LONDON – Jade Goody, a dental assistant turned reality TV star whose whirlwind journey from poverty to celebrity to tragedy became a national soap opera in Britain, died of cervical cancer Sunday at the age of 27.
Goody gained fame at 21 in 2002 when she joined the reality television show “Big Brother,” in which contestants live together for weeks and are constantly filmed. Loud and brash, she became a highly divisive star – initially mocked as an ignorant slob, then celebrated as a forthright everywoman.
It was a pattern of praise and condemnation that followed Goody for the rest of her life. She became a national touchstone who sparked debate about race, class and celebrity.
During filming of a version of “Big Brother” in 2008, Goody received a diagnosis of cervical cancer by telephone. The camera captured the deeply personal moment, which was shown repeatedly on TV.
She underwent surgery and chemotherapy in the public eye.
Bald and frail, Goody married fiance Jack Tweed last month in an elaborate event staged at an elegant countryside hotel outside London. Goody, who reportedly sold the photos for more than $1 million, defended being paid for interviews and photo shoots.
“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.”