UK chef Nigella Lawson is easy to sexualise and trivialise. She oozes sex appeal and has never been afraid to talk herself up or down.
But news that she has been accused of being a cocaine addict is a sad reminder of how things can go from good to bad, fast – even for rich celebrities. The beautiful cook, 53, has this week been plastered across the front pages of British tabloids and on websites around the world after two of her former staff member accused her of having a rabid drug habit.
In reports today, her ex-husband Charles Saathci claimed in court documents that she was so “off her head” on drugs that her assistants were able to go on spending sprees with her credit card. The comments emerged ahead of a trial involving former employees accused of committing fraud while working as personal assistants to the celebrity couple.
Lawson shot to fame in 1998 with her bestselling book How to Eat. This was followed with the phenomenally successful BBC 4 TV show Nigella Bites in 1999. Alongside her fellow Brit Jamie Oliver, Lawson was the face of a new generation of cooks and the rest, really, is history. Lawson has written nine best-selling books and been the host of her own TV series and specials in the UK and the US. Her career has netted her an estimated fortune of £15 million.
But Lawson hasn’t had it easy. She was open about her sadness when her first husband, John Diamond, died of cancer in 2001, and she has lived through her sister Thomasina’s death from cancer in 1993. Her difficult relationship with her wealthy parents, Nigel Lawson and Vanessa Salmon, who also died of cancer, is no secret either.
In June this year Lawson’s now ex-husband, multi-millionaire gallery owner Charles Saatchi, 70, was infamously photographed choking her outside a posh London restaurant. Rather than showing any kind of remorse, Saatchi, who met Lawson in 2001 and married in 2003, cried suicide when Lawson left him. Then, in a further low blow, he told the UK tabloid The Mail on Sunday that he was divorcing his wife because she had failed to stand by him through their rough patch.
“I feel that I have clearly been a disappointment to Nigella during the last year or so, and I am disappointed that she was advised to make no public comment to explain that I abhor violence of any kind against women, and have never abused her physically in any way,” Saatchi told the paper.
He also said that she had strangled him, which caused outrage from feminist website Jezebel.
Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, who are accused of defrauding Saatchi of £300,000 ($A532,701), while working as Lawson and his personal assistants, say Lawson is a habitual cocaine user and she allowed them to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds to keep her “guilty secret” from her husband. Lawyers for the Grillo sisters, who worked for the chef for 13 and 9 years, allege Lawson allowed the defendants free use of her credit cards to hide her daily drug use from Saatchi.
Saatchi has come out saying that their former assistants obviously took advantage of the fact that Ms Lawson was “off her head” but he does say that he had no knowledge of the alleged drug addiction.
And it’s getting ugly. Saatchi allowed the court to use an email he sent to his former wife that said: “Now the Grillos will get off on the basis that you were off your head on drugs and you allowed the sisters to spend whatever they liked, and yes, I believe every word the Grillos said”. For the record, he also accused Lawson of enabling her daughter Cosima’s alleged drug problems.
Whether Lawson is a drug addict or not, it is hard not to feel bad for a woman who has had so much sadness in her life for so long. Time will tell whether she should be considered a terrible decision maker or an innocent victim.