Jo O'Meara says she 'lost everything' after controversial 'Big Brother' appearance
Jo O'Meara says she "lost everything" after being embroiled in a racism controversy on Celebrity Big Brother in 2007.
The S Club 7 singer, along with Jade Goody and Danielle Lloyd, was accused of engaging in racist bullying towards Bollywood actor Shilpa Shetty, who went on to win the show and later forgave her fellow contestants.
Over the course of the series, the climate of racism towards Shetty attracted 44,500 complaints to Ofcom — one of the highest totals in TV history.
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"I think a lot of people wanted me to be punished for what happened, and I was," O'Meara told The Sun.
She added: "I lost my career. I lost my home. I lost everything and I’m still trying to rebuild today. That’s why I feel so blessed to be back doing what I love."
Watch: Piers Morgan breaks Ofcom complaints record
O'Meara said she took part in the show "for the wrong reasons" and wishes she had never taken part, describing herself as a "different person" today in the wake of the controversy.
She said: "I had a complete breakdown and it wasn’t a nice time for everybody involved.
"If I could go back in time and change what happened then I would, but I can’t. All I can do is hold my hands up and apologise."
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The incident became a huge tabloid frenzy at the time, with the BBC criticised for giving the story prominence over arrests in the ongoing Cash for Honours scandal.
Companies including Carphone Warehouse and Money Supermarket cancelled their sponsorship of Big Brother during the furore.
O'Meara was treated for mental health issues after she left the house and received death threats, but said falling pregnant soon after with son Lenny "gave me something else to focus on".
She added: "You grow up pretty quickly after you’ve had a baby. You put all your love into this little bundle and keeping them safe and warm."
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The 42-year-old has now released a new solo album called With Love, but said she remains in touch with S Club 7 bandmates Rachel Stevens and Hannah Spearritt.
O'Meara said: "We’re all really supportive of what we’re doing. We got back together in 2015 for an arena tour, which was brilliant – it felt like we’d never been apart.
"We’re all exactly the same, just older versions with kids."
Watch: S Club 7 reunite in different form