|punit paranjpe/reutersAfter her ouster from ''Celebrity Big Brother,'' Jade Goody reconciled with rival contestant Shilpa Shetty. (punit paranjpe/reuters)|
Jade Goody, 27, star of British reality TV
LONDON - Jade Goody, a dental assistant turned reality TV star whose whirlwind journey from poverty to celebrity to tragedy became a national soap opera in Britain, died of cervical cancer yesterday at the age of 27.
Mocked as a slob, then celebrated as an everywoman, Ms. Goody lived one of the world's most public lives, with cameras capturing everything from her racial slurs to her cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy.
Ms. Goody gained fame in 2002 when she joined the British version of the reality television show "Big Brother," in which contestants live together for weeks and are constantly filmed. She became a highly divisive star and something of a national touchstone who sparked debate about race, class, and celebrity.
During filming of an Indian version of "
The progress of her illness was chronicled in detail in the tabloid press and weekly magazines. She underwent surgery and chemotherapy in the public eye - filming part of the experience.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who heads the Church of England, said Ms. Goody showed a brave side in the face of death.
"If in her earlier career it was all about her, then I think at the end it was about something else," Williams said.
Bald and frail, Ms. Goody married fiance Jack Tweed last month in an elaborate event staged at an elegant countryside hotel outside London. The wedding was shown on television and the photos were sold, prompting criticism.
But Ms. Goody, who grew up in a poor London neighborhood, defended herself - saying she wanted her two young sons to have a better life than she had. Ms. Goody's father was a heroin addict who served jail time for robbery and died in 2005; her mother was a former crack addict who lost the use of an arm in a motorcycle accident.
"People will say I'm doing this for money," she said. "And they're right, I am. But not to buy flash cars or big houses - it's for my sons' future if I'm not here. I don't want my kids to have the same miserable, drug-blighted, poverty-stricken childhood I did."
Ms. Goody's publicist said last month that the cancer had spread to her liver, bowel, and groin.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said yesterday that Ms. Goody used her fame to help others.
"She was a courageous woman both in life and death, and the whole country have admired her determination to provide a bright future for her children," Brown said. He also praised her for her efforts, after her diagnosis, to raise awareness about cervical cancer and the need for screening.
Though many praised Ms. Goody in recent months for the way in which she handled her illness, she was often mocked in the press during her stint on "Big Brother" for her weight, her big mouth, and her apparent lack of general knowledge. She branded the English region of East Anglia "East Angular," and asked whether it was abroad.
She didn't win the show, but she earned millions through television and magazine appearances, an autobiography, a perfume, and a series of exercise videos.
Ms. Goody was labeled a racist bully for her treatment of another contestant, Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty, while filming the British version of "Celebrity Big Brother" in 2007. Ms. Goody bad-mouthed Shetty's cooking of Indian food, mocked her accent, and referred to her as "Shilpa Poppadom." While complaints against the show skyrocketed, so did ratings.
After television viewers voted to evict Ms. Goody from the show, Ms. Goody - herself of mixed race - insisted she wasn't a racist. "I argue like that with everybody. It wasn't just because of the color of her skin that I was that aggressive," she said during an interview on Britain's GMTV.
Shetty and Ms. Goody eventually reconciled. Yesterday, Shetty told the BBC: "I am deeply saddened, but I am glad Jade is out of pain and that she died peacefully with her family around her."
After Ms. Goody was evicted from the "Celebrity Big Brother" house, the Indian Tourism Office invited her to travel to the country. She did, visiting charity projects and later agreeing to appear on the Indian reality show.
"The people of India have only seen a small part of me, and I'd like to show them that there is more to me," Ms. Goody said. "I'm a mother of two, a businesswoman. I can't be all that bad."
Ms. Goody leaves her husband; two sons, Bobby and Freddie; and her mother, Jackiey Budden.