Oh my gosh! Garrulous Stacey Solomon winning I'm a Celebrity .
. . Get Me Out of Here!, Basildon-born Kara Tointon triumphing in Strictly Come Dancing and painter and decorator Matt Cardle victorious in The X Factor completes an annus mirabilis – and no, that's not a beauty treatment connected to a vajazzle – for Essex.
Solomon immediately announced she couldn't wait to return to Dagenham and celebrate with a Malibu and pineapple down the pub. And why not? Dagenham itself has had an epic year. First it was immortalised in Nigel Cole's film Made in Dagenham about the 1968 strike for equal pay by women workers at Ford, with theme lyrics by Barking's Billy Bragg. And then came rapper Devlin, turning Dagenham into a British version of Eminem's Detroit.
This year also saw the 20th anniversary of the Essex man/Essex girl caricatures and rarely can one county have so dominated popular culture.
The year began with the final episode of Billericay-based sitcom Gavin and Stacey. Then came Essex noir with Andy Serkis hollering Billericay Dickie in Mat Whitecross's Ian Dury biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, followed by a celebration of Canvey Island and Dr Feelgood in Julien Temple's Oil City Confidential. And then Jamie Oliver's book of 30-minute meals became the fastest selling non-fiction book ever.
But the most surprising hit has been ITV2's The Only Way is Essex, set in Brentwood nightclub Sugar Hut. Thanks to the programme, the word vajazzle (crystals on the bikini area) has entered the English lexicon and its stars are everywhere. Mark "Mr Essex" Wright and Lauren Goodger spoofed Will and Kate for an Essex royal wedding shoot in Now, while silicone-enhanced model Amy Childs (famous for asking "Where's north London?") posed with Peter Andre in OK!
All in all, a right result, as they say in Essex.
Pete May blogs on Essex at thejoyofessex.blogspot.com/
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