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Jade Goody’s family seeks privacy after loss

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 of cervical cancer.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Jade Goody's family asks for "privacy at last" after the death at 27 of the brash former dental assistant who turned her tumultuous life and struggle with cervical cancer into a one-woman reality show.

Mocked as a slob, then celebrated as an everywoman, Goody lived one of the world's most public lives, with cameras capturing everything from her racial slurs to her cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy.

Goody gained fame in 2002 at age 21 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 "Celebrity Big Brother" in the summer of 2008, Goody received a diagnosis of cervical cancer by telephone from a doctor in Britain. The camera captured the deeply personal moment, which was shown repeatedly on TV.

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.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who heads the Church of England, said 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, Goody married fiancee 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 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. 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."

Goody's publicist said last month that the cancer had spread to her liver, bowel and groin.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Sunday 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. He also praised her for her efforts, after her diagnosis, to raise awareness about cervical cancer and the need for screening.

Though many praised 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.

Racist comments drew national attention
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. 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.

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Goody's treatment of Shetty sparked anger in India and Britain — even becoming the topic of debate during a House of Commons question-and-answer session with then Prime Minister Tony Blair. A major sponsor suspended its advertising deal with "Celebrity Big Brother," and a chain of perfume shops pulled a Goody-endorsed fragrance, ironically named "Shh..."

After television viewers voted to evict Goody from the show, 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 Goody eventually reconciled. On Sunday, 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 Goody was evicted from the "Celebrity Big Brother" house, the Indian Tourism Office invited Goody 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," Goody said. "I'm a mother of two, a businesswoman. I can't be all that bad."

Goody is survived by Tweed and her two sons, Bobby and Freddie, with an ex-boyfriend, television presenter Jeff Brazier. She also is survived by her mother, Jackiey Budden.

Budden told reporters Sunday: "Family and friends would like privacy at last."

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