British Reality Television Star
Born 1981 Died 2009
Jade Goody was the reality television celebrity whose one "glittering achievement" was once coming fourth on Big Brother and who tragically succumbed to cervical cancer at the age of only twenty-seven.
She was born Jade Cerisa Lorraine Goody at Bermondsey in London on the 5th June 1981, the daughter of Andrew Goody and Jackiey Budden. Her grandfather Winston Coyne came to Britain from the West Indies in 1956 to work for London Transport and later met Jacqueline Goody, a former brothel keeper who later developed a crack habit. Their first child Ingrid was born in 1961, followed by Andrew in 1963 after which Winston left for New York where he was killed in a road traffic accident. Their children took their mother's surname and young Andrew Goody grew up to become a "heroin addict and small-time pimp turned career criminal". In 1979 Andrew met Jackiey Budden, a petty thief and clipper, although their relationship was never particularly stable, and broke up when Jade was eighteen months old when Jackiey threw her father out of the house after she discovered that he had hidden some guns under her cot. He later spent four years in Wandsworth Prison for robbery and died of a heroin overdose in the lavatory of a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet at Bournemouth in 2005.
In the circumstances her upbringing was less than ideal; Jade herself was later to claim that she could recall her father "jacking up in front of me when I was four and I was lying in his bed", whilst she was introduced to marijuana at the age of five, an event apparently worthy of being recorded in a family photograph. It was also at the age of five that her mother was involved in a motorcycle accident which left her blind in one eye and with a paralysed left arm. Jade therefore spent much of her childhood caring for her mother and being generally responsible for all the cooking, cleaning, and rolling up of joints, and was once obliged to drag her mother out of their burning flat, after it caught fire as a direct consequence of their use of candles to light their home after the power had been cut off for non-payment.
Her education was sporadic and largely unsuccessful. She attended Bacon's College in Rotherhithe, one of the nation's first City Technology colleges, only to be expelled for biting off part of the ear of one her fellow classmates, and was also expelled from a number of other schools, although this was often as a result of her mother's violent behaviour rather than her own. She subsequently attended the Bosco Centre, an institution which specialised in the task of educating young people who "had personal issues to deal with in their lives" and sought to encourage them to "become motivated employable young people", but nevertheless failed to obtain any qualifications whatsoever.
Big Brother 3
Jade was employed as a dental nurse at the time that she was selected to appear on Big Brother 3 in 2002. As it turned out it wasn't her first appearance on television, as she had once appeared as an extra on the pilot episode of London's Burning back when she was five. However by this time Jade was "up to her ears in debt", having recently been evicted from her flat in Rotherhithe over £3,000 worth of unpaid rent and was facing a summons for non-payment of council tax. She apparently accepted the offer to join Big Brother hoping for some "peace and quiet", and was under the impression that it "was going to be a hotel where I could be a kid". Which was a particularly attractive proposition from her point of view, since she had "never been a kid", as she put it.
As a contestant she soon attracted attention due to her apparent inability to stop talking and her quite staggering level of ignorance. She thought that Cambridge was part of London, that East Anglia was a foreign country, that Saddam Hussein was a boxer, and that the toilet had been invented by one Sherlock Holmes. She also performed a drunken striptease on screen during which she complained that "Me kebab is showing!". At which point Channel 4 felt obliged to transmit a blank screen.
The tabloid press took an instant dislike to her and was soon calling her the "the most annoying woman in Britain" and "Miss Piggy" under such headlines as 'Ditch the witch' and 'Gobby Jade is public enemy no 1'. The People called on the nation to remove her from the Big Brother house under the headline 'Why we must lob the gob', and The Sun joined in with a campaign to "vote out the pig"; although the Sunday Mirror complained that this was "insulting - to pigs". A former boyfriend even appeared to describe her as "a sex-crazed, lying, two-timing drunken tart, and I hope I never see her again". When Jade was finally evicted from the Big Brother household she faced chants of "Burn the pig" as she walked down the runway to be interviewed by Davina McCall.
Jade herself complained that she had been made into an "escape goat" by the tabloid press. As it was a significant proportion of the public agreed with her and felt that the frenzy of Goody loathing in the tabloid press had gone a little too far. This wave of sympathy led much of the press to backtrack with the net result that, even though Jade had succeeded in only coming fourth in the contest, she became the best known of all the contestants. When Heat magazine featured her on the cover in August 2002 they sold a record 600,000 copies. Other publications had similar experiences, or as one former editor of Now magazine later wrote, "I wanted sales. I soon realised that every time I put Jade on the cover, I got them". Of course, when the tabloid press and the celebrity gossip magazines realised that there were large numbers of the British public who wanted to read about Jade Goody they eagerly sought material that they could publish and, as it turned out, Ms Goody was more than happy to share every imaginable detail of her life in return for the usual fees.
In the following years she featured in her own reality television shows with titles such as What Jade Did Next, Jade's Salon and Jade's PA, and made appearances on such programmes as Celebrity Wife Swap, Celebrity Driving School, Celebrity Mastermind, Celebrity Stars In Their Eyes and Celebrity Weakest Link. She launched her own perfume Shh!, which she helpfully explained was "Not actually a smell of me, like. It's not my BO or my feet cheese or nothing", 'wrote' her autobiography and fronted a range of fitness DVDs. She even once took part in the London Marathon in 2006, but failed to finish and was taken to the Royal London Hospital to recover. Which was perhaps not surprising, given that her preparation for the race had consisted of "Chinese food, curry and drinking". She also acquired and disposed of a number of boyfriends, and gave birth to two sons who were fathered by fellow reality television star Jeff Brazier; all of which was fodder to the tabloid mill and generated a further stream of lucrative exclusives.
The Celebrity Big Brother Race Row
Over the following years Jane Goody was thus transformed from a bankrupt dental nurse into a reasonably wealthy celebrity. However it appeared as if interest in her was fading in 2006 and in an effort to revive her career she agreed to take part in Celebrity Big Brother 2007.
So on the 5th January 2007 she returned to the Big Brother household, accompanied this time around by mother Jackiey Budden, and her current boyfriend Jack Tweed. That year's contest was based around the concept that the eight other contestants would become the servants of this extended Goody family, a concept that did not meet with the universal approval of the other contestants, two of whom were inspired to pack their bags and leave. Everything then hit a crisis point when Jade had an argument over an Oxo cube with a minor Bollywood star named Shilpa Shetty. This inspired Jade to launch into what the media liked to call a 'foul-mouthed tirade' during which she referred to Ms Shetty as "Shilpa Fuckawallah, Shilpa Durupa, Shilpa Poppadom" and called on her to "go back to the slums". Since these remarks were clearly inspired by Ms Shetty's Indian nationality, they were widely seen as being racist remarks.
Whilst modern Britain society would tolerate a certain amount of abusive behaviour by an individual, it was of course regarded as completely unacceptable to do so on the basis of their ethnicity or sexual orientation. Some 45,000 people complained to the media regulator Ofcom about the broadcast of Jade's comments as the popular media again performed an about turn. Once more the media turned on her with such headlines as "Jade, We Hate You - The Nation Turns On Thick Racist Bully!" featured on the cover of Now magazine, which also decided not to renew her contract for a regular column. Her remarks rapidly became a matter of national debate whilst, as it turned out, the Indians weren't too happy about it either, as Ms Goody was burnt in effigy, even Gordon Brown felt obliged to publicly condemn the show for fear that it would harm diplomatic relations with the former cornerstone of the British Empire.
By the time that Jade was evicted from the Big Brother house on 19th January 2007, a number of retailers had decided to remove her perfume and other products from their shelves, sundry other contracts were cancelled, and it appeared for a moment as if the wheels had truly come off the Goody gravy train.
To be perfectly honest Jade Goody was likely too ignorant to be a genuine racist and was simply doing what she knew best. Which was to say the first thing that came into her head without making even the faintest effort to consider the matter beforehand. She subsequently gave an interview to the News of the World in which she apologised for any offence caused, and made it known that her £50,000 fee was going to charity. Nevertheless her image had been tarnished, and she desperately needed to earn the nation's forgiveness in order to keep her career alive. As part of the rehabilitation process she agreed to take part in Bigg Boss, the Indian version of Big Brother, in August 2008.
As it turned out, her appearance on Bigg Boss was cut short. She had been suffering from stomach pains for some time, but it was actually during the filming of Bigg Boss that she discovered that she had cervical cancer and immediately returned to the United Kingdom for treatment.
"I've lived in front of the cameras and maybe I'll die in front of them"
It soon became known that Jade had a history of similar medical problems. She'd had pre-cancerous cells removed at the age of sixteen and had later suffered from a "series of collapses and bouts of blood loss", but had rather neglected to abide by the advice given to her to undergo regular screenings. It was only after she'd began to suffer abdominal pain that she sought medical advice and received the unwelcome news that she'd developed cancer.
Having returned to Britain she went through the process of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and radical surgery in an effort to curb her cancer. Then towards the end of January she was admitted to the Royal Marsden Hospital in what was said to be "agonising pain". On the 4th February 2009 it was confirmed that her cancer had metastasised, that is spread to other organs in her body. The prognosis was terminal. She only had a matter of weeks left to live.
On the 14th February her boyfriend Jack Tweed proposed to her, and on the 22nd February they were married in a ceremony whose rights were sold to OK! magazine for a fee said to be "£700,000" or "close to £1 million". Although in order to fully participate in the celebrations her groom needed official permission to break the 7.00 pm curfew which had been imposed upon him as a condition of his early release from an eighteen month prison sentence for assaulting a teenage boy with a golf club. Some two weeks later on the 7th March she also arranged to be christened, together with her two sons, in the chapel of the Royal Marsden Hospital.
She later died at home on the 22nd March 2009 some two months short of her twenty-eighth birthday. Her funeral took place at the St John the Baptist Church in Buckhurst Hill, Essex, on the 4th April 2009. A crowd of some 4,000 people turned out to pay their last respects, and was widely covered in the media, although it was reported that details of her final resting place would be kept secret.
"I know I'm famous for nothing"
Jade Goody was of course a talentless nobody who hit the big time through sheer accident. No doubt her success was an inspiration to thousands of other similarly talentless nobodies who were eager to devour every detail of her life as they imagined that they too could follow in her footsteps if only they too had the same luck. This made her no different from any one of the other individuals who similarly sought fleeting fame and the possibility of fortune through the medium of what came to be known as reality television. Although in Jade's case, whilst others were apparently more successful at playing this game, and duly basked in their allotted fifteen minutes, it was she who succeeded in building a lucrative career on such ostensibly slender foundations. The secret of her success was simple; whilst many tried to play a part and provide the public with what they thought they wanted, Ms Goody never pretended to be anything other than she was, and was breathtakingly candid about who she was.
She might well have been pure white trash, the queen of all chavs, but beneath her apparent ignorance there was a certain innate shrewdness. Indeed unlike many other similar celebrities who were happy to sell their story to the media one week, and then complain that their privacy had been violated when a rival outlet published a not so flattering story in the following week, Jade had a surprisingly sophisticated understanding of the game she was playing; "I put myself in the limelight and I like my job. If it wasn't for the paps outside my house, I wouldn't be in a magazine. If it wasn't for someone writing something horrible about me one week, the next week someone wouldn't write something nice. I know it's a circle and they build you up to knock you down, and I'm happy to live with that. I sell newspapers."
And whilst it was the tabloid newspapers and celebrity scandal sheets that published the material that provided her with a comfortable living, much of the quality press also felt obliged to devote a considerable acreage of newsprint to her as well. Of course the literate classes were not concerned with the details of her life, but rather with what it signified about contemporary British society. It was said that her career was nothing more than a "celebration of ignorance", that she "symbolises the historic weakness of British education", and that she was the "poster girl of the curious contemporary cult of talentless celebrity", and even that she was "symptomatic of the decline of Western civilisation". Or as Michael Parkinson said of her (although he waited until she was safely dead to do so), she was a "woman who came to represent all that's paltry and wretched about Britain today".
Others, mainly those that had actually met her, were not quite so harsh in their judgement. To Russell Brand she was the "Primark Princess", whilst Stephen Fry described her as a "Princess Di from the wrong side of the tracks". Perhaps such conclusions might be regarded as somewhat exaggerated and driven more by sentimentality rather than rationality, but Ms Goody remained a popular figure for a significant section of the nation. The news of her death was extensively covered by the BBC (a few people complained that it was excessive for some reason or other) whilst her death warranted the inclusion of formal obituary notices in The Times, The Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, and The Independent; an accolade generally reserved for people who were actually famous for 'something' as opposed to 'nothing'.
She will now likely be forgotten by the popular media as they move onto to the next poster girl, although one suspects that in some future social history of Britain in the twenty-first century there will be a chapter on reality television, which will devote a few paragraphs to the Jade Goody Phenomenon with a footnote regarding her tragic death.
She sold newspapers.
- The 'official' biography at http://www.jadegoodyonline.com/
- Biography for Jade Goody at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1197669/bio
- Stuart Jeffries, Jade Goody:Obituary notice, The Observer, 22 March 2009
- Jade Goody:Obituary notice, The Sunday Telegraph 22 Mar 2009
- Jade Goody:Obituary notice, The Sunday Times, March 22, 2009
- Fiona Sturgis, The Independent, 23 March 2009
- Fraser Nelson, Jade Goody's dying wish indicts our failing education system, The Spectator, 22nd February 2009
- Sunder Katwala, The education of Jade Goody, The Guardian, 19 January 2007
- Ian Gallagher, Jo Macfarlane, Amanda Perthen and James Millbank, Goodbye Jade, Daily Mail, 05th April 2009
- Anita Singh, Jade Goody 'represented wretched Britain', says Sir Michael Parkinson, Daily Telegraph, 07 Apr 2009