Jade Goody, the British reality TV star whose battle against terminal cervical cancer had been followed around the world, has died. She passed away in her sleep, at home, on Sunday morning – Mother's Day in the U.K. She was 27 years old.
The UK reality show star had lived out her final months quite publicly, with the hopes of raising awareness of cervical cancer screenings and prevention.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he is "deeply saddened" by the news and described Goody as "a courageous woman both in life and death,” adding that "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, which will benefit thousands of women across the UK."
Goody was a dental assistant who rose to fame as a loud and brash contestant on the reality show Big Brother in 2002. She was often ridiculed by fans for her lack of education and criticized for her behavior toward fellow competitors, but she gradually won the public over with a straight-talking style.
She went on to become a regular in gossip magazines, wrote an autobiography and launched her own perfume, but her popularity sank in 2007 after she was accused of being racist towards Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty during a celebrity version of the show.
However, public opinion softened when the star became ill. It was during an appearance on an Indian version of Big Brother in August last year that she learned she had cervical cancer. The camera captured the deeply personal moment, which was shown repeatedly on TV. She dropped out of the show to return to Britain for treatment. The progress of her illness was chronicled in detail in the tabloid press and weekly magazines. She underwent surgery and chemotherapy in the public eye, filming part of the experience.
Then, in February, she learned that the disease had spread to her liver, groin and bowel and she only had a short time to live. Bald and frail, Goody married fiancé Jack Tweed last month at Down Hall Country House Hotel in Essex. The wedding was shown on television and the photos were sold, prompting criticism. But Goody, who grew up in a poor London neighborhood, defended herself, saying she wanted her two young sons to have a better life than she had.
Before her passing, Goody was also baptized in the hospital with her sons Bobby, 5, and Freddy, 4. She returned to her home March 11 to be surrounded by "all those who are close to her,” her publicist Max Clifford said.
Goody lived one of the world's most public lives, but, as The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said, “if in her earlier career it was all about her, then I think at the end it was about something else."
May she R.I.P.