Reality TV was not the best fit for the late Annabelle Neilson, according to her former Ladies of London costar Caroline Stanbury.
The former fashion stylist appeared on Thursday’s episode of Reality Life with Kate Casey and opened up about Neilson, who died from a heart attack at the age of 49 last July.
“Annabelle was always slightly a tortured soul,” Stanbury, 43, said of her late friend.
“Actually, if I really think back to it, the show was not the right platform for someone like Annabelle,” Stanbury added. “Although you want people who have explosive personalities who maybe cope with life differently, you also don’t really want to have people who can’t cope with life. She didn’t have a coping mechanism when we would all have to talk behind her back, she didn’t understand it because she was always the cool girl at school. So something like this was very negative for her and such a very, very negative experience.”
Added Stanbury of Neilson: “She couldn’t say in her head, ‘It’s a TV show, It’s a TV show.’ It’s incredibly hard. Somebody like me who went to boarding school and can block stuff out, not deal with my emotions — she could not do that. This was just not a great platform for her.”
Neilson was found dead in her home on July 12. She was laid to rest later that month in a private funeral attended by friends Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell, as well as actors Orlando Bloom and Liv Tyler.
Her death came as “a complete shock” to her family, sister Camila said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “My parents and I are devastated and shocked by this news,” Camila said. “We would ask the media to respect the privacy of our family and Annabelle’s close friends during this very difficult time.”
A source told PEOPLE at the time that Neilson “had a lot of private pain that she kept from others” and endured plenty of “hard times” in her life, most notably the 2010 suicide of her best friend, designer Alexander McQueen (“she was rocked by his death”) and a horse riding accident six years ago that left her in agony (“Coping with the pain was horrific”).
She had previously struggled with a heroin addiction, as well. Neilson told the Daily Mail in 2015 that her addiction began when she was attacked by a man at the age of 16, “tied to a tree and continually beaten.”
“I managed to escape with my life but I needed reconstructive surgery because my face was so disfigured,” she said. “After that, I fell into a serious depression and became a heroin addict because it provided an escape bubble and was the only way I could cope.”
On Reality Life with Kate Casey, Stanbury also updated fans on life in Dubai, where she’s been living for the past few years.
“It is home,” Stanbury said. “Dubai is something. The weather is so shiny and lovely. Everything’s so easy in the house. I live in an oasis. The lifestyle is so lovely there. People are so warm, because Dubai didn’t exist ’til 45 years ago, so everyone there has has moved there and taken a risk to be there. It’s so much more forward than you think, culturally. We were only meant to be there a couple of years. We’re at almost three now.”
Since moving, Stanbury has had a wealth of new career opportunities — including working as the face of a beauty and healthcare brand as well as hosting a weekly podcast.
“I looked at it as a fresh start,” she said of the move, stressing that she can’t see herself going back to London. “What a new chapter I’ve had. … In Dubai, I am the new girl in town!”
The mother of three — who shares daughter Yasmine, 13, and 9-year-old twin boys Zac and Aaron with husband Cem Habib — also isn’t ruling out a return to reality TV herself.
“I’m in talks,” she told Casey. “Never say never. With TV, it’s one step at a time. I want to come back. What that will come back, I don’t know. I get asked about Real Housewives of Dubai all the time, so many people want it. I don’t think it’ll work because it’s very hard to film there. But I’m open. Be it on stage or be it on TV, you’re definitely going to be seeing more of me. “