Celebrity image takes a battering

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With her seductive looks and frivolous attitude to cooking, Nigella Lawson became a celebrity who appealed to men and women alike.

She became a household name as her flirtatious presenting style earned her the title "queen of food porn", but is better known as the Domestic Goddess after the title of one of her many best-selling cookery books.

Her public perception has taken a battering during the trial of her two former personal assistants, with allegations of cocaine addiction and claims that she allowed her teenage daughter to smoke cannabis.

And while her 10-year marriage to millionaire art collector Charles Saatchi may have once appeared happy on the outside, the case has become more of a courtroom battle between the former celebrity couple.

Giving her own evidence, the 53-year-old claimed her 10-year marriage to Mr Saatchi became so unhappy it drove her to drugs.

She revealed that she has tried cocaine, but the "idea that I am a drug addict or habitual user of cocaine is absolutely ridiculous".

She told the court she took the class A drug with her first husband, John Diamond, when he found out he had terminal cancer, and then later during her troubled relationship with Mr Saatchi.

The TV star said she was "not proud" but would rather be "honest and ashamed" about what she had done.

Ms Lawson said Mr Saatchi "told everyone" he was taking cocaine out of her nose in the now infamous incident in which he was photographed with his hands around her neck at Scott's restaurant in Mayfair, central London, in June.

She also admitted she began taking cannabis in the last year of her marriage to the Saatchi Gallery owner.

"I found it made an intolerable situation tolerable," she told the court.

Ms Lawson described Mr Saatchi as controlling and claimed he was on a campaign to "ruin me in any way".

She also said he once "punished" her for going to a friend's party.

While she was described as sociable, the trial heard that Mr Saatchi did not like her being away from their home for too long and was unsupportive of her desire to develop her career in the United States.

Apart from the warring between the couple, the trial has heard details of Ms Lawson's generosity to all her staff, including the members of "Team Cupcake" who have been at the sidelines of her career and keep everything running smoothly. She revealed the affectionate name for her inner circle back in 2010.

The Grillo sisters said they were made to feel part of the family while working for Ms Lawson, with Elisabetta working for her as a nanny since she was married to Mr Diamond, who died of throat cancer in 2001.

Ms Lawson rose to fame well over a decade ago with her first TV series Nigella Bites.

A number of other shows followed with differing titles, winning a number of awards and gaining her a keen following of fans.

She has also had a series of books published, including the award-winning How To Be A Domestic Goddess in 2000 and last year's Italian-inspired Nigellissima.

The daughter of former chancellor of the Exchequer and Conservative MP Nigel Lawson and his first wife, heiress Vanessa Salmon, Oxford-educated Ms Lawson began her career as a book reviewer before going on to write for several newspapers and magazines.

Describing herself as an "independent woman", she took issue with being referred to as the "lady of the house" by defence barrister Karina Arden.

"I don't think it is the job of a woman to run a house," she said.

With the trial of the Grillo sisters now behind her, it is unclear what Ms Lawson will do next, but she is expected to appear as a judge on a cookery show on American TV in the new year.

Despite Mr Saatchi's vast wealth eclipsing hers, she has built up a successful career of her own and looks as though she will continue to do so without him.

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