British reality TV celebrity Jade Goody died early Sunday morning following a public battle with cervical cancer, her publicist has announced.
Goody, 27, died in her sleep at home in Essex, east of London, just before 4 a.m. (midnight Eastern Daylight Time), a spokeswoman for Max Clifford Associates said. Goody’s husband, Jack Tweed, who she married last month in a lavish wedding ceremony, was at her bedside when she died, Clifford said. Her mother, Jackiey Budden, who was also at the house, said: “My beautiful daughter is at peace.” Goody leaves behind two sons, Bobby, 5, and Freddie, 4, by former boyfriend and TV host Jeff Brazier. “She died knowing that she had touched a lot of hearts and minds across the world,” Clifford told CNN by phone from Portugal. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was “deeply saddened” by Goody’s death. “Her family can be extremely proud of the work she has done to raise awareness of cervical cancer which will benefit thousands of women across the U.K. Every death from cancer is a tragedy and my thoughts go out to her two sons, husband and family at this time,” Brown said in a statement. The British media has reported a rise in the number of screenings for cervical cancer since Goody announced she had the disease, a phenomenon some have dubbed the “Jade Goody effect.” Goody’s death marks the tragic end to a very modern tale. Images of her shrinking frame and bald head have dominated the pages of British media since she announced she had just weeks to live. However, she has openly courted the attention since bursting into the spotlight courtesy of the British version of “Big Brother” in 2002. At first the former dental nurse was a hate figure for Britain’s vociferous tabloid newspapers, who attacked her for being ignorant and stupid. The public, however, warmed to her loud, honest streak. She did not win the series, but was able to parlay her popularity into a series of reality television and business deals. Her face was soon regularly boldly looking out from the cover of gossip magazines and you could buy the fragrance Shh… Jade Goody, fitness DVDs or pick up a copy of her autobiography.
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In 2007, with her fame starting to dip, she agreed to return for the celebrity edition of “Big Brother,” with her mother and then boyfriend, Jack Tweed, joining her in the house. It was to prove an ill-fated decision. Goody was soon accused of making racist comments and bullying her housemate — the Indian actress Shilpa Shetty. More than 50,000 complaints were received. When she was voted out of the house the show’s producers took the unusual step of banning the public from attending her eviction. Goody was tearful and apologetic but British PR guru Clifford summed up the general opinion at the time by saying: “It looks like she has ruined a very lucrative career.” Ever resilient, Goody had a Christmas cookbook out at the end of 2007 and in 2008 signed up for India’s version of “Big Brother.” Two days into the show her cancer diagnosis was revealed on air. She flew home immediately to begin treatment. Last month Goody revealed her cancer was terminal and that she only had weeks to live. With typical bravado she, with Clifford’s help, organized her wedding to Tweed, who had only just been released from prison after serving a sentence for assault, selling the exclusive rights to OK! magazine for a reported $970,000. It was also filmed for her reality TV show. Read blog about how media covered wedding The British government even stepped in to extend Tweed’s 7 p.m. curfew, a condition of his release from jail, so the couple could spend their wedding night together. Watch Jade Goody’s wedding preparations » Despite her weakening state Goody continued to open her door to the media, saying she needed to keep selling her story to help secure the future of her sons. In the days leading up to her death there were newspaper stories on a hammer-wielding woman getting into her room, the baptism of her sons, her last view of “sun-kissed” fields and final farewells with family. There was also controversy when OK! published a memorial issue nearly a week before she died. The issue, with a coverline announcing “Jady Goody, 1981-2009,” went on sale Tuesday.
Clifford said Goody had loved her time in the spotlight. “I think they’ve (she and the media) exploited each other. Both have benefited. In Jade’s own words, she’s loved the last 7 years. They’ve been wonderful. All the people’s she’s met, all the things she’s done.”