reality tv

Jade Goody was Britain’s biggest and most hated reality TV star. Then, aged 27, she died.

When Jade Goody walked into the UK’s Big Brother house in 2002, reality TV was still very new and no one had seen anyone like her before. The 20-year-old London dental nurse never stopped talking, even though she didn’t know what she was talking about.

“Rio de Janeiro, ain’t that a person?” she would ask. “Do they speak Portuganese in Portugal? I thought Portugal was in Spain.”

She threatened to “deck” one housemate, Adele, for pointing out her wart. She rolled around under the sheets with another housemate, PJ, who then rejected her. During a drinking game, she stripped off and flashed her “kebab”.

The media attacked her relentlessly, labelling her “Miss Piggy”, “public enemy number 1” and “the most hated woman in Britain”. When she was evicted from the house, after finishing in fourth spot, she walked out to chants of “burn the pig”.

Watch the trailer for ‘Jade: The Reality Star Who Changed Britain’. Post continues after video.

It might have been enough to crush some people, but not Goody. The media quickly decided they loved her, after all. It was the beginning of Goody’s lucrative but tragically short-lived career as the UK’s first genuine reality TV star.

Goody, who died 10 years ago this year, is the subject of a new documentary series, Jade: The Reality Star Who Changed Britain.

Aged just 20 when she entered the Big Brother house, Goody had already lived through tough times. She was raised on a council estate by her mother, Jackiey Budden, who lost the use of an arm and an eye in a motorbike accident. Her father, Andrew Goody, was a Jamaican-English drug addict and criminal who left the family when Goody was two and later died from a heroin overdose. When she entered the Big Brother house, Goody had just been evicted from a council flat and was facing jail over an unpaid bill.

Goody embraced fame and all the money that came with it. Over the next few years, she was everywhere. She had a string of her own reality shows, including Jade’s Salon, Just Jade and Jade’s P.A.. She won Celebrity Stars In Their Eyes. She attempted the London marathon, but didn’t finish, later claiming, “I didn’t know how far 26 miles is, really.”

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She released an autobiography and her own fragrance, Sh… Heat magazine named her the world’s 25th most influential person and put her career earnings at £8 million ($14.2 million AUD).

She had two boys, Bobby and Freddie, with reality star Jeff Brazier, and then started dating a good-looking teenager, Jack Tweed.

Mamamia’s The Quicky looked into what life is like after reality TV. Post continues after audio.

Things began going horribly wrong for Goody in 2007. She entered the Celebrity Big Brother house with Tweed and her mum. Before long, Goody was accused of racially bullying another housemate, Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty, calling her “Shilpa Poppadom”, and worse. More than 40,000 complaints were made by the public. Goody’s behaviour was debated in the House of Commons. An effigy of her was burnt in India.

When Goody was evicted, London’s mayor, Ken Livingstone, said everyone was “delighted”.

“Otherwise the image of Britain across India, which is the second-biggest investor in London after America now, would have been really damaged and it would have done a lot of harm to people’s jobs,” he added.

On the show, Goody had insisted she “didn’t say ‘Shilpa Poppadom’ in a racial way”. But after her eviction, she admitted her behaviour was “nasty”.

“I’m disgusted in myself for saying what I have just seen myself saying. I do not approve of any of my actions and I do not approve of the words that came out of my mouth.”

But it was too little, too late. Public opinion had once again turned. Deals dried up.

In 2008, Goody went on the Indian version of Big Brother, Bigg Boss, to try to improve her image. But just two days into the show, she received some terrible news. Goody had undergone medical tests before entering the house, to try to find out why she’d collapsed several times. Called into the Diary Room, her specialist spoke to her over the phone and gave her the diagnosis: cervical cancer.

Jade Goody
Jade Goody was told she had cervical cancer in the diary room. Image: Living.
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Goody ran out of the room.

“I have cancer!” she tearfully told her housemates.

Goody immediately returned to the UK for treatment. She had a radical hysterectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. But it wasn’t enough to save her. She began planning her funeral.

In February 2009, Goody married Tweed. Tweed had been jailed for attacking a teenager with a golf club, but his curfew was lifted so he could spend his wedding night with Goody. The final weeks of her life were filmed for yet another reality series, Jade: With Love.

Goody died on March 22, 2009.

The number of British women booking in for a pap smear jumped by half a million.

In Jade: The Reality Star Who Changed Britain, Goody’s mum, Jackiey Budden, talks about her final hours. She says Goody told her son Freddie, then five, that she was going to become an angel.

“She’s semi-conscious and Freddie got in bed with her, and went: ‘Mum, are you Mummy Jade or Mummy Angel?’” Budden remembers.

"Later he said: 'Nana, I’ve been awake all night. I can’t sleep. Is she Mummy Mummy or Mummy Angel?'

“I said: ‘She’s Mummy Angel now.’ And he said, ‘Can you tell her goodnight for me?’”

Goody’s fairytale was over. She’d reached the heights of fame and wealth, but in a tragic twist ending, she’d died at the age of just 27.

“She was never a fairytale person,” Budden says. “She never believed in pretty things.”

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