, Dee claimed that her life was ‘turned upside down’ after appearing on the series and it has ‘destroyed’ James Turner Street (pictured in 2016)

After the success of Benefits Street, which pulled in five million viewers in 2014, Dee went on to make a life for herself and her two children – Caitlin and Gerrard.   

The reality star got more than £50,000 to appear on Celebrity Big Brother in 2014, went on Loose Women and has become a spokeswoman on benefits issues. 

Looking back at the ‘amazing’ time, Dee admitted that she didn’t classify herself as a ‘celebrity’ at the time and she still doesn’t.

On the Channel 4 series, ‘mother hen’ White Dee was regularly seen cooking meals for the hungry on the street and emerged as a star. 

No contact: The reality star, who appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in 2014, also said that she doesn't keep in touch with her former neighbours turned co-stars (pictured on Celebrity Big Brother in 2014)

No contact: The reality star, who appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in 2014, also said that she doesn’t keep in touch with her former neighbours turned co-stars (pictured on Celebrity Big Brother in 2014) 

Co-stars: Other people involved in the documentary included 50p Man, real name Stephen Smith, pictured in 2014

Sad: Fungi, real name James Clarke, tragically passed away aged 50 in 2019

Co-stars: Other people involved in the documentary included 50p Man, real name Stephen Smith, and Fungi, real name James Clarke, who tragically passed away aged 50 in 2019 (L-R)

Sherrell Dillion, known as SB, was seen on the series trying to launch her modelling career while being a mother-of-two.

Samora Roberts, 39, whose friends call her and she goes by the moniker Black Dee, was jailed for seven years in 2016 for running a drug-dealing operation at her home.  

Funghi – real name James Clarke – passed away aged 50 in July 2019. The TV star, who battled booze and crack addiction, is said to have killed himself because he was in a lot of pain with cancer and didn’t want his girlfriend to see him suffer.

In January 2020, residents of Benefits Street claimed that they were being ‘neglected’ and were living in ‘filthy’ conditions surrounded by mice and piles of rubbish.   

Talking to Birmingham Live , Dee said: 'It was just a crazy crazy time. My life was turned upside down and I just wasn't expecting it.' (pictured in 2014)

Talking to Birmingham Live , Dee said: ‘It was just a crazy crazy time. My life was turned upside down and I just wasn’t expecting it.’ (pictured in 2014) 

James Turner Street in Birmingham, which featured in the hit Channel 4 documentary, has been left to ruin and is a dumping ground for fly-tippers seven years after the show aired.

The series, which pulled in five million viewers in 2014, turned the then residents into unlikely reality stars as it followed them surviving on handouts.

But exactly six years after the first episode, those that are left or have been moved to the area by housing associations or the council have told how it is almost a no-go zone.

One local said they would rather be homeless than live in the street, once home to the likes of White Dee, Black Dee, 50p Man, and late drug addict Fungi.

Other have told how a 12-year-old girl was forced to move with her family after being sexually harassed, a delivery driver carjacked and a family was unable to wash their ten kids for more than a year. 

Wow: Dee got more than £50,000 to appear on Celebrity Big Brother in 2014, went on Loose Women and has become a spokeswoman on benefits issues (pictured in 2015)

Wow: Dee got more than £50,000 to appear on Celebrity Big Brother in 2014, went on Loose Women and has become a spokeswoman on benefits issues (pictured in 2015) 

What became of the stars of Channel 4’s Benefits Street? 

DEIDRE KELLY, AKA WHITE DEE 

Benefits Street star White Dee said her ‘street family’ was ripped apart by the TV show – and she left the area.

The reality TV star, whose real name is real name Deidre Kelly, moved away from James Turner Street in Winson Green and the neighbours she grew to love.

After the success of Benefits Street , Dee went on to make TV and magazine appearances and then made Handsworth her new home.

White Dee no longer sees those featured in the hit Channel 4 programme first aired back in 2014 – such as Black Dee and 50p Man.

In the show, Dee had a heartwarming relationship with lovable rogue Fungi who struggled with homelessness and drink and drugs. He tragically passed away in 2019. 

Dee said in 2018: ‘I haven’t spoken to anyone shown in the documentary though I do still speak to people on the street.

‘It is the one sad thing. I do think it was one of the biggest regrets ever. We were like one massive family. 

‘But how it was portrayed by the TV editing ripped us apart.

SAMORA ROBERTS, AKA BLACK DEE 

Benefits Street star Samora Roberts, who used the moniker Black Dee, was jailed for seven years in 2016 for keeping live ammunition in her home – where she ran an ‘open-all-hours’ drug business.

Roberts, 39, was found in possession of over £5,000 of Class A drugs as well as bullets which she hid in a pink trainer under a washing basket.

She admitted seven counts of possessing cannabis with intent to supply and was found guilty of possessing crack cocaine and heroin.

Roberts was also found guilty of two counts of possessing 11 .38 Smith and Wesson cartridges without a firearms certificate.

Judge Philip Parker QC jailed Roberts for seven years at Birmingham Crown Court where he accused her of running an open-all-hours’ drug business from her home on James Turner Street, which was better known as the location of Channel Four’s Benefits Street.

Samora was one of the first Benefits Street residents to hit out at Channel 4 producers for ‘exploiting’ locals when the show aired in January 2014.

She later had a public spat with former pal White Dee, claiming she was a ‘sell out’ for appearing on Celebrity Big Brother. 

STEPHEN SMITH, AKA 50P MAN

Door-to-door salesman Stephen Smith, became affectionately known as ’50p Man’ after selling cut-price household wares to the residents of Benefits Street.

His entrepreneurial spirit captured the attention of millionaire and Pimlico Plumbers founder Charlie Mullins, who offered him a £10,000 deal to open a 50p discount store to rival Poundland.

Unfortunately, they fell out and the business venture did not happen.

Mr Mullins claimed he could have become a millionaire and blamed ‘bad advice from people around him’ for the deal falling through.

JAMES CLARKE, AKA FUNGI

Fungi died in July 2019 at the age of 50 after a heart attack sparked by a suspected drugs overdose.

While stars like White Dee made a fortune and became celebrities, Fungi struggled with addiction, lost his job as a Big Issue seller and ended up sleeping rough in Birmingham.

He quit drink and drugs after a viewer paid £11,500 to put him through rehab and he looked to have turned his life around in 2016.

But the father-of-four was unable to beat addiction and found himself back on the streets, spending his benefits on 10 cans of super-strength cider each day while also taking crack cocaine.

He moved into a hostel for addicts in his home city but was found dead after the family said they hadn’t seen him for six months.

His ex-partner Donna, who brought up his daughter Kirsty, took to Facebook after his death and posted: ‘Death leaves a heartache no can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal’.


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