It was 2003 when Australians were first introduced to Regina “Reggie” Bird, the down-to-earth Tassie girl who managed a fish and chip shop with her then-husband, Adrian.
Soon enough, Bird had charmed her way into our hearts, and went on to win season three of Big Brother Australia with a whopping 72% of the final vote, the biggest margin in a Big Brother finale to date. She was also the first female winner of the series after Ben Williams won season one, and Peter Corbett won season two.
A lot has changed since 2003, both in the world of Big Brother and in Bird’s personal life, but now, Bird is back for the upcoming season, Big Brother Royalty Vs New Contenders, and will give viewers an update on how things have been for her since her first stint on the show.
From the trailer, we learn that Bird’s life has been anything but easy since she won the series nearly two decades ago.
“Big Brother changed my life,” she says in the clip. “I was the little Aussie battler, and I related to a lot of people.”
“Since my time on Big Brother, I got diagnosed with going blind,” Bird shares. “I’ve now lost all my peripheral vision. I have no night vision. I could wake up tomorrow and it’s gonna be gone.”
As she shares her emotional story, Bird breaks down, saying, “Oh, I’m gonna cry, sorry.”
Bird has been diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa, which is a genetic condition in which the cells in the retina break down slowly over time, resulting in loss of vision and blindness. Bird was diagnosed in 2004, just one year after her Big Brother win.
Speaking to The Daily Edition in 2016 about her diagnosis, Bird said that the invisible nature of her condition has caused difficulties for her in the way she navigates her daily life.
“Sometimes when I forget to take my cane to the shops and I bang into people… they look at me because I’m so young and just think I’m being rude,” she said.
“Even when you’re getting a taxi — I’ve had a few say, ‘you’re only going up the road, why can’t you walk?’ Things like that upset me.”
Unfortunately, her eye condition isn’t the only problem Bird has faced over the years. In 2008, Bird underwent emergency surgery following an ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when a fertilised egg attaches somewhere outside the uterus.
She also suffered a stroke in 2017, as a result of a heart condition.
“They told me I have a hole in my heart,” Bird told Woman’s Day in 2018. “I was literally heartbroken. But it makes sense now, why I’m always so tired and unwell, and what caused my stroke.”
The same year that Bird suffered her stroke, she also faced eviction from her house, which she shared with her second husband, Dale Sorensen, and their two children, daughter Mia and son Lucas, who suffers from cystic fibrosis.
Her son’s condition requires daily medication and physiotherapy, which comes at a high cost. Combined with her own medical expenses, Bird was nearly evicted in 2017.
“I’m so scared,” she told Woman’s Day at the time. “One day your kids are cuddled up and warm and safe and just like that, it could all be gone. I owe my kids a warm bed and a safe house, that’s not too much to ask, is it?
“It’s hard to believe I became known as the girl who survived multiple evictions in the Big Brother house, to 14 years later be faced with the real thing,” she continued. “I’ve been having nightmares ever since, wondering where we’re going to go.”
It wasn’t the first time Bird had faced financial problems, either. In 2005, Bird was scammed out of $40,000 by a conman, who had been posing as a television producer.
The conman had told Bird that he wanted to film a television pilot for a travel series starring Bird.
On the Not Here to Make Friends podcast, Bird explained: “I thought it was legit. He said he didn’t have money and asked to borrow five grand and another five grand and then it all snowballed.”
Despite the many difficult challenges Bird has faced over the years, she says in her Big Brother promo that she’s “still a fighter” and “still a battler”, and while it may be “a new game”, she’s “still the same old Reggie”.
Will she be able to become the first person to win Big Brother Australia twice, though? Only time will tell. Until then…
Big Brother Royalty Vs New Contenders premieres soon, only on 7 and 7 Now. Read all of our Big Brother Australia content here.