The USA appears to have taken a tough line on celebrity chef Nigella Lawson’s confessed drug use, banning her from boarding a flight to Los Angeles. The US has the power to block passengers from entry even if they do not have a conviction, which she does not.
The author of How to Be a Domestic Goddess and many other best-selling titles, had checked in and passed through security when she was told she would not be allowed on the California-bound plane this Sunday. Her departure point was London’s Heathrow airport. Nigella, who was traveling alone, was forced to make her way back to the departures hall and ask to retrieve her hold baggage. One onlooker at the scene said she did not say very much but “did not look happy.” Only the day before she had happily tweeted about packing for her holidays, with the infamous tube of Colmans mustard she always carries, featured in the shot.
Although there is no official explanation for Nigella Lawson being turned back, it is widely assumed to be connected to her testimony in the trial of her two former assistants last year. As a witness, Lawson was not the one on trial, but the way the case was conducted put her under tremendous scrutiny and media spotlight. She confirmed that she had tried cocaine and “smoked the odd joint” in her life, but not that she had a drug addiction, or even a problem. She had a “life problem” she said, and she was going to sort that out.
She has recently said that the experience was akin to “having a layer of skin removed.”
Her past drug use, she said, has been an attempt to deal with the dying and death of her first husband, journalist John Diamond, and her unhappiness in being married to Saatchi.
The trial was the culmination of a horrible set of events for the star, who is now a judge on The Taste. Her marriage to Charles Saatchi had broken up in a highly public and hostile manner and she said he had subjected her to “acts of intimate terrorism.” Pictures of him with his hands around her throat were in all the papers. He received a caution. She then had to go through the ordeal of the fraud trial. The assistants, the Grillo sisters, were cleared by the jury of charges of stealing hundreds of thousands of pounds from their employers.
By then, the facts of her witness testimony were well-known, and UK police had to decide whether to take any action against her. It was not pursued as it would not act in the public interest to deter future witnesses from being able to speak freely under oath in a courtroom.
There has been no comment on this incident from any of Nigella Lawson’s team including her publicist, lawyer, agent and spokesperson for The Taste.
A spokesman for US Homeland Security said they did not comment on individual cases, but agreed that foreigners who had admitted to drugs offenses could be deemed as “inadmissible.” Aliens found to be inadmissible need to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility. The application process for such a waiver can be a lengthy process.
This did not appear to be the stance in January when Lawson flew to New York on New Year’s day. American border protection is said to have been toughened up since the start of the year.
Banning Nigella Lawson from entering the USA is bound to have a negative effect on her career there and she is expected to turn to legal means to overturn the ban.
By Kate Henderson