In this week’s Born This Day series, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Nigella Lawson who was born on 6 January 1960. Nigella is renowned for her flirtatious manner of presenting and has been called the “Queen of Food Porn”.
Nigella Lawson (born 6 January 1960) is an English food writer, journalist and broadcaster. Nigella Lawson is the daughter of Nigel Lawson, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Vanessa Salmon, whose family owned the J. Lyons and Co. empire. After graduating from Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University, Nigella Lawson started work as a book reviewer and restaurant critic, later becoming the deputy literary editor of The Sunday Times in 1986. She then embarked upon a career as a freelance journalist, writing for a number of newspapers and magazines.
In 1998, Nigella Lawson brought out her first cook book, How to Eat, which sold 300,000 copies and became a best-seller. She went on to write her second book in 2000, How to be a Domestic Goddess, winning her the British Book Award for Author of the Year.
In 1999, she hosted her own cooking show series, Nigella Bites on Channel 4, which was accompanied by another best-selling cook book. The Nigella Bites series won Nigella Lawson a Guild of Food Writers Award; her 2005 ITV daytime chat show was met with a negative critical reaction and was cancelled after attracting low ratings. Nigella Lawson hosted the Food Network’s Nigella Feasts in the United States in 2006 followed by a three-part BBC Two series, Nigella’s Christmas Kitchen, in the United Kingdom. This led to the commissioning of Nigella Express on BBC Two in 2007. Her own cookware range, Living Kitchen, has a value of £7 million, and she has sold more than 3 million cook books worldwide.
Nigella Lawson has become renowned for her flirtatious manner of presenting, although she argues, “It’s not meant to be flirtatious. … I don’t have the talent to adopt a different persona. It’s intimate, not flirtatious”. The perceived overt sexuality of her presentation style has led to Lawson’s being called the “queen of food porn”. Many commentators have alluded to Nigella Lawson’s attractiveness, and she was once named as one of the world’s most beautiful women. She has been referred to as “stunningly beautiful, warm, honest, likeable and amazingly normal”, as well as being described as having “flawless skin, perfect white teeth, a voluptuous body, ample height and lots of lush, brown hair”. The media has also noted Nigella Lawson’s ability to engage with both male and female viewers; The Guardian wrote, “Men love her because they want to be with her. Women love her because they want to be her”. The chef, Gary Rhodes, spoke out against Nigella Lawson by suggesting that her viewers are attracted to her smile rather than the cooking itself. Despite often being labelled as a domestic goddess, she insists that she exhibits very few of the qualities associated with the title.
Nigella Lawson is also known for her vivid and adjective-filled food descriptions in both her books and television programmes, as one critic summarised, “her descriptions of food can be a tangle of adjectives.” In a study conducted in 2007 on the readability of different recipes, the chatty and florid style of Nigella Lawson’s recipes was judged to be confusing to readers with weak reading skills. Nigella Lawson has also expressed her surprise at how many reviews in the United States have mentioned her class and posh accent.
Comedians and commentators have taken to mocking Nigella Lawson’s style of presentation, particularly in a regularly occurring impersonation of her in the BBC comedy series Dead Ringers, because they perceive that she plays overtly upon her attractiveness and sexuality as a device to engage viewers of her cookery programmes. Impressions by Ronni Ancona that further parodied Nigella Lawson’s presenting style have also been featured on the BBC One impersonation sketch show, The Big Impression.
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