Tragic Details About Nigella Lawson

Nigella Lawson surprised
Nigella Lawson surprised - Ray Tamarra/Getty Images

You may know Nigella Lawson as one of England's famous television chefs or as the author of many bestselling books on food. Lawson has starred on channels like The Food Network and shows such as "Nigella Bites." As much publicity as her cooking has gained her, Lawson never went to school to be a cook or chef - a fact that she makes no effort to hide.

Instead, she learned her craft at home in the kitchen with her mother, Vanessa Salmon. Lawson explained in her book, "Cook, Eat, Repeat" that she "was brought up by a mother, the cook I have learned most from."

Sadly, her mother became ill and passed away when Lawson was just 25 years old, one of many losses she would suffer. Somehow, she still managed to turn her history with the culinary arts into a thriving career. However, her road to success has been quite a bumpy path, spreading out from a rocky foundation that began in childhood. As an adult, she lost her mother, sister, Thomasina Lawson, and husband to cancer. Let's take a deeper look at these and other tragedies that mark Nigella Lawson's path to stardom as a cook, writer, and television star.

Read more: What The Cameras Don't Show You On MasterChef

Nigella Lawson Had No Firm Foundation To Grow From

Nigel Lawson family Nigella swinging
Nigel Lawson family Nigella swinging - Evening Standard/Getty Images

When hearing about highly successful people, you might expect them to come from solid foundations of a good education, strong family life, and awesome childhoods. For Lawson, this was not the case. She was born January 6, 1960, and it seemed that difficulty followed closely behind.

Although her birthplace was in Wandsworth, London, Lawson's family never seemed to stay put for long. In fact, before she turned 18, during a short nine-year span, they lived in five separate houses. This forced Lawson to be placed in various schools, nine in total, within the same time period. Italy, Wales, Oxford, and London are all on the list of places where she resided as a child.

Nigella Lawson's childhood was anything but picturesque, and her behavior at school left something to be desired. Lawson describes herself as "difficult, disruptive, good at school work, but rude, I suspect, and too highly-strung," according to the BBC. Her father was so sure that his little girl couldn't possibly behave so badly that he thought they were describing another child.

She Learned Cooking From Her Mother, A Difficult Teacher

Vanessa Salmon
Vanessa Salmon - Evening Standard/Getty Images

Lawson, an admitted "kitchen klutz," also shared that she was afraid of invoking her mom's anger by having accidents in the kitchen. It didn't help that Lawson's mom placed her on a lop-sided chair made of wood during her cooking lessons.

Of course, some of her bad behavior as a child could have been tied to the fact that her mother, Vanessa Salmon, was frequently tense and on edge. Sadly, little Nigella Lawson grew up believing that she wasn't even liked by Salmon. Her mother's approach to dining etiquette was also discouraging, as it demanded that Lawson begin eating as soon as her plate was served to her and that she finish everything that was dished onto that plate. She now admits to being a gourmand, yet she wrote in The Guardian that she "loathed eating as a child" growing up in the '60s.

She watched as Salmon would deny herself the foods that she loved in an effort to stay beautiful and young. Lawson described her mother's attitude about cooking in "Cook, Eat Repeat" (via Hello Magazine) as "grimly exuberant output in the kitchen set in painfully sharp relief, and indeed fostered, by an expanding pattern of self-denial and self-punishment." It was a habit that Lawson refused to emulate and one that her mother would trade for comfort food once she received her cancer diagnosis.

She Lost Her Mother And Sister To Cancer

Nigella Lawson sad
Nigella Lawson sad - Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Nigella Lawson never believed she would live to a ripe old age. Cancer seemed to be a curse that would frequently visit her family. She first lost her mom, Vanessa Salmon, to liver cancer in 1985, two very short weeks after her diagnosis. Salmon was only 48 years old at the time of her death, and her daughter was just 25.

Lawson also lost her sister, 32-year-old Thomasina Lawson, to breast cancer less than a decade later, in 1993. Lawson has fond memories of cooking with her sister and chatting with her while preparing food in the kitchen. She also feels that cooking can help you get through a crisis. In an interview with Now to Love, Lawson said, "If you have a friend or a child or anyone who is going through a difficult time and wants to talk about things that aren't easy, I think you stand much more of a chance if you're chopping some carrots at the same time."

Lawson Tweeted a black heart on May 23, 2018, with the words, "for my sister Thomasina, who was born in 1961, died in 1993, and whose birthday it would have been today."

She Met John Diamond In Venice In 1989 And Soon Married Him

Nigella Lawson and John Diamond
Nigella Lawson and John Diamond - Dave Benett/Getty Images

After navigating her way through a stormy childhood, Lawson finally found the love of her life in John Diamond. They met in 1989 while the two worked at the Sunday Times. Both were journalists, and Diamond was also a well-known radio personality.

Following a three-year romance, they gave their relationship permanence in Venice in 1992. Although he was her first, Lawson was Diamond's second wife. Together they had two children. Cosima Thomasina Diamond's birth came in January of 1994, just after the death of her namesake and aunt. Bruno Paul Diamond came a couple of years later, in June of 1996.

Although she was a journalist who loved to cultivate her culinary skills, Lawson said that it was Diamond who first suggested she write about cooking. Her first cookbook came out in 1998, and the couple celebrated together. Diamond's pride in Lawson was evident to everyone around them. But their happiness would soon turn to heartbreak.

Her Marriage Was Also A Struggle And Her Husband Died Of Cancer

Nigella Lawson and John Diamond
Nigella Lawson and John Diamond - Dave Benett/Getty Images

In yet another heartbreaking tragedy for Lawson, Diamond was diagnosed with throat cancer less than six years into their marriage. Lawson watched as her prince and 47-year-old journalist, broadcaster, and father of her two children slowly faded away.

As an author, Lawson felt the irony of writing a book about eating while living with a husband who couldn't. In a piece for the Guardian, Nigella called the experience "odd" but shared that her husband was one of her greatest encouragers as a writer. Even after cancer took away his ability to talk or swallow food, he still pushed her to write her book, "How to Eat."

Diamond lost his battle with throat cancer in March of 2001. He had battled with the disease since his diagnosis in 1997. Diamond, a journalist with The Times, shared his struggles with the disease in his weekly column. Although he lost the ability to speak, he continued to write up until his death.

She Struggled With Depression

Nigella Lawson in shades
Nigella Lawson in shades - Karwai Tang/Getty Images

With such a tragic childhood and so much loss, it may come as no surprise that Lawson has also struggled with depression. She shared her struggle in 2019 of dealing with what she labeled as "anger turned inwards" and quoted Andrew Solomon as saying it is "the opposite of vitality."

Lawson shared her thoughts on this in a post on Twitter (now known as "X") in a discussion with Matt Haig, an advocate for mental health who wrote the book "Reasons to Stay Alive." While her mother's harshness during her childhood might have contributed, Lawson's tendency towards falling into depression could have also come from her mother in other ways. A study from Stanford shares that there is a genetic inclination for family members of depressed people to also suffer from the disease, a condition known as "heritability."

Lawson has admitted on several occasions that although she exhibited humor, her mother also suffered episodes of depression. She's also admitted that she dealt with her own dark times after the death of her first husband.

She Married Charles Saatchi And Rumors Flew

Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi
Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi - Dave M. Benett/Getty Images

The loss of Diamond left a devastating hole in the life of Nigella Lawson; one that she soon tried to fill. She married her second husband, Charles Saatchi, within two years of the death of her first.

According to rumors from friends of Lawson, Saatchi had won her by offering security that she'd lost when Diamond died. There were also whispers about how much her second husband looked like her dad, Nigel Lawson. According to The Daily Mail, cancer wasn't the only demon that Lawson and Diamond's marriage had to fight. The claim was that Lawson's second husband, Charles Saatchi, was trying to romance her as Diamond was dying of the disease. One report claims that the two actually had the husband's permission.

However, sources from team Lawson claim that it was all a smear campaign from the art collector, Saatchi, and his daughter. Of course, none of this came out until their 10-year marriage fell apart -- yet another tragedy in the life of Nigella Lawson.

She Admits That She Turned To Drugs During Difficult Times

Nigella lawson eyes wide
Nigella lawson eyes wide - Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

It's not uncommon for celeb chefs to get caught up in controversies and Lawson is no stranger to tabloids. While there may have been many rumors about Lawson in the press, many of them turned out to be true.

In a court case that came after her divorce from Saatchi was final, Lawson was forced to admit to accusations of drug use, cocaine in particular. While Saatchi claimed that the celebrity chef's drug habit was much more frequent, Lawson said her ex was simply trying to ruin her name. She shared that her use of the drug first began when she was still married to John Diamond and explained that cocaine helped him cope with his cancer. Although some had believed the stories of her issues with the drug to be more rumors than truth, Lawson admitted in court that she had used cocaine at times, though not as habitually as her ex had alleged.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

She Suffered Spousal Abuse

Nigella Lawson looking down
Nigella Lawson looking down - Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Jean-Paul, the same photographer who released photos of Lawson and Saatchi seeming so cozy at the beginning of their relationship, was also the one who snapped images of a public fight that led to their divorce. The paparazzo shared images of Saatchi in a pose that could be seen as choking Lawson while the couple sat on the portico of a restaurant.

As the photographer sat outside smoking in his car, he witnessed Saatchi assertively grab Lawson's throat twice. Jean-Paul continued to take snapshots of the abusive argument, which lasted for almost half an hour. He noticed that while Saatchi was choking Lawson with one hand, he was holding her hand with the other.

By this time, Lawson and Saatchi had been married for a decade, and the two were said to have been celebrating Saatchi's 70th birthday. Soon after those photos went public, the couple was headed toward divorce court.

She Retreated From The Limelight And Kept Her Kids Away From The Public Eye

Cosimo and Bruno peeping around Nigella Lawson
Cosimo and Bruno peeping around Nigella Lawson - Chris Jackson/Getty Images

With so much public loss, grief, and controversy in her life, it is no surprise that Lawson withdrew from the eyes of the nosy public and took her kids with her, as Mashed shares. Even as recent as 2019, Lawson admitted that her kids aren't really happy being in the limelight and don't like all of the prying eyes.

Lawson does what she can to retain their privacy since her fame is not her children's choice. As is the case with most mothers, that isn't where Lawson's protectiveness ends. In fact, some claim that the abusive public incident that finished off her marriage to Saachi was started because her husband wanted to throw her (then teenage) son out of the house.

But her protectiveness isn't coddling. When it comes to spoiling her kids, Lawson once said she isn't leaving them a dime. "I am determined that my children should have no financial security. It ruins people not having to earn money."

She Lost Her Father In 2023

Nigel Lawson
Nigel Lawson - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

It would seem that after losing so many loved ones to cancer, going through a nasty, public divorce, and a troubling fraud case, Lawson would have suffered enough. In 2023, however, tragedy struck her life again with the loss of her father, Nigel Lawson.

The two were said to have maintained a good relationship. Lawson's father would sometimes appear on her shows as a guest star. Despite that bond, Lawson didn't always agree with her father in politics, and she wasn't afraid to say so. Many still insist that her father's connections helped escalate her fame, even if it wasn't intentional.

Although Nigella hadn't planned on living to be old, her father held a different opinion about himself. In 2012, he told The Daily Mail (via the New York Times), "The idea that because you're old, you're completely selfish and think, well, I've only got another five or ten years to live, so I couldn't care less — that couldn't be further from the truth." He lived eleven more years; the former Republican Chancellor of the Echeque was 91 years old.

Nigella Lawson Made A Huge Comeback

Nigella Lawson smiling big
Nigella Lawson smiling big - George Pimentel/Getty Images

Despite all of her losses and tragedies, Nigella Lawson has proven herself to be one who keeps getting back up. The chef came back in a big way after being hit by each wave. In 2023, she hosted "Nigella's Amsterdam Christmas" on the BBC. Her recipes are still featured in various publications around the web.

Lawson has also launched her own cookware collection at Celebrity Homeware, where her fans can find anything from breakfast bowls to enamelware pie dishes and everything in between. She has posted many of her recipes on Ocado, sharing her favorite products, foods, and ingredients under "Nigella Loves."

Although she hasn't posted on her website since the beginning of the year, Lawson is obviously keeping pretty busy. She stays quite active on her Facebook, posting almost daily. Her Instagram is also fresh and updated often. However, she no longer seems to post on her Twitter account.

Nigella Lawson's story is a tale of fear, abuse, love, betrayal, and triumph. She's worked to make a name for herself and separate from the fame of her father or husbands. Lawson is proof that you can build a career from the ground up using your own skills, even if it isn't what you trained or went to school for.

Read the original article on Mashed