Jael Strauss — a fan-favorite reality TV personality who competed on cycle 8 of America’s Next Top Model — died Tuesday morning, according to TMZ, at the age of 34 following a recently publicized battle with stage 4 breast cancer.
“The one blessing was that we were able to show her how loved she was before she passed,” the family said in a statement to the website. “She brought so much light to people.”
On Oct. 4, the model-actress announced that she had been diagnosed with an “incurable” form of the disease that had spread “aggressively” throughout her body, indicating doctors had only given her a “few months” to live. Less than two weeks ago, on Nov. 22, she revealed she has started hospice care.
“First night in hospice,” she wrote on Facebook. “So many things I never knew about life. Or death. So many things.”
Per a GoFundMe page dedicated to raising money for her recovery, she stopped chemotherapy a month ago. Previous posts noted that Strauss was “putting all of her energy and drive into fighting this insidious disease” and “helped countless people throughout her life as an advocate for recovery and social justice” as a result of her own struggles with substance abuse.
“I don’t want to die. I need another one of those miracles that I got back in 2013,” the Detroit native wrote on social media, referencing a 2012 episode of The Dr. Phil Show that featured the then-28-year-old’s family staging a hometown intervention in response to Strauss’ methamphetamine addiction.
“Today I have [been] five years sober. Good God! I know a few things to be true: Miracles are real, [and] recovery is possible for everyone no matter how far gone you think you are,” Strauss wrote on Instagram to celebrate the anniversary of her sobriety. “We are never too broken to be put back together. Service work feels better than the greatest high. Sobriety makes you weirder not normal…. and I’d be dead if it weren’t for all the love and forgiveness I’ve been showered with by my friends and family. Thank you to anyone that’s ever let me sponsor them.”
Introduced to fans of the Tyra Banks-created competition series as a fun-loving free spirit, Strauss quickly became one of cycle 8’s most beloved contestants thanks to her outgoing personality and eccentric fashion. Before finishing the show in sixth place, she often sported her beloved tutu and a variety of wigs, including the infamous blue-hued hairpiece she donned at the tail end of her elimination episode. One of Strauss’ most memorable moments from the show saw rapper 50 Cent pushing her into a swimming pool during a challenge that saw the models trying to impress entertainment industry clients at a Los Angeles patio party.
During her time on America’s Next Top Model, Strauss received particular praise for her photos, namely a shoot which saw her posing as a murder victim shortly after she received news that a close friend had died from a drug overdose. Since appearing on the program, Strauss modeled for catalogs by Hitch Couture and The Legging Project, additionally appearing in a photo advertisement in Seventeen magazine.
Banks paid tribute to Strauss on Twitter Wednesday, writing that “Top Model has lost a beautiful soul” and that she will “remember Jael and her fun-loving spirit.”
According to the American Cancer Society, women should consider getting annual mammograms at age 40, but by age 45 should receive one at least once per year.