Jade Goody was a polarising figure in the 00s. Entering the Big Brother house in 2002, she was initially hated and derided by the public for embodying the “chav” stereotype, before winning hearts after her difficult upbringing was uncovered.
Her natural demeanour was arguably one of the keys to her success. After she placed fourth in the original social experiment, she amassed a reported £3 million fortune before her tragic death aged just 27 in 2009.
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However, the innocent age of early Big Brother was a long time ago, and today’s contestants are now far more aware of their public perception and the money to be made from starring on reality TV.
“The problem is now everyone is so much more experienced,” Goody’s former agent John Noel told RadioTimes.com. “People know a lot more about the industry now.”
“If you look at Love Island, which is basically Big Brother on the beach, most of those girls and guys are very aware of what the potential is when they come out, so they’re a bit more professional while they’re in there. People know what’s going on. Jade was just Jade. There was no front with her.”
Noel added that our new cohort of reality TV stars may have things slightly easier, thanks to increased duties of care and media training, compared to Goody who received nationwide tabloid backlash.
“Jade did struggle when she came out, there’s no question about that,” he said. “Newspapers, magazines and comedians are more mindful, certainly after the Jade episode. You don’t see the bullying anymore.”
But despite the fame and riches our new reality stars may achieve, Noel believes they’ll never have the same cultural significance as Goody. Her rise and catastrophic fall from grace after she became embroiled in a racially-charged row with Celebrity Big Brother co-star Shilpa Shetty is discussed in the Channel 4 documentary Jade: The Reality Star Who Changed Britain.
“Jade was a pioneer,” says Noel. “She’s of that time, and she’s a one-off.”
Jade: The Reality Star Who Changed Britain is on Channel 4 tonight at 9pm