When I think Nigella, I don’t mean: ‘Nigella sativa seed … variously called fennel flower, nutmeg flower, black caraway, Roman coriander [or] black cumin.’ * (Wikipedia). When that name is mentioned most of the English speaking world that watches cooking shows immediately thinks domestic goddess, Nigella Lawson. Like Cher and Cleopatra, we know Nigella by her first name. She is the daughter of Nigel Lawson, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer. In her own right, Nigella may have a Master of Arts in medieval and modern languages. And she may have been a journalist, a broadcaster, a television personality, and food writer. But in June of this year Nigella was reduced to a mere cipher, someone to be humiliated by her husband and every gossip hungry opinion writer.

Poor Nigella. Even those who haven’t heard of the domestic goddess before last June will know now that Nigella is the lady whose husband, Charles Saatchi put his hands around her throat. A photo of this event was taken at Scott’s restaurant in London, so it couldn’t be denied. The next best response seems to have been that it was a ‘playful tiff’ and it wasn’t so much a case of ‘throttling or strangling’ as allegedly holding Nigella by the throat ‘to make her focus.’ In court the claim was that Saatchi was not pinching her nose but allegedly wiping cocaine from it. Whatever the story, the question is that if Saatchi felt comfortable wiping Nigella’s nose (or pinching it) in public and holding her by the throat, I’d be asking was there a similar history of it in private.

I thought that putting your hands on another person without permission even between husband and wife was no longer acceptable; I wouldn’t have thought in a million years that shaking a person or holding somebody by the throat is what you do to make a person focus. British journalist, Allison Pearson seems to believe otherwise. In her opinion piece she analyses Saatchi’s behaviour. She postulates that pinching Nigella’s nose was not aggressive or patronising but an attempt to get wake Nigella to wake up to herself. Saatchi telling the press that it was a playful tiff could have been, suggests Pearson an attempt to protect Nigella’s reputation.

The press and the sisterhood aren’t too keen on Nigella. She seems to have let them down. When they saw the damning photo they realized they had a high profile campaigner against domestic violence. Nigella wouldn’t speak. She saw it as a private humiliation made public. They wouldn’t give her five minutes to process what had happened to her. The press and the sisterhood wouldn’t understand that she saw it as a private issue to be dealt with by her in her own way. As Nigella said in court, she ‘preferred to keep her private life private’ but was prevented from doing that.

The dirty linen has been aired. Nigella uses cocaine. She has taken drugs; she admitted in court that there were circumstances and she had taken cocaine, but was not a habitual user. “I promise you… regular cocaine users do not look like this,” she said [in court]. “They are scrawny and look unhealthy. If you think I’m going to sabotage my health and leave my children as orphans, you are very wrong.”
That should be the end of that because the story which started out as a black and white, no argument, domestic violence story seems to have mutated into a ‘let’s disparage Nigella and exonerate her ex-husband Charles Saatchi’ tale.

I heard a radio commentator saying that Nigella has spoiled her brand and her career will never be the same again. He’s a real wit, this man and usually politically correct, but he has no imagination and I guess it seemed all right just this once to slag a woman. It’s possible that he is right, but it seems to me that Nigella is a fighter, too strong to be intimidated or bullied by interested parties. Like Phoenix, I think she will rise from the ashes of this determined attempt to slur her name and her reputation.

6 thoughts on “Nigella Lawson: Tarnishing the Brand

  1. Not knowing these characters by way of TV or the society pages, makes it a lot easier for me to think that if she wants her privacy, that’s her business. But in any case, I think that in a family dispute, there’s a lot we don’t see, and it’s very rarely black and white.

    • You’re absolutely right, Shimon. Even our good friends who we think we know well will sometimes surprise us. It’s not possible to know what happens behind closed doors.
      Although I’ve occasionally watched Nigella Lawson’s cooking shows, I don’t know these characters either and I am not interested in their private lives. But the facts are these – somebody took photographs of Nigella Lawson and her now former husband in a public place. He had his hands around her throat and he pinched her nose. If you behave that way in public chances are you have behaved that way in private too. So often, in fact, that when it happens in public you’re not even noticing it. Charles Saatchi’s story about why it happened keeps changing, but there’s no denying the photographs. My first thought was that whatever the back story behind this sort of behaviour, no human being has the right to place his or her hand in violence on another human being the way it has been depicted in those photographs. And there’s no excusing it.

    • He lost his cool all right, Bruce, but then he used all the resources at his command to turn himself into the victim. I wouldn’t have thought it possible, not in this day and age anyhow.

  2. Wow, Mary. I’ve been behind the keyboard for too long. I had no idea this happened. I looked up the pictures, and I was shocked. I can’t imagine allowing any man to grab me by the throat like that – in public or private. I tend to see this as you do, and I also believe she has the strength to rise above this.

    • How nice to see your freshly scrubbed face on my blog again, Maddie!
      There’s a photo of Nigella online today. She looks miserable and looks as if she’s been put through the wringer, which of course she has.

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