Jade Goody, a dental assistant turned reality-TV star whose whirlwind journey from poverty to celebrity to tragedy became a national soap opera and morality tale in Britain, has died.
The 27-year-old had cancer and died in her sleep early yesterday at her home in Essex, southeast England, her publicist Max Clifford said.
Goody gained fame at 21 in 2002, when she joined the reality television show Big Brother, in which contestants live together for weeks and are constantly filmed. Loud and brash, she became a highly divisive star — initially mocked as an ignorant slob, then celebrated as a forthright everywoman by a hungry tabloid press.
It was a pattern of praise and condemnation that followed her for the rest of her life. Goody became a national touchstone who sparked debate about race, class and celebrity in Britain.
For some, Goody was a survivor who had overcome a tough childhood in a poor part of London.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said yesterday that 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 in a statement.
“She will be remembered fondly by all who knew her and her family can be extremely proud of the work she has done to raise awareness of cervical cancer which will benefit thousands of women across the U.K.”
Though many praised Goody in recent months for the way in which she handled her illness, she was 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 did become a celebrity, earning millions through television and magazine appearances, an autobiography, a perfume and a series of exercise videos.
It was during a follow-up stint on a celebrity version of Big Brother in 2007 that Goody was labelled a racist bully for her treatment of another contestant, Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty. Goody bad-mouthed Shetty’s cooking of Indian food, mocked her accent and referred to her as “Shilpa Poppadom.”