British food personality Nigella Lawson has dazzled fans with her cooking skills, cookbooks, and television shows. She is a former judge of the cooking competition series The Taste alongside chefs Marcus Samuelsson, Ludo Lefebvre, and the late Anthony Bourdain. Nowadays, Lawson makes appearances on MasterChef and MasterChef Australia as a guest judge. She also has a cookbook, Cook, Eat, Repeat: Ingredients, Recipes and Stories, scheduled to hit bookshelves in October 2020. If it performs as well as her previous books, How to Eat and How to Be a Domestic Goddess, it will be another delicious bestseller.
Though Lawson projects an image of domestic bliss with her delicate attire and dazzling but down-to-earth recipes, this celebrity chef has experienced her share of tragedies. Lawson lost her first husband, journalist John Diamond, as she was beginning to bring her brand of television shows and cookbooks to the United States. Keep reading to find out how the two met and how Diamond lost his life.
Nigella Lawson's first husband boosted her confidence
Nigella Lawson is the daughter of former British Chancellor Nigel Lawson and socialite Vanessa Salmon, according to BBC News. Before she became known as the “Domestic Goddess,” Lawson started off as a journalist, reviewing books and writing a restaurant column for the British magazine The Spectator. Her father was previously an editor and contributing writer at the publication.
Lawson later joined The Sunday Times as its deputy literary editor in 1985. It was there that she reportedly met her future husband, John Diamond (pictured). According to Metro, they wed in 1992 while vacationing in Venice, and had two children, Cosima and Bruno.
In an interview with The New York Times, Lawson credited Diamond for her transformation into her cooking persona. “Being married to him has made me confident enough to try and do things. I used to be slightly nervy and insecure, but he has made me more stable,” she said. She spoke with BBC News about how Diamond even upgraded her look, getting her to sport the fancier clothes that became her trademark look.
There is a common thread in Nigella Lawson's losses
Nigella Lawson’s resiliency has been tested repeatedly by tragic circumstances connected to cancer. In 1985, a 25-year-old Lawson lost her mother, Vanessa Salmon, “from secondary tumours in her liver. The illness was so sudden that the primary cancer was never discovered,” reported The Sunday Times. Eight years later, Lawson’s younger sister, Thomasina, died of breast cancer. Both women inspired Lawson’s cooking and her first cookbook, How to Eat.
“I really wrote it for myself, to remember them, to pour out all of the grief, I think,” she told The Australian Women’s Weekly. “I could never, ever have imagined the response, and to be honest I don’t think I could’ve written it if I’d imagined what the response would be. It would’ve been utterly paralyzing.”
In 1997, health problems struck again. Lawson’s husband, John Diamond, was diagnosed with throat cancer. Diamond was then a columnist for The Times Magazine, according to The Sunday Times, and chronicled his life with Lawson and his cancer battle for the publication. While most of the columns included praise for Lawson, Diamond also admitted to being jealous of his wife’s success. A book and a documentary detailed Diamond’s cancer fight. He died in 2001, as Lawson was launching her first television series Nigella Bites.
“…No one knows how difficult John’s death was,” she told The New York Times. “He was ill for a very long time, and he couldn’t eat. His tongue had to be removed because of the cancer.”
Nigella Lawson's next marriage cast a shadow over her first
Two years after husband John Diamond’s death, Nigella Lawson married Diamond’s friend, advertising giant-turned-art collector Charles Saatchi. The couple had been married for about 10 years when Saatchi was photographed assaulting Lawson by putting his hands on her throat, according to the Mirror. Saatchi was later cited by police after reportedly admitting to the assault, and a high-profile divorce followed.
That wasn’t the only controversial situation that cast a shadow on Lawson’s past relationship with Diamond. During a lawsuit in which Lawson accused two former personal assistants of stealing money, the celebrity chef testified that she had used cocaine while Diamond was battling cancer (via Today). “One time was when my husband knew his cancer was terminal, and he was introduced to it by a friend who thought it would help,” she reportedly testified. “And I did on maybe six occasions and joined in with him — it was a small amount. It gave him an escape, but I didn’t want an escape because I had to look after him and the children.” Lawson claimed she had only used cocaine when Diamond was sick and in 2010, during “a very, very difficult time” with Saatchi.
Lawson has continued to honor her late husband. In 2018, she posted a photo tribute to Diamond on Twitter to celebrate the 20th anniversary of her cookbook How to Eat. “This time 20 years ago, I was at the launch party for my first book, How To Eat. Looking at this photo makes me happy, but also very sad. I wish I could be in John’s arms now,” she said.
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