Page last updated at 07:47 GMT, Sunday, 22 March 2009

Jade Goody's life in public eye

By Torin Douglas
Media correspondent, BBC News

Jade Goody
Jade Goody was catapulted into the public eye after Big Brother in 2002

Jade Goody's was a tale for our times. Made famous by reality TV, she lived her life unashamedly in the public eye - for good and ill - right to the end.

Like Diana, Princess of Wales - another young woman catapulted into the public eye - she divided opinion. Almost everyone had a view about her, expressed privately to friends or colleagues, or more widely through the media, blogs and messageboards.

To many people, Jade Goody personified a dumbed-down Britain, with her televised displays of self-confessed ignorance, bad language and bullying.

Better I say bad things about me before others do
Jade Goody after learning she had cancer

But others - such as the Woman's Hour presenter Jenni Murray - called her magnificent, for putting two fingers up to her critics, making a fortune out of her fame, and fighting her illness in public with a brave smile.

In the age of celebrity, Jade Goody lived Oscar Wilde's maxim to the full: "There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."

She told newspapers after the news broke about her cancer: "I've lived my life in the public eye. It's what I do" and "Better I say bad things about me before others do."

'East Angular'

Reality TV brought Jade Goody fame and fortune, but not always favour.

From her first appearance on Big Brother in 2002, the former dental nurse was ridiculed inside the house, and outside in the media, for her lack of general knowledge - she famously thought "East Angular" was abroad.

Jade Goody running in the 2006 London Marathon
Goody entered the London Marathon in 2006 but failed to finish

She was mocked for her looks - one tabloid paper likened her to Miss Piggy - and criticised for her bad behaviour.

Yet she rose above it all. On leaving the house, she became the most successful of the former housemates, a favourite of celebrity magazines and TV shows.

She opened a beauty salon called Ugly's and launched her own fragrance, autobiography and DVDs, earning several million pounds.

She entered the London Marathon in 2006, raising money for the NSPCC, but dropped out after 21 miles, admitting she hadn't realised how far it was.

Her preparations, she told the TV chef Gordon Ramsay, consisted of "eating curry, Chinese and drinking."

But, as in most stories loved by the media, there was a spectacular fall from grace.

Shouting match

Returning to the Big Brother house in 2007, for Celebrity Big Brother (in her case, the word "celebrity" was not misplaced), she sparked 44,000 complaints and an international incident.

She launched a foul-mouthed shouting match (not transmitted by producers) with the Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty, calling her "Shilpa Poppadom" and peppering the airwaves with angry expletives.

In India, where Gordon Brown was on a trade mission, Shetty's fans took the streets and burned effigies of the programme's producers. In Britain, one shop delisted her perfume.

Jade Goody and Shilpa Shetty
Shilpa Shetty and Jade Goody were reunited for the Indian Big Brother

When the enormity of the row was explained to her, she apologised tearfully on television and - after being evicted, with a huge public vote against her - she said sorry again in a series of interviews.

Her agent issued a statement saying she was being treated by doctors for "shock and depression", claiming she was now the victim of bullying - by the media.

Many thought her public life was finished - not least the publicist Max Clifford, who said she seemed to have ruined a very lucrative career

But her helter-skelter progress continued, in a way no soap scriptwriter could have bettered, for Clifford took a hand in rehabilitating her.

By last summer, she was rebuilding her career with an appearance on India's version of Big Brother, when she was told she had cancer.

She decided to share her ordeal with the public, through a series of lucrative deals with newspapers, magazines and TV, to raise money for her two young sons, Bobby and Freddie.

Fierce debate

Living TV followed her progress for a series of programmes. When she was told the cancer was terminal, further deals accrued for her story and the coverage of her wedding to Jack Tweed.

OK! Magazine paid a reported 700,000 for exclusive wedding pictures. Living was there for another documentary.

Jenni Murray
May she make her wretched disease and her miserable critics pay
Woman's Hour presenter Jenni Murray writing in the Observer

ITV1 negotiated a deal, in principle, for her to be interviewed by Piers Morgan.

Clifford gave daily updates on her health, providing a stream of front-page stories for tabloid newspapers, celebrity magazines and entertainment websites.

And a fierce debate ensued about the rights and wrongs of people dying in the media spotlight and making money out of it.

Jenni Murray, herself coping with cancer, asked why members of the "chattering middle classes" were praised for documenting their dying days, but not Jade Goody.

She wrote in the Observer: "I hope she's rewarded most handsomely for her media outings. Her concern will be for her boys' material comfort in a future without her.

"May she make her wretched disease and her miserable critics pay."

And doctors praised her, reporting a rise in women taking cervical smear tests as a result of the publicity.

They called it the "Jade Goody effect".

Print Sponsor

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific