'You don't do it in public': racism, respectability and responsibility in Celebrity Big Brother

M Palasinski, Damien Riggs, Anna Zebialowicz

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    2 Citations (Scopus)


    The 2007 run of Celebrity Big Brother (UK) resulted in an unprecedented international focus on the series itself and on the issue of British race politics. This was due to a series of incidents of alleged racist bullying perpetuated against Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty by three of the British housemates. Subsequent academic analyses of the incidents have focused almost exclusively upon the actions of one of the British housemates - Jade Goody - and have explored how racism was denied or otherwise accounted for by Goody. In contrast, what has been given little attention are the accounts provided by Shetty herself after winning the series and leaving the Celebrity Big Brother house. In this article, we examine one particular interview conducted with Shetty, and in so doing we explore the very specific ways in which Shetty accounted for racism, and the relationship between this and her identity claims as an Indian celebrity. We conclude that while at first pass it may appear that Shetty denied the existence of racism in the Big Brother household, it may instead be suggested that she produced a very complex and nuanced account of oblique ways in which it can subtly manifest itself. In so doing, not only did she maintain an image of herself as a responsible and 'respectable' Indian woman, but she was also able to state that racism is unacceptable and requires ongoing attention. In this way, Shetty potentially opened up a space that would otherwise have been unavailable had she simply responded 'yes' to the question 'were the actions of the British housemates racist?'.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)164-177
    Number of pages14
    JournalCelebrity Studies
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


    • Celebrity Big Brother
    • Discourse analysis
    • Racism


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