Hers was the ultimate post-Millennial tale. Jade Goody (who died at age 27 early Sunday after a public battle with cervical cancer) started out as a dental nurse but soon stumbled upon a new career, the one she was truly born to have: reality TV star.
The Brit’s brash manner rubbed some people the wrong way — namely the ones crammed into tight quarters with her on several overseas versions of Big Brother — and struck others as refreshing and honest — namely the ones who found her altercations (and her ignorance) good voyeuristic fun. She first divided audiences on the 2002 season of British Big Brother. She didn’t win, but she emerged with something even better — enough name recognition to snag exercise video, book, and perfume deals. She kept herself in the spotlight (and then some) with a 2007 appearance on a celeb version of Brother during which her clashes with Indian actress Shilpa Shetty resulted in charges of racism. What was next? What else but a grave public apology and a stint on India’s version of Brother in 2008.
Her story’s final painfully ironic twist came just a few days into that filming, when she got news of her cancer diagnosis via phone in a wrenching on-camera scene. But she didn’t shrink away from public view even in her own tragedy: She filmed a documentary series about her struggle with the disease and gave footage of her wedding to boyfriend Jack Tweed to Britain’s Living TV in March. The upshot? What British media has dubbed the “Jade Goody effect,” an increase in cervical cancer screenings thanks to the publicity surrounding her. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown even paid tribute to her upon news of her death, calling her “a courageous woman.”
Here, some of her more memorable moments.
On 2002’s Big Brother:
Getting her cancer diagnosis:
Her wedding speech: