Big Brother star meets Tony Blair

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Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Shilpa Shetty (Credit: Fayyaz Ahmed)
Tony Blair

The winner of the British television reality show Celebrity Big Brother, Shilpa Shetty expressed her gratitude to Prime Minister Tony Blair during a meeting at the U.K. Houses of Parliament.

The Bollywood actress observed prime minister's question time in the Commons before meeting Mr Blair himself. She thanked him for his support, describing him as "very sweet."

The visit took place following an invitation by Labour MP for Leicester South, Keith Vaz, who led calls for action against the treatment of Ms Shetty during her stint on the reality TV show. Celebrity Big Brother was criticised by public and politicians alike last month after Ms Shetty's treatment by other contestants erupted in an international race row.

Today, she told reporters she had thanked the PM for his support "to me and my country".

Her visit drew widespread media attention and she was greeted at Parliament by a media scuffle, including over 20 reporters from her native India.

"To see how so much respect has been bestowed upon me has truly been an honour," she added.

According to organisers, the Commons chef had even prepared a special dessert in her honour "Shilpa's delight" and she was also introduced to Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell.

The actress was crowned winner of Celebrity Big Brother, following confrontations with fellow housemates Jade Goody, Jo O'Meara and Danielle Lloyd who were accused of bullying and racism. Despite denying the claims, all three lost most of their major endorsements and Jade and Danielle's partners are said to have left them.

Politicians became embroiled in the proceedings when media regulator Ofcom received more than 40,000 complaints from viewers.This resulted in the row reached both the House of Commons and India, where chancellor Gordon Brown's bridge-building visit was overshadowed by controversy caused by the programme.

In the evening, Ms Shetty travelled to the city of Leicester to meet with members of Keith Vaz' constituency. Reena Combo, editor of British Asian entertainment magazine Ikonz, was one of the guests. Ms Combo felt the visit would boost a sense of belonging amongst Leicester-South's largely Asian population.

"I think it's wonderful to see Shilpa Shetty taking the time to visit the people of Leicester. There has been a great deal of national interest in Shilpa since her appearance on Big Brother but many of the people here, especially the Asian community, have been fans of the Bollywood star for much longer so it’s nice to see her rewarding her loyal supporters."

"She has over the last few weeks become an inspiration to many and become very much a part of British life."

As yet, the Bollywood actress continues her tour of the country as an unofficial ambassador for the Indian film industry and has been invited to attend a Commonwealth reception at London's Marlborough House on March 12, where she will be meeting with the Queen.

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