Jade Goody: To Live and Die on TV

A British reality-TV star dying of cervical cancer

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Jade Goody: To Live and Die on TV

From Brit reality-show villain to sympathetic cancer victim, Jade Goody stars in her own “Truman Show”

-Myrna Blyth

Jade GoodyAll of Great Britain is watching a 27-year-old woman die. Her name is Jade Goody, and she was married on Sunday to her 21-year-old fiancée. Goody and her bridegroom, Jack Tweed, have reportedly received $1.5 million for TV and magazine rights to the ceremony.

Jade is a tough-talking unashamedly down-market Brit who the public and the British tabloids have alternatively embraced and shunned. She has been a celebrity in England since she appeared on “Big Brother” in 2002. Her wild antics on the show–including getting drunk, taking off her clothes and groping a fellow cast member as well as her lack of knowledge about almost everything, including her own country–both fascinated and enraged viewers. That led to her own TV program and frequent appearances in celebrity and women’s magazines.

Goody and TweedIn 2006, at the height of her popularity, she wrote her autobiography and launched a perfume that became a big seller. She also confessed at the time in a magazine column that, possibly in a fit of misplaced patriotism, she had the Burberry plaid tattooed on her left buttocks. By that time she had earned over $10 million and had been voted the 25th most influential person in the world by a British magazine.

But Jade, always controversial, became more so in 2007 during another stint on Celebrity Big Brother, when she was accused of racist bullying of an Indian actress, Shipla Shetty. About the mildest thing she said was that the actress made her skin crawl. After an outcry that made headlines in both Britain and India, she was tossed off the show. The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, was visiting India at the time of the incident. Eventually Jade apologized.

Still in the public eye, she wrote a cookbook and released yet another book about herself. Last summer, she went to India to appear on their version of Big Brother but left the show after just two days when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She returned to England for an operation and chemotherapy. Recently she has been told by her doctors that she only has a short time to live.

Although she had never married before, she has two young sons with a fellow reality-show cast member. Jack Tweed, her new husband, about whom she has said, “Sometimes I feel more like his mum than his lover…” was convicted of assaulting a teenager. He was let out of jail after serving four months of an eighteen-month sentence and wears an electronic monitoring device. As she prepared for her wedding, she said, “I love Jack with all my heart and I want to be his wife more than anything in the world. And I will be.” She also told him to “find another after I’m gone.”

There has been much controversy about Jade’s being so public about her illness as well as her profiting from her wedding photos. Still, she has said, “I’ve lived in front of cameras and maybe I’ll die in front of them.” Some British columnists have applauded her for trying to make sure in the time she has left that her sons are as financially secure as possible. Certainly because of her, more women are finding out about Pap smear testing and the symptoms of cervical cancer.

Others are concerned that she will literally die before the cameras. But, in general, even those who sneered at Jade have become sympathetic to her. Shipla Shetty has said she is praying for her. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has praised her courage. There has even been talk of a state funeral…

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