Simon Shelton, Tinky-Winky from Teletubbies, has passed away

via Viacom
via Viacom /

We have some sad news to report today as we have learned that Simon Shelton, who plays the purple Tinky-Winky on Teletubbies, has tragically passed away.

The children’s show performer was only 52 years old.

Over at Variety, news has been made official about the death of Simon Shelton. Confirmed by his niece on social media, Shelton had apparently died on Jan. 17. A cause of death was not revealed, but the actor is leaving behind a wife and three children.

Shelton wasn’t the original Tinky-Winky, having taken over the role in 1998 when the prior performer was fired. Then, Shelton would remain in the purple suit until 2001. In addition to his role as Tinky-Winky, Shelton also would play the Dark Knight on the show Incredible Games.

During Shelton’s time on the show, Teletubbies had generated some controversy. Reverend Jerry Falwell publicly claimed that Tinky-Winky was gay, based on his purple color and the fact that he carried a “purse.” Later, Shelton would address how silly this was, saying, “People always ask me if Tinky-Winky is gay. But the character is supposed to be a three-year-old so the question is really quite silly.”

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Teletubbies no longer enjoys the popularity it once had. But its influence can still be seen in shows that came later such as Yo Gabba Gabba. For many kids that grew up with Teletubbies, however, the news about Shelton’s death is a major bummer. We offer our condolences to the family, friends, and fans.