Nigella Lawson

Nigella Lawson

Born Nigella Lucy Lawson she was the daughter of Nigel Lawson, who as Chancellor of the Exchequer under Margaret Thatcher, was the second most powerful figure in British politics after the prime minister; her mother was socialite Vanessa Salmon, whose family co-owned Joseph Lyons and Co., the largest food empire in the United Kingdom. Lawson's early years were difficult ones - her parents' careers required them to move repeatedly, which played havoc with her schooling. Despite this, she attended Oxford University in 1979 and graduated with a degree in Medieval and modern languages. Shortly afterwards, Lawson's mother - who had divorced her father in 1980 and later married the philosopher AJ Ayer - passed away tragically from liver cancer. She would be the first of several of Lawson's loved ones to succumb to the disease, including her sister Thomasina in 1993, and later, her husband, journalist John Diamond.Journalism - not food - was Lawson's first career, and she began as a book and restaurant reviewer for The Spectator in 1985. This led to a stint as the deputy editor of The Sunday Times in 1986, where she met Diamond. However, it was her post-Times career as a freelance journalist that gave Lawson the widest exposure. In addition to contributing to The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph, she penned a well-regarded food column for Vogue, which began her association with the pleasure of creating and eating delicious meals. In 1989, Lawson attracted criticism in political circles when it came to light that she had voted for the Labour Party - which directly opposed her father's Conservative Party - and had criticized then-PM Thatcher.It was Diamond who had suggested that she pen her first book, How To Eat. The decision to launch the project was a difficult one for Lawson, as she was still mourning the loss of her mother and sister, with whom she had done the majority of her cooking. But she eventually found the strength to write the book, which sold a remarkable 300,000 copies. A second volume, How To Become a Domestic Goddess, followed in 2000, and earned her the Author of the Year Award from the British Book Awards. Television was quick to hitch a ride on her ascending star, and a series, titled "Nigella Bites," was launched on BBC 4 and ran from 2000-01. Despite the tide of acclaim, Lawson's life was in considerable turmoil due to Diamond's illness - which he chronicled in his book C: Because Cowards Get Cancer Too. Sadly, he would succumb to throat cancer in 2001, leaving Lawson to raise their two children, Cosima and Bruno.Lawson soldiered on with "Nigella Bites," which became a hit for the network based largely on Lawson's confident and low-pressure attitude towards cooking. She was frequently quoted as saying that her cooking was done for her "own pleasure, rather than to please others," and descriptive phrases for the ingredients, though many critics and pundits singled out her flirtatious on-screen manner as the show's key appeal. Regardless of the reasons why people tuned in, the show was a hit, earning her the Television Broadcast of the Year Award from the Guild of Food Writers in 2001. "Nigella Bites" also found favor with American audiences after being purchased by the E! Entertainment Network and its sister company, the Style Network. The accompanying book of the same title also landed on the best-seller charts. Lawson's next BBC 4 series, "Forever Summer" (2002) repeated the same success story of her previous efforts, including a best-selling tie-in book, Forever Summer with Nigella.In 2003, Lawson found a famous patron in First Lady Laura Bush, who first sampled her recipes after Lawson prepared a meal for President George W. Bush at a dinner in London, hosted by Prime Minister Tony Blair. The year was also marked by her fourth best-seller, Forever Summer, and her marriage to art collector and advertising executive, Charles Saachi. The latter was marked by some controversy after reports surfaced that their relationship began prior to Diamond's death in 2001. By 2004, Lawson was dividing her on-air time between England and the United States, where she was a frequent guest on talk shows like "The Ellen Degeneres Show" (syndication, 2003-) and "The Late Show with David Letterman" (CBS, 1993-2015). Her fifth book, Feast: Food to Celebrate Life (2004) was also among her most successful. Only a brief foray into hosting a talk show provided a misstep: "Nigella" (ITV 1, 2005) was a dismal failure and convinced Lawson to stick to familiar territory when it came to television.For her next cooking program, Lawson signed a lucrative deal with The Food Network in America for "Nigella Feasts" (2006-); she also returned to UK television that year with "Nigella's Christmas Feasts," her first series for BBC 2. That same year, she appeared on one of the most widely-viewed episodes of the BBC series "Who Do You Think You Are?" (2004-), which traced the family history of celebrity guests. Her Oct. 11, 2006 appearance attracted some 6 million viewers. The following year brought her biggest hit on television with "Nigella Express" (BBC 2, 2007-), which proved to be the second biggest program for the network that year. The series made a successful jump to the States via The Food Network, and the accompanying tie-book (her sixth) was yet another home run for her publishers. That same year, Lawson found another entry point into her fans' homes, via her Living Kitchen line of kitchen products.