independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

How to survive a drugs scandal

As the domestic goddess is accused of taking cocaine, Joe O'Shea looks at the celebs who came back stronger than ever after some very bad publicity

Dark days: Nigella has been hitting the headlines

The good news for Nigella Lawson -- and she could do with some right now -- is that the rules around celebrity drug scandals have changed. And even if the use of cocaine is established, it need not necessarily spell the end of a high-profile TV career.

The allegations made by her two former maids and referenced in an angry email by her now-estranged husband, advertising guru Charles Saatchi, and read out in a London court this week have been vigorously denied by the celebrity chef's own legal team.

The claims emerged as part of a defence put forward by two former Personal Assistants, accused of defrauding Saatchi and Lawson of more than £300,000 while working for the celebrity couple.

However, while the court case has still to play out, it is fair to say that Lawson, for the second time inside six months, now finds herself at the centre of a deeply unpleasant story.

The timing could hardly be worse. The 53-year-old celebrity chef had been planning to re-launch her brand with a new series on Channel 4 and on one of the main networks in the US, a market she has been hoping to crack for some time.

The US series had been billed as a new start for the journalist-turned "domestic goddess", who has earned an estimated €18m from her career but endured the misery of a very public row followed by the break-up of her marriage earlier this year.

The public appeared to be very much on her side after a photographer caught the two arguing at an outside table at Scott's restaurant in Mayfair in June, during which Saatchi was photographed with his hands around her throat. Saatchi was later cautioned by police for assault.

The allegations of daily drug use over the course of a decade may change the public perception if they are ultimately proven. But even if that's the case, Lawson and her PR team can take heart from celebrity drug scandals that have proved to be anything but fatal to the careers of those involved.

However, they need look no further than Kate Moss, who woke up on a morning in 2005 to newspaper pictures of her apparently snorting cocaine in a music studio accompanied by banner "Cocaine Kate!" headlines.

Many were gleefully predicting that it was all over for the English supermodel and she was dropped by seven big companies, including Chanel and Burberry

However, Kate made an immediate apology, headed off to rehab and kept her head down for a year before slowly working her way back onto the catwalk.

Within two years, her earnings had doubled to €4.7m a year, she was voted Model of The Year and was named as one of Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People" for "having a face that never goes out of style".

In 2007, Kate launched her own TopShop range and eight months later, she was on the cover of Vogue magazine.

When asked if her earnings had actually gone up because of all the publicity around the drugs scandal, she said; "I don't know. They didn't go down".

And it's not just models who can rehabilitate their career after a drugs scandal. In 1999, then English rugby captain Lawrence Dallaglio was forced to quit his post and pull out of a tour to Australia following newspaper allegations that he had confessed to dealing and taking cocaine.

Dallaglio denied the claims and called the newspaper sting a "set up". But he later admitted he had "contributed to it". After a very public disciplinary hearing at the British Rugby Union, he returned to the sport and helped England win a World Cup. Dallaglio is now one of the BBC's top rugby pundits.

Another BBC regular who almost saw his career go up in flames is Richard Bacon, who in 1998, when he was a presenter on children's TV show Blue Peter, was caught by the News of The World taking cocaine.

Bacon, who was then 22, spent some years in relatively low-profile media jobs but returned to the BBC in the mid-noughties, first hosting a successful late night radio show and then moving to the main afternoon slot on BBC Radio 5 Live in 2010.

If Nigella Lawson is talking to the ABC network in the US -- who are due to screen her new series -- she may also want to point to America's most popular Domestic Goddess, one-woman lifestyle brand Martha Stewart, and her dramatic fall from grace.

In June 2003, Stewart was indicted on nine counts of insider trading by the US government. She was tried, found guilty and sentenced to five months incarceration in a federal prison as part of a two-year sentence.

Stewart rebuilt her career on her release and now has regular TV series and a number of multimillion-dollar lines in various chain-stores.

Stewart proved that for one celebrity chef and domestic goddess at least, major scandal and even federal jail-time need not necessarily mean the end.

Irish Independent

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