A brash British reality show star whose ups and downs captivated the nation is approaching her death the same way she has lived — on television.
Dying of cervical cancer that has spread to her liver and bowels, 27-year-old Jade Goody sees no reason to turn the cameras off now.
Her first foray into the spotlight was in 2002, when she lost at strip poker on Britain's version of "Big Brother." She went on to write her autobiography, star in fitness videos, release a perfume and appear on "Celebrity Big Brother," where she was accused of racism and bullying a Bollywood star, Shilpa Shetty.
To make amends, she went to India last summer to star in its version of "Big Brother." It was there — in a shocking diagnosis captured on television — that she found out about her cancer.
Bald and pale from chemotherapy, pictures of Goody have since been daily fodder in the British press. She says the publicity and profits made from selling her story will help her sons, 4-year-old Freddie and 5-year-old Bobby Jack, and raise awareness of cervical cancer.
On Thursday, a television show documented the weeks before she learned she only has months to live. On Sunday, the cameras will roll at her wedding to 21-year-old boyfriend, Jack Tweed — recently released from prison after serving time for assault and wearing an electronic monitor. Goody will take her vows in a designer dress donated by Harrods owner, Mohamed Al Fayed.
While neither are scheduled to air in the U.S., video clips of her wedding shopping spree and cancer battle — including one where she breaks into sobs as she stares at her balding head in her bathroom mirror — have been widely viewed on YouTube. Photos of the nuptials are to be printed in OK! magazine, which along with television deals are believed to have earned Goody $1.4 million.
Her actual death is not expected to be televised or photographed, her publicist said.
"People will say I'm doing this for money," Goody told the Sun tabloid earlier this month. "And they're right. I am, but not to buy flash cars or big houses. It's for my sons' future."
Some have said Goody should spend time with her family rather than staying in the spotlight. But most have also praised her commitment to her sons and her effort to draw attention to the need for regular Pap smears, which can catch cervical cancer in its early, treatable stages.
"I may have questioned the wisdom of Jade treating the media as confidantes in her final days," wrote Allison Pearson in the conservative Daily Mail. "But I have nothing but respect for her decision to accumulate enough money for the boys to enjoy the very best education."
The media, who are now so firmly in Goody's corner, were not always so kind. She was ridiculed for being vulgar, uneducated and crass; even after her cancer diagnosis, it was suggested she was capitalizing on her illness to regain the public's affection.
'Famous for just being herself'
From the beginning, Goody's tortured childhood provided kindling for reality TV. She grew up in a tough part of London, the daughter of drug users. Her father, who served time in prison, died from a drug overdose.
With her in-your-face attitude and willingness to share the tawdriest details of her life, the buxom brunette both fascinated and repelled Britain. Her lack of education sometimes made her an object of ridicule, such as when she asked where the English region of East Anglia — less than a two-hour drive from London — is located, and pronounced it "East Angular."
"She's a kind of product of our time," said her publicist Max Clifford. "I suppose, when I started out, it was all about talent, but Jade was the one who proved that you don't need to have talent to be someone in Britain today. She's famous for just being herself."
There was admiration, even from the prime minister, for Goody's sheer determination to make a better life for herself.
"It's very sad and indeed tragic that someone so young has got this deadly disease of cancer and it's very sad indeed that the treatment that has been given has not been successful," Gordon Brown said Wednesday at his monthly news conference.
"I think everyone has their own ways of dealing with these problems and her determination to help her family is something that we've got to applaud," he said. "I wish her well and I wish her family well and I think the whole country will be worried and anxious about her health."
The Guardian newspaper — which appeals to the left-leaning intelligentsia — weighed in on Goody's decision to publicize her impending death, praising her for confronting her mortality.
"The ostentatious rituals of mourning and public graveyards of earlier eras are not part of modern life," it said in an editorial. "Today, mortality is as finite as before, but has somehow been marginalized."
In Bermondsey, the neighborhood near London Bridge where Goody grew up, residents still consider her one of their own. Nearly all support her choice to stay in the spotlight.
"She's like one of us. We all feel for her. It's not fair," said 40-year-old Janine Stacy, a special education teacher. "It's totally her choice."
Clifford said that Goody may consider doing other deals after the wedding. "We are in discussions to do a final documentary ... She's very keen to do it, providing she's well enough," he said.