i\’m in the uncomfortable position of thinking that we\’ve lost something of a national treasure.
The first time she was mentioned in the press, in May 2002, Jade Goody was described as a "pretty dental nurse, 20, from London". But 24 hours later, as she began her gobby, ignorant trajectory in the Big Brother house, The People went on the attack under the headline: "Why we must lob the gob". Before long it was open season. The Sun called her a hippo, then a baboon, before launching its campaign to "vote out the pig". The Sunday Mirror rejected porcine comparisons on the ground that it was "insulting – to pigs".
Inside the "BB" house, Jade Goody found herself in bed with her male housemate, PJ, who ran away, shrieking. Her drunken striptease in a drinking game rigged by the male contestants ("Me kebab is showing!") forced even Channel 4 to blank the screen. "Here she is: fat-rolled, Michelin girl Jade in all her preposterous lack of glory," thundered the Daily Mirror the next day. "Naked as the day Dr Frankenstein made her." Jade\’s then boyfriend chipped in: "She\’s a sex-crazed, lying, two-timing drunken tart, and I hope I never see her again."
Jade Goody\’s main function, as she put it herself, was to be an "escape goat".
Polls suggested that she was more unpopular even than Saddam Hussein (a boxer, said Jade).
For the next four years it was impossible to turn on the television without seeing Jade Goody on some reality show or other. She even had her own scent, Shh!, ("Not actually a smell of me, like. It\’s not my BO or my feet cheese or nothing") which became a best-seller.
Jade\’s schooling, not surprisingly, was chaotic. She was expelled from one school after her mother hit another mother, and from a second when her mother hit a teacher. "Most of my mates at school would arrive home to see their mum hanging out the washing or putting the dinner on," Jade recalled. "I\’d come round the corner hoping not to see another police car outside the house."
It was not long before Jade began dishing out the bullying herself, once biting off a chunk of another girl\’s earlobe ("It wasn\’t a huge part of her earlobe or anything, just the tip").
She thought that a ferret was a bird and abscess a green French drink; that Pistachio painted the Mona Lisa; that Sherlock Holmes invented the flush lavatory; that East Anglia ("East Angular" in Jade-speak) was abroad; and that Rio de Janeiro was "a bloke, innit?"
She eventually attended Bacon\’s College in Rotherhithe – one of Britain\’s first City Technology colleges. Following her first appearance on Big Brother, the college felt constrained to emphasise that its exam results had improved since Jade left. She then attended a training course at the Bosco Centre, an institution set up to "serve some of the most disadvantaged and disengaged young people in the community". Again association with Jade caused embarrassment as the centre pointed out that some of its alumni had gone on to university.
Jade Goody opened a beauty salon in Hertfordshire. She chose the name Ugly\’s, thinking it would appeal to the woman who thinks: "\’I\’m feeling ugly because I\’ve got no make-up on, no nails and hairy legs,\’ then they come into our salon and we make them beautiful." The venture rapidly went bust.
I didn\’t pay much attention to her when she was alive and I doubt I\’ll be laying flowers for her now she\’s gone. Harsh perhaps, but true.
But I can\’t help but have a not so sneaking admiration for the way she played the hand she was dealt and further think that we\’ve just lost a bit of the gaiety of the nation.