British Reality Star Jade Goody Dies

Brash star who fell from grace, rose again, dies of cancer weeks after wedding.

February 24, 2009, 11:43 AM

March 22, 2009 — -- After captivating audiences in the U.K. and around the world with her poverty-to-celebrity story, reality TV star Jade Goody has died of cervical cancer. She was 27.

"'I just spoke to Jackie [Goody's mother] and she told me, 'My beautiful girl has gone,'" Goody's publicist, Max Clifford,told Sky News Sunday morning. "The whole point was to go home to die surrounded by her loved ones and that is exactly what has happened -- at least she got her wishes.

"It was right for her -- she lived her life in the public eye over the last seven years and according to Jade the happiest seven years of her life," he added. "She died as she lived -- in the public eye."

Goody rose to fame at 21 in 2002, when she joined the cast of "Big Brother." Loud and, at times, offensive -- she was accused of being a racist bully for bad-mouthing fellow contestant Shilpa Shetty, a Bollywood actress -- Goody was mocked by the press for years. Public opinion of her shifted in the summer of 2008, when Goody learned, while filming another season of "Big Brother," that she had cervical cancer.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown praised Goody for using her fame to help her two young sons and many women she did not know.

"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 Sunday, according to The Associated Press. "She will be remembered fondly by all who knew her and her family can be extremely proud of the work she has done to raise awareness of cervical cancer."

Weeks before her death, Goody said she would be "ready to go to heaven" after her February wedding to fellow reality TV star Jack Tweed.

In an exclusive interview with OK! magazine, Goody said the wedding had been "the happiest day of my life." Tweed, 21, proposed to Goody in front of cameras in London, and the British luxury department store Harrods gave her a designer gown by Manuel Mota, worth $5,798.

"I was very moved by Jade's plight," Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed said in a statement released to ABC News. "When I heard of her intention to get married, I wanted to give her something. So I offered her one of our beautiful wedding dresses from Harrods."

Even the Ministry of Justice offered support to the ailing celebrity when it announced that Tweed, on parole for an assault in 2006, would be allowed to stay out past his curfew and spend his wedding night with Goody. A Ministry of Justice spokesman described the couple's circumstances as "an exceptional case."

The wedding took place at the Down Hall Country House Hotel in Hatfield Heath, near where Goody grew up, and the bride was able to walk down the aisle, despite her advancing illness.

Tweed arrived for the ceremony first in a Rolls-Royce, before Goody landed in a helicopter, late.

Guests at the reception were served pink champagne, while the British pop group Sugababes and the acid jazz band Incognito performed for them.

OK! magazine paid Goody about $1 million for the rights to the ceremony, including the exclusive interview with her.

Meanwhile, the pay channel Living TV, which has been following Goody around since she received the cancer diagnosis in August, paid her $144,655 to film the wedding. The wedding was broadcast on Living TV earlier this month.

Although some have criticized Goody for selling her life and cheapening her illness, Goody defended her decision, saying she was only doing it to secure the future of her two sons, Bobby Jack, 5, and Freddie, 4. The children are the product of her relationship with former reality TV star Jeff Brazier.

Goody often talked about her unhappy childhood in a poor south London neighborhood. Her father was a heroin addict who served jail time for robbery and died in 2005, her mother a former crack addict who lost the use of an arm in a motorcycle accident. She worked as a dental assistant before becoming a reality TV star.

Cervical Cancer Screenings on the Rise

Prior to her wedding and her death, Goody's publicist brushed off the critics who question Goody's motives, saying, "There will always be people who criticize. Fortunately, the majority have been supportive and understanding. They understand that she needs to pay for her boys' education."

"Just last night," Clifford told ABC News in February, "Jade told me, 'Reality TV has been wonderful to me. .. .It comes naturally to me, and it gives me something to do.'"

One unexpected benefit of Goody's publicizing her illness has been a 21 percent leap in young women getting cervical cancer screenings in the U.K., according to Clifford. The figures have been backed by cervical cancer specialists.

"We have definitely seen an increase in uptake due to Jade Goody," Robert Music, director of the cervical cancer organization Jo's Trust told The Guardian newspaper. "I think that in this celebrity age, many people relate to Goody. It is almost as if she has become a part of their lives, a family member."

After seven years appearing on one reality show after another, Goody, described by her own publicist as "a living 'Truman Show'," seemed to finally tire of living in the public eye.

Clifford said that Goody's priorities towards the end of her life were firmly focused on her sons, who will now be in their father's custody.

In a self-penned column in the U.K.'s New! magazine, Goody wrote, "Jeff will have full custody and my mum and Jack will have access as and when they want."

She added, "Everything I have, my house and my money, is going to my sons. And just in case you were wondering, Jack won't be getting any money out of me or from the wedding. He wants everything to go to the boys."

Clifford told the U.K. TV channel GMTV that her older son, Bobby Jack, paid tribute to his mother at the wedding, describing her as "the best mum in the world."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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