Diem Brown Blogs: My Ode to Talia Castellano
The two-time cancer survivor pays tribute to the 13-year-old makeup maven, who passed away on July 16
After successfully battling ovarian cancer for the second time and sharing her journey on PEOPLE.com, Diem Brown is back to blogging. This time around, she will not only share updates on her own life, but about competing on her new show, MTV’s The Challenge: Rivals II.
My eyes are burning as I write today’s blog, for although we never met, I was deeply touched by an angel named Talia Castellano, who has now taken her place in heaven.
I was quite moved by how much Talia’s passing affected me. Like I said, we never met but I felt as if I knew her, as if we shared something. I know I am not alone in that. Her warm, honest smile and joy-filled eyes were a bright spot in anyone’s day as they came across her story, adorable YouTube videos and gorgeous pictures.
She was just 13 years old when she passed after fighting her disease for six strong years. Through it all she was pure innocence, the definition of a brilliant fighter, and we all hoped to see her beat this horrible disease and reach her sweet 16th birthday plus decades more.
Like so many others, I became immersed in Talia’s story after viewing one of her YouTube make-up tutorials. Talia’s dream was to become a famed make-up artist and, man, did she have the talent! I’m honestly smiling as I write this, because in her honor I’m sporting ruby-red lips following her lip-lining technique … I think she would be proud at my attempt.
Talia probably never knew how many people she touched in her few years here on Earth. How her actions and attitude affected millions of strangers. Not only those struggling with illness but those just looking for inspiration and hope.
You may think your life doesn’t impact others, but it does! You may think you go unnoticed, but you don’t. We are all connected in a deep powerful way; we have our obvious connections of friends and family but our other connections are sadly only shown to us when tragedy hits.
So when you can, let people know how much they mean to you and acknowledge that you positively affect the lives of more people than you could ever realize. I know you ve heard this a million times, but it s a loss like Talia that should make it hit home.
I hope we can all learn from Talia, to keep her spirit and energy alive. Of course that kind of compassion doesn t always translate well on reality TV!
On last night’s episode of The Challenge: Rivals II I was shocked they didn’t show the interaction between Anastasia and myself. I was proud of the way we got along despite our situation. Anastasia wanted to leave the show. She felt embarrassed and was terrified about how she would look when the show aired. I sat with her for over an hour, letting her know I held nothing against her and she shouldn’t feel weird or embarrassed around me. I told her that if she left, she would be relinquishing all the power to her actions instead of turning things around and competing for herself.
I explained to Anastasia that these challenges are once-in-a-lifetime experience. You get to push yourself past physical and mental limits that most others don t get the opportunity to. It s those moments that make dealing with all the drama worthwhile.
Last night’s challenge wasn’t one of those moments, however it was hilarious watching the guys get harnessed to each other as they waddled through an obstacle course! Although when it came time for the girls turn, I didn’t find it so funny. Anastasia gave me a look like “I stayed for this?” so I smiled, shrugged and mouthed, “The next challenge will be epic, I promise!”
As I watched the girl teams get harnessed up, I wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t want to have my head in between Aneesa’s legs… so I stayed true to myself and, because I’m weird and pretty bendy, I reworked the harness so that my head was to the side of her leg as I was positioned upside down.
Aneesa is a powerhouse competitor, she picked me up like a sack of potatoes and away we went. I figured the tighter I made myself into a ball, the easier it would be for Aneesa to carry me. We were killing it! That was until the very last stage of the challenge, where I had to grab a ball with my mouth and place it into a hole. This is where reconfiguring my harness – so I didn’t have my head between Aneesa’s legs – backfired!
I was actually getting choked! I was afraid that I might have lost the challenge for our team because every time Aneesa bent down down, the harness cut off my airway. Needless to say, it was a scary feeling but, as always, when you want something, you can find a way to get there – and thank God we were able to get that ball in the hole and not get last place!
Now some may find it silly I was so adamant about not having my head between a girl’s legs but it was just something I felt strongly about. Like the saying goes, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for everything.” I was so happy Aneesa supported me and that made us grow stronger together.
I love it when girls support other girls! I didn’t address all of the house drama because I wanted this blog to be all about girls – No Boys Allowed! I wanted this to be my thank-you note to Talia, who showed us all how to be a sweet, caring and loving girl’s girl.
Relive Diem’s Emotional Journey on PEOPLE.com: