Shilpa Shetty conquered the hearts and minds of a generation of Britons with her poise and grace in the face of bullying in Celebrity Big Brother and she did so again on Sunday night after an overwhelming 63 per cent of Britons on Sunday voted to crown her queen of the reality TV show. “Things happen and people make mistakes and we are all human beings and we are all fallible,” Shilpa said about Jade Goody to thunderous applause after emerging victorious from the specially-designed Big Brother House in London’s Elstree Studios where she had been cooped up for 26 days under 24-hour surveillance.

“I can say one thing for sure. Jade didn’t mean to be racist. She isn’t a racist. She is a little aggressive and short-tempered but she’s not a racist. I just want to forget things, and put things at rest was just a game,” she said when told about the enormity of the racism row that made headlines in India and Britain. “I really don’t want to leave England putting anyone in trouble. This country has given me so much. I don’t want people to say we welcomed her and now she has created problems for us. I just want to thank the whole of Great Britain for giving me this fantastic opportunity to make my country proud,” she observed.

A humble Shilpa, who greeted her fans with folded hands and a Namaste, told presenter Davina McCall later in an interview on Channel 4, which broadcast the controversial series: “I don’t want to sound cliched but it’s truly been quite a rollercoaster … the highs, the lows, and each one has taught me so much.”

Davina her finally to sum up her experience in three words, to which Shilpa replied: “Incredible, overwhelming and …” and then following a shout from the audience that had assembled at the studio, added: “chicken curry rules.” It has been a great learning curve, she added for good measure. Earlier, Shilpa screamed as Davina announced she had won ahead of music legend Jermaine Jackson, a brother of pop star Michael Jackson. “You’re kidding me, I can’t believe it,” she shouted. “Thank you,” she said tearfully as her new legion of fans cheered her amid a display of fireworks that illuminated the night sky.

Shilpa was to joke later that this was the first time she has done anything on her own, especially cooking. When asked what it would take for American television star Dirk Benedict to win her over, she said: “He would need to be at least 38 years younger and start eating chicken curry.” Jermaine Jackson said on another TV show, in which all but two of the Celebrity Big Brother contestants participated, that Shilpa was a “worthy winner” and that “kindness is her strength”.

Jade Goody and Jo O’Meara were invited to the show but they chose to stay away. Shilpa’s win did not come as a surprise to her agent. “She was leading all the betting sites,” her agent Dale Bhagwagar said.Ofcom, the British media watchdog, received 40,000 complaints from viewers who took offence at Jade’s bullying of Shilpa. A publicist for Shilpa Shetty, Bhupinder Sachdev has said  “There has been a lot of interest and we will discuss all of this with her as soon as possible,” he said about offers that are pouring in from producers and agencies.

worldwide. Another PR professional Max Clifford has said that the fact that she’s a trained actress and how she handled nasty attacks from other housemates have enhanced her appeal. “She can comfortably earn one million pounds (about Rs nine crore) this year. The sky’s the limit after that,” he has been quoted as saying.
Shilpa is likely to be offered a lead role in a new BBC comedy set in an Indian call centre. A scriptwriter Sanjeev Bhaskar is in talks with Shilpa’s agents for the role. Her mother Sunanda is in London to help her sift through the mounds of television and film offers which are coming thick and fast after Sunday night’s win.  Runner-up Jermaine Jackson (52) polled 37 per cent of the vote.