BUCKHURST HILL, England (Reuters) - Thousands of people turned out to bid farewell to reality TV star Jade Goody on Saturday, a fittingly public end for a woman whose life and death were pored over by the celebrity-obsessed media.
The one-time dental assistant, who died last month of cervical cancer aged 27, found fame and fortune as a contestant on the popular reality television show “Big Brother.”
The mother of two’s decision to battle cancer in the public gaze was also fiercely debated, although medics praised her for raising awareness of the risks of her disease.
Hundreds of people lined the streets of Bermondsey, south London, where Goody was raised and threw flowers and applauded as the hearse carrying her coffin passed by.
People in the crowd used phrases like “girl next door,” “diamond” and “salt of the earth” to describe Goody.
About 2,000 more people gathered outside St. John’s church in Buckhurst Hill, just north of London, to watch the funeral service relayed on a giant screen outside.
Inside the church, Max Clifford, Goody’s publicist, paid tribute to the star.
He described her as “someone who wanted to be a star and someone by purely being herself became a star, someone who has achieved an awful lot in a short space of time, someone who today the whole world is watching.”
Outside, mourner Susan said: “She was warm, she was real, a normal kind of girl who’s done so much good for everybody.”
Goody rode the highs and lows of celebrity, dividing opinion between those inspired by her rise from a tough childhood to gossip magazine cover queen and those who dismissed her as someone who was famous for nothing more than being famous.
After the funeral Goody was to be buried at a family ceremony.
Initially ridiculed in 2002 for her apparent lack of education — she thought Saddam Hussein was a boxer and a ferret was a bird — and criticized for her behavior toward fellow Big Brother competitors, Goody gradually won the public over.
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 racially charged tirades against Indian housemate Shilpa Shetty in Celebrity Big Brother.
Goody’s decision to die so publicly, in order to earn as much money as possible for her two sons, saw her popularity broadly restored and won Goody praise from the medical community for encouraging women to come forward for screening.
“It (cervical cancer) is a disease you can prevent and you can detect early and she’s helped us reach the very group that don’t come forward,” Professor Karol Sikora, medical director of CancerPartnersUK, told Sky News.
“That legacy will go on for many years to come.”
Media reported that Goody’s two sons are on holiday in Australia with their father Jeff Brazier at her request. She married Jack Tweed in February.
Writing by Mike Collett-White