Folks who tuned in to watch Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath last night were surprised and upset to learn at the end of Season 3, Episode 4 that Tiponi Grey died after taping. The ex-Scientologist, who left the organization when she realized it was more of a business than a church or charitable organization, shared her story with hosts Mike Rinder and Leah Remini in the episode, which focused primarily on the strange link between Scientology and the Nation of Islam.
As the credits rolled, an "In Memoriam" card appeared at the end, dedicating the episode to the former employee of the Church of Scientology of Inglewood.
Did Tiponi Grey Die?
Fans on Twitter were understandably confused and upset to learn the brave woman, who had just shared her story with viewers, was no longer with us. "Why was Tiponi Grey memorialized at the end of the show? Did I miss something?" tweeted one viewer. "What happened? I can’t help but think of the worst case scenario. I understand the need for respect, but this possibility is just so heartbreaking."
We too were concerned about foul play, but our fears were apparently unfounded.
So, what happened to Tiponi Grey?
Though details on what led to Tiponi's death are scarce, her children, who have a gofundme.com page to raise money for her cremation and memorial services, indicate she had been sick for some time and died of natural causes. In fact, the lack of an unnatural death is why her kids need help with funeral expenses. Apparently, she only had accidental death insurance.
"[Tiponi] was ill for a long time but that never stopped her from enjoying life and accomplishing her goals," Taylan Givens says on the gofundme page, created November 8. "She loved to dance and most of all loved her 3 children and 6 grandchildren with all her life. She was our life, my backbone, my best friend, my daughter's father and grandma all in one. A part of us has left with her."
On the special, Tiponi joined the couch with two former members of the Nation of Islam who left amid concern for leader Louis Farrakhan's growing interest in and incorporation of Scientology texts and "technologies." Tiponi was there to share her experience working for a new center called Ideal Org, which opened in the historically black L.A. neighborhood of Inglewood. Leah admitted she played a central role in the foundation of that org, which she had hoped would bring more people of color into Scientology (back when she was a true believer).
Tiponi shared that the "church" came into her life at a time when she was searching for deeper spirituality. While the doctrines appealed to her on the surface initially, she was disillusioned the longer she worked for an organization she saw had no real interest in giving back to the community in the ways traditional churches do.
When the org's anniversary was coming up, she started brainstorming ways they could tie the event in with community outreach, especially since the date was so close to Thanksgiving. But it became clear to her the higher-ups had no interest in charity. "The only thing that they did was they would have people go out and hand out flyers and invite people to come take a personality test," she said. "To be calling yourself a church and then demanding the public pay for all this help, pay for this book, pay for that course, is ridiculous."
Our hearts go out to Tiponi's family, who clearly lost a special woman.