Nigella Lawson visited Brazil this week to promote her book Kitchen, now available in Portuguese. Hundreds of culinary aficionados waited in line for hours to buy her book and talk to the British star they watch every week in the channel GNT.
The excitement of receiving Nigella in Brazil is understandable because, besides her fame and brand, she is such a nice, genuine person. Though her perfectly groomed appearance and posh accent could imply she’s a little bit arrogant or even plastic, her attitude toward her Brazilian public has been cheery and approachable – one that is commendable for someone who is constantly under media scrutiny.
Her well-presented image is no doubt part of her personality and how she has chosen to present herself. Focused on her trade, and reserved personality, Nigella has created a wonderful image of cook – occasionally alluding to homemaker – and business woman.
Ana Maria Braga, a TV host of a Brazilian morning show on national channel Globo, had the chance to not only interview Nigella, but also to shame her for her fluctuating weight over the years. Braga’s show does have a part of the show dedicated to culinary, so the questions started innocently enough. Braga seemed to be comparing notes.
“Since I do a daily culinary show and I always eat in front of the camera,” she started. “I often get asked, ‘Wow, how are you so thin?’ eating so much every day. Do you get asked that and how do you deal with that? I mean now you’re looking normal…”
Nigella dealt with it well, but why should she have to deal with questions like this? Braga was wearing a loose sweater that showed off her bony shoulders – and mentioned how thin she herself is, and how people notice. Obviously, Braga noticed that Nigella isn’t thin, so she decided to hit her where it hurts. The only thing out of her control is her weight, right? Let’s make her weaker in front of the camera.
“I’m not very thin, when people see me on the show, I eat six dishes in half an hour. But the filming didn’t take place in half an hour, it’s several days of production,” she replied. “I love food, but with a certain balance. We need fruit, vegetables, meat, and everything. I never wanted to be thin, I think it’s good if you are. I like eating a little bit of everything, I don’t deny myself any pleasures.”
She had plastic surgery to get rid of her ‘bunions’ in 2012, but stated that she wouldn’t do anything else to her body. It is impossible to know whether she has body image issues herself – though it seems like she doesn’t – but her attitude toward her body, eating what she wants and not having plastic surgery encourages women to look at themselves in a more positive light.
Despite her polite and contained answer, the humiliation and shaming wasn’t over for her yet. Braga decided to display a slideshow of photos of Nigella’s career, showing how her weight has fluctuated over the years. The photos where she was ‘thin’ were studio-produced, where she smiled delightfully in make-up and groomed hair to the camera; the ones where she had put on a bit of weight were paparazzi photos where she was wearing no make up or looking at the camera.
One photo actually spurred Nigella to meekly try to defend herself: “That was a bad phase…”
She looked absolutely mortified. Nigella is human, just like any of use, and she is allowed to love her body as it is, without being criticized for losing or putting on weight. This is sexism – well, she’s a successful woman, but, as a woman, she clearly can’t ‘have it all’ because she is overweight and can’t control her body image. No CEO or businessman is ever question about their weight or if they can have it all. it’s simply implied that they can, and their weight doesnt matter.
Nigella can eat whatever she wants. Just as her reserved and smart look is her choice, so is her weight. She’s beautiful, strong and, based on her interview with Braga, extremely courteous. There’s cattiness in the world of women, and it has to stop. Being sexist to each other doesn’t help anything and anyone, it actually makes you look like an unhappy, jealous loser.
Braga pressed her on diets and weight, even though Nigella was plainly trying to change the subject. Braga asked her about her rice pasta diet, and if it works. Again, Nigella had to remind her that she doesn’t want to be thin, that wasn’t a diet and that she simply loved the texture. She isn’t about dieting at all, she just likes food and doesn’t count calories. She should not be pressured to go on a diet at all.
A photo of Nigella holding the Brazilian delicacy coxinha has become a meme all over Brazil. It’s a fried savoury snack filled with cheese (catupiry) and chicken – fattening, for sure. But she embraced it, she wanted to try it and why the hell not? Let her eat coxinha.
If you don’t want any, that’s your loss.