The Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty was last night voted winner of this year's Celebrity Big Brother at the end of a series engulfed by political controversy and allegations of racism.
The 31-year-old star, who became the odds-on favourite to win after she was bullied by fellow contestants, burst into tears on hearing she had won 63 per cent of the public vote.
She left the house to a roar of applause - in stark contrast to the eerie silence which greeted her chief tormentor, Jade Goody, when she was voted from the programme last Friday.
Shetty seemed shocked when told of the outcry caused by her treatment on the show, and said that she didn't want Goody to be branded a racist.
"Things happen, people make mistakes and we all learn from them. But I can say one thing for sure. Jade didn't mean to be racist. She isn't a racist," she said.
While Goody now struggles to rescue what remains of her career - and Channel 4 bosses face a battering for their handling of the row - Shetty's future looks decidedly brighter.
Thanks to the furore triggered by her treatment in the Big Brother house, Shetty will now face a flurry of lucrative advertising deals, public appearances and offers to buy her story.
Several projects, including an ethnic minority awards show and a cricket-themed reality TV programme, have already boasted that they are trying to sign up Shetty.
Representatives for the former model have hinted that she plans to release an album of Bollywood hits, and may also pursue a film career in the US.
Shetty - who was paid more than £200,000 to appear on the show - will enjoy a comeback at home, too.
Although she has appeared in more than 40 movies, in India her career was widely perceived to be in decline after she appeared on a TV show last year.
But after triumphing on Big Brother, advertisers say that she is now likely to command fees of several hundred thousand pounds for endorsement deals in Asia.
Shetty is one of the few participants to emerge unscathed by the series. Danielle Lloyd, a former beauty queen, and Jack Tweed, Goody's boyfriend, who were both implicated in the bullying, were greeted with heavy booing as they left the show last night. Lloyd immediately apologised for her behaviour in the house.
On Friday Hertfordshire Police said that they plan to interview Goody and her mother, Jackiey Budden, over alleged racist behaviour.
The row - which at its height sucked in the governments of the UK and India - may now prove to be the salvation of what seemed to be a moribund format. Ratings for the programme peaked at a record 8.8 million for Goody's eviction. Last night bookmakers William Hill were offering odds of 2/5 that there would be another series next year.Reuse content