Saturday, 14 February 2009

We can all learn from Jade's dignity

The news that Jade Goody has months to live was the development that those of us who have met or worked with the 27-year-old mum of two were dreading.
It is the final chapter in what has become a DBC Pierre-style story of celebrity: a young girl drags herself up on a south east London estate, finds fame and fortune on a reality TV show, wins the heart of the British public, buys a big house in the country and designer clothes. After a disastrous return to the same TV show that made her a star, she is crucified by the public that once adored her. Then, as her career starts to crumble, she discovers she has cancer.
If she didn't exist, someone would surely have invented her. But Jade is so much more than a character in a 21st century cautionary tale.
She has never sought to portray herself as a victim. Indeed, her strength, her likeability factor has always been her fighting spirit, her refusal to give up or accept her fate. The drug-ridden deprived childhood, the name-calling, the media condemnation - she has risen above it all.
And then the final battle: cancer, which she has fought with breathtaking courage and dignity. Despite the detractors who dismissed, ridiculed and vilified her, this reality TV star-turned-celebrity will leave a lasting legacy: her very public demise, the so-called 'Jade Goody effect', is already encouraging other young women to have regular smear tests.
Even now there are those who are questioning her judgement for baring her soul for money at such a vulnerable time. But anyone who is a parent must surely identify with that big cat instinct to protect and provide for their young. Jade is the breadwinner in her household. Ensuring her sons are financially secure when they'll have to cope with so much - the loss of their mum at such a young age - is simply a last act of devotion.
A few years ago, before the Celebrity Big Brother debacle and when she was at the height of her success, I went for lunch with Jade, a colleague and her then agent. We were there to discuss business, and Jade was on top form - sharp, witty, charming, no 'East Angular' clangers. She spoke proudly about her family and what she had achieved, admitting she sometimes found it hard to believe her good fortune.
After two hours, she looked at her watch. 'Do you need to go?' I asked. 'Yes,' she smiled. 'I need to get back to my boys.'

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