WITH Strictly Come Dancing just weeks away, EastEnders’ Bobby Brazier has raced out in front as the bookies’ favourite.
With his boyish good looks and down-to-earth charm, the elder son of late reality TV star Jade Goody has more than a fighting chance of winning the dance contest, which starts next month.
And no one would be backing 20-year-old Bobby — Freddie Slater in the soap — more than his proud mum, says her widower Jack Tweed.
He was with the Big Brother legend for four years before her death in 2009 aged just 27, and in an exclusive interview from his home in Essex he said: “Jade would be over-the-moon proud of Bobby and all he’s achieved.
“For someone so young he has already achieved so much. Bobby has modelled for Dolce & Gabbana and all the top brands.
“Then he went on to get a job on EastEnders and now he’s appearing on Strictly. Seeing Bobby grow into such a nice young man has been a lovely thing to see.
“He is absolutely smashing it. Jade would be bursting with pride.”
And that is especially so, given that she was a Strictly superfan who was glued to the show more or less from its start in 2004, five years before she died from cervical cancer.
Back then, the Saturday night BBC1 show rarely featured a reality TV contestant on its dance floor — and Jack thinks Jade missed her chance.
The former dental nurse found fame in the third series of Big Brother in 2002 and went on to be one of the nation’s best-known faces.
She had sons Bobby and Freddie, now 18, with her boyfriend, TV presenter Jeff Brazier, but they split in 2004, a year before she met Jack.
Jack says: “Jade absolutely loved dancing shows like Strictly.
“She was really talented and an amazing singer. She won TV’s Stars In Their Eyes in 2006 because of how great her voice was.
“Anything Jade put her mind to, she would be amazing at it. She would have won Strictly if she’d had the chance, and Bobby’s just like her.
“Whatever he puts his mind to, he achieves it.”
Jade and Jack met in 2005, when the boys were still young, and immediately fell in love.
They briefly split in 2008 and Jade then took part in Bigg Boss, the Indian version of Celebrity Big Brother, during which she discovered she had cancer and left the show.
On her return to the UK, Jack stayed by her side and later proposed to her.
In February 2009 the couple said their marriage vows at the posh Down Hall hotel in Hatfield Heath, Essex.
Guests including Paul O’Grady, Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan saw them tie the knot — but just two weeks later Jade died.
Bobby and Freddie were then cared for by their dad Jeff, 44.
Today Jack, 36, treasures the memories they shared as a family.
He said: “I was looking back at old videos recently and there is one from a holiday we went on to Trinidad and Tobago.
“In the video I am dancing in the swimming pool to Unleash The Dragon, by Sisqo.
“I was doing a mad, silly dance and then Jade moved the camera round and Bobby was doing exactly the same as me in his arm bands.
“Bobby always showed star quality and he was always singing and dancing as a kid.
“We had a tradition of getting a Chinese takeaway every week and I would drive.
“We’d always have the music blasting so we’d all be singing all the way there and back.
“And Bobby loved to act. If we were out anywhere, especially when we used to wait for the Chinese, he’d pretend to be a barman and he’d get me a drink.
“He loved to perform, he was born to do it.”
And Jack recalled how it was clear Bobby would follow in Jade’s footsteps.
He said: “Bobby reminds me so much of Jade. Everything about him makes me think of her.
“The way he cares about everyone and is always reaching out and asking how people are — that is exactly what Jade used to be like.
“And he is such a talented performer, just like Jade was.
“We always had music on at home. The house was filled with someone singing and us dancing about. It was never boring.
“We were always doing something. Jade was devoted to her boys and she loved making them laugh.
“I like keeping up to date with everything they’re doing. It reminds me of her.”
Seeing Bobby succeed is clearly a source of pride for Jack, who says he regularly sees Bobby out and about in Essex when he visits his mum, who lives near Jeff’s home, where they are based.
Bobby landed his first major modelling contract in 2020 aged just 16 when he was spotted by a talent scout for modelling agency the Unsigned Group.
Later that year he made his catwalk debut after being chosen by Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana to walk for them in Milan Fashion Week.
He went on to work for Moschino and has been in a number of high- profile ad campaigns.
Last July it was announced he had been cast in EastEnders, and Bobby said at the time: “Stepping into the acting world has always been a vision of mine and doing that with EastEnders as a Slater is a blessing.”
He was cast in Strictly earlier this year and met the professional dancers this month during the show’s “chemistry” session, when the producers help to pair up the celebrities with their partners.
Preparing to watch Bobby take part in Strictly will clearly bring mixed emotions for Jack, who had his support when he launched a charity fundraiser in Jade’s name last summer.
He said: “It can be hard but I would always rather be reminded of her than ever forget about her.
“And Bobby looks so much like Jade. Freddie and Bobby both look so much like her. The boys have her eyes and their confidence reminds me so much of Jade too.
“Jade was in the same industry Bobby is in now. And while I know the shows aren’t the same, the industry hasn’t changed and I am sure Bobby will be thinking about making Jade proud when he appears on Strictly.”
As will be the case in millions of households across the country, Jack will be sitting down to watch Bobby take to the dance floor for the first time next month.
And he is sure Bobby has what it takes to become the show’s youngest ever winner. Jack said: “All Bobby has to do is be himself and keep doing everyone proud, like he has been. Jade would have been immensely proud to see him perform on Strictly.
“I know she would have loved to watch him on the show and she’d want to be in the audience every weekend.
“Everything Jade did, she did for her boys. To see how well they are doing now, she would have loved it.