How clean is her past? It's no wonder those grubs don't faze I'm A Celebrity Kim Woodburn - she's faced worse in real life

Anyone who has spent much of their life with their arm down other people's U-bends knows a thing or two about dealing with all manner of annoying obstructions.

Who would have thought those skills could be so easily transferred to the fragrant world of celebrity, though?

When Kim Woodburn entered the jungle for the latest series of I'm A Celebrity... it was with the title Queen of Clean, thanks to her association with the programme How Clean Is Your House?

Glamorous: Kim Woodburn the would-be model in 1968

Glamorous: Kim Woodburn the would-be model in 1968

She quickly threatened Anne Robinson's crown as Queen of Mean, however, thanks to a rather caustic attack on Katie Price.

To be fair, the artist formerly known as Jordan did rather ask for it. She demanded to know what her fellow celebs thought of her. Kim promptly told her.

'You are what I thought you'd be,' she told the pneumatic model. 'You're a publicity seeker. You live and die for publicity and you do it well.'

Price, bizarrely, argued that she was wrong. But Kim, who knows a bit of flannel when she sees it, wasn't having any of it.

'You know full well you've got 10 to 12 million people watching every night and you know, madam, you'll be all over the papers every day. Now stop it. Stop your nonsense.' 

Wow. Verbal Vim indeed. The fans loved it. Suddenly this Matron in Marigolds was worth watching. From then, of course, her fearless desire to conquer all sorts of nasties has become legendary. 

I'm a Celebrity

The new Queen of Mean? Kim caused yet another argument in camp last night after telling Sabrina it was only fair to let Jimmy do the Bushtucker Trial

I'm a Celebrity
I'm a Celebrity

No mercy: Sabrina ended up in tears but received little sympathy from Kim

This week she grappled with creatures even more hideous than Katie Price did, and emerged triumphant.

Most of us would hurl at the prospect of drinking 'cocktails' made of pulped cockroaches, crocodile foreskin and kangaroo anus. Kim forced it down.

And that's not all - there's been the naked swimming, the strong views about other people's physical appearances (a bewildered Justin Ryan got it in the neck and face this week when she wondered why he hadn't got his moles removed), and the cringe-worthy declaration that when she emerged from the jungle she was going to pose naked for a magazine.

Yikes! It's doubtful that she meant Good Housekeeping either. 

It leaves viewers wondering if Kim is indeed our newest tell-it-as-it-is great British battle-axe, or just an older, equally fame-hungry version of Katie Price herself.

Whatever, it certainly adds another layer to the Kim Woodburn story. When she first loomed into public consciousness, scourer in hand and scowl on face, her story seemed simple.

This was a hard-grafting, hard-done-by cleaner who was plucked from obscurity by her cleaning company (who were asked by a TV producer for any big characters), told to get off her knees and in front of a camera.

Fearless: Kim is unfazed by the witchety grubs on I'm A Celebrity

Fearless: Kim is unfazed by the witchety grubs on I'm A Celebrity

At her first audition - which was after she turned 60 - she was followed around the (messy) home of a member of the How Clean Is Your House? production team, and told to let rip. She did, calling her a 'dirty beggar' and waggling a well-manicured finger. The rest is TV history.

But that's not the whole story, of course. There's a part of Kim - a part becoming increasingly overt - that was always desperate for fame.

In the Sixties she worked as a model and was determined to be an actress. She went to drama school in Liverpool, and was once offered the chance to take her skills to London, but turned it down, to her great regret, because her boyfriend at the time - later her husband - didn't want her to go. 

She is making up for that now, of course. But the truth is that the Kim who could soon be approaching national treasure status - or national joke, depending on how this goes - is every bit as much a modern media invention as Katie.


Glamour model in the making? Kim takes a jungle shower under the waterfall

The ferocious bun on the top of her head that seems such an integral part of her was the idea of a TV executive. She admits that left to her own devices she wears her hair gathered loosely at the back.

Her partnership with her TV sidekick Aggie MacKenzie? Another falsie. The pair didn't actually meet until Kim was signed up for the show and they were wary of each other. (Kim thought Aggie looked like Harry Potter; Aggie had Kim down as some sort of Hagrid-on-Harpic).

There are other parallels with Katie Price too. Both have switched their identities in the past. Katie famously turned into Jordan, then back to Katie.

Kim was actually born Patricia Mary MacKenzie but changed her name to flee her troubled past. She was a fan of the actress Kim Novak, and thought Kim more glamorous than Pat.

This was never a woman who was going to be content with scrubbing for a living.

Kim's personal history remained largely unknown during the first few years of her TV career. Then, in 2006, she went public with a searing autobiography, which challenges Katie Price in terms of shocking revelations.

Ferocious: Kim didn't hold back when tackling Katie Price

Ferocious: Kim didn't hold back when tackling Katie Price

The first chapter, in which she deals with her mother's death, sets the tone. Called The Wicked Witch Is Dead, it was a lament for what she never had: a loving home.

She was born in 1942 in Eastney, Hampshire, to a mother who seems to have never loved her. 

The feeling eventually became mutual. Kim claimed her childhood was characterised by beatings and belittlings. She called her mother 'evil' and 'vicious'.

By the age of 16, they were estranged. From then until her mum's death in 2000, she only saw her once, and had one further phone conversation with her. Neither went any way to healing the rift.

Why the animosity? Kim once asked her mother that herself. 'My mother didn't even hesitate. "Because you are too like your f****** father," she replied, cool as a cucumber. "I always hated you." '

Her father, who sounds weak and neglectful, added to her childhood difficulties.

Emotionally absent for the most part, he was not a man she could turn to. Indeed, Kim claims that when she was a teenager, he tried to molest her. The only reason he did not was because she fled from him in disgust, she claims.

It seems as though she had some very early lessons in standing up for herself.

I'm going to pose naked: Kim chats to glamour model Sam Fox

I'm going to pose naked: Kim chats to glamour model Sam Fox

By the age of 16 and living in Liverpool, she was pretty much alone in the world. At 5ft 10in and shapely with it, she was a striking young woman. She worked in Lewis's in Liverpool - then the most upmarket of the city's stores - as a demonstrator, showing other women how to use hair curlers.

There was an innocence to her, though, and her relationships with men were always difficult.

At 19, she fell pregnant to a man (who in her autobiography she calls John) who didn't want to know. That would have been a difficult situation for any young, single woman. For Kim, though, it proved cataclysmic.

Her baby, a little boy, was born four months prematurely, and stillborn. When she gave birth to him - alone, on the floor of a grotty flat, and so ignorant of the childbirth process that she didn't even know what a placenta was - she simply did not know what to do.

It was 40 years later that she confessed she never alerted the authorities to her child's birth. Instead, she wrapped him in a blanket and buried him in a local park.

And it was this revelation that truly stunned her fans. The chapter in her autobiography where she relates the birth of her little boy is truly shocking, and uncomfortably graphic. She details being doubled over with pain, then looking down and seeing a little foot emerging from between her legs.

'There wasn't a flicker of life in him,' she recalled. 'His eyes weren't much more than slits, and yet the rest of him was perfectly formed, I just stared and stared at the tiny bundle in my hands. That poor little soul. He was so beautiful.'

No joke: Kim admitted to being very wary of her How Clean Is Your House co-star Aggie Mackenzie

No joke: Kim admitted to being very wary of her How Clean Is Your House co-star Aggie MacKenzie

Later, she recalled taking a spoon and burying the little boy in a park.

'I put the baby on the ground and then got down on my knees and started digging into the earth as deeply as I could with the spoon. Tears were streaming down my face and I brushed them away with my dirty hands.

'When I felt I'd dug deep enough, I lowered my precious little boy and the placenta into the hole and wrapped the towel around him, before slowly replacing the earth. But even though the job was done, I couldn't leave. I had so much to say to my darling son.'

Of course, she had to relate this whole terrible story to the police officers who became involved once she confessed. An investigation was launched. No charges were ever brought, but the whole episode was astonishing.

Why serve such a private thing up for public consumption, and after such time? One could be cynical, and suggest that any modern Misery Memoir needs to shock to compete these days. But it's also true that Kim felt greatly unburdened once she came clean.

That her life was ripped apart by the events of that night, in February 1966, is clear. She talks of how her boy would have been in his 40s now, and says that 'I still talk to my son'.

She never did become a mother again - partly because that experience was so distressing, partly because of her own dysfunctional childhood.

'If I'd had a child of my own I would have swamped it with material possessions, suffocated it with all the love I never knew,' she has said, showing great self-awareness.

'I know I'd have over-compensated for everything that was missing from my own childhood. I'd have been far too indulgent, far too protective. In my own way, I, too, would have produced a deranged human being.'

Her private life now seems happy - she has been married to her second husband, ex police-officer Pete, since 1979 and describes him as 'the sweetest, kindest, most gentle man you could ever wish to meet'.

Before that, though, there was another abusive, devastating relationship. Her first husband was also a policeman, but a man she claims was controlling and often violent. She says he was a bully, both emotionally and physically. Once he ripped the bedclothes off the bed and proceeded to critique her body loudly. The conclusion was not flattering.

Things finally fell apart when she called his colleagues in the local police station and threatened to kill him if they didn't come and remove him from the house.

In the shadow of all this, it seems trivial to wonder about her unusual career path. In her time, Kim has owned a fashion store, demonstrated knitwear and worked for six years as a social worker, helping youngsters (most of whom she could identify with greatly) in care.

On one level the cleaning was always a means to an end. On another, she truly loved it, and still does, often claiming that there is no greater satisfaction for a woman than to see a gleaming sink.

How much of it is down to the desire to make her own life sparkle, though?

'People often ask me how I can bear to put my hands down some of the filthy toilets I have to scrub on How Clean Is Your House?

'The answer is simple. If you've lived in some of the places I've had to live in, no amount of dirt bothers you any more.'

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