US okay: Nigella Lawson has had her ban on travelling to Amreica lifted
Nigella Lawson has overturned the shock US travel ban imposed after her courtroom confession to taking cocaine, writes Katie Hind in the Sunday People.
The relieved TV star has been given the go-ahead by visa officials to fly to America to film a new series of her cookery contest The Taste.
Nigella, 54, had feared her admission that she used the Class A drug could end her blossoming US career.
But now the Domestic Goddess is ready to take off again after a traumatic 12 months which began when she was publicly grabbed round the neck by her then-husband Charles Saatchi.
She will begin work on the third series of The Taste USA later this summer and is already calling on Twitter for aspiring chefs to audition.
Nigella had previously planned to go to America on holiday in April but was humiliatingly stopped from boarding a British Airways flight from Heathrow to Los Angeles.
That was widely seen as a decision taken by London embassy officials in the light of Nigella’s admission during the fraud trial of two former assistants that she had taken cocaine on two occasions.
Curse: Former husband Charles Saatchi
Under US regulations, officials can bar any foreigners who have committed drugs offences – even if they are never charged by police.
The ban left a question mark over whether she would be able to continue working or holidaying in America.
But now the Sunday People understands that Nigella’s lawyers, supported by her US employers ABC television, have successfully submitted an application for a “waiver of inadmissibility”.
Nigella is understood to be delighted that she is free to travel to the States for the show’s auditions which are taking place in the early autumn.
Friends and aides had been concerned her career could falter after the cocaine admission tarnished her wholesome image. She has already had to face up to the likelihood that the UK version of The Taste will not be recommissioned by Channel 4 because of poor ratings. That makes the US version even more important for her.
It will also reunite her with close American friend and colleague Anthony Bourdain, 57 – one of her closest confidants during her “annus horribilis” – along with French celebrity chef Ludo Lefebvre, 43.
Embarrassing: Former personal assistants Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo revealed humilating details about the marriage
A source close to the TV chef said: “It has been a torrid year for Nigella but now things are starting to come together.
“She is very happy about this. She can now continue her role on The Taste, something she enjoys immensely.”
Last November, during a fraud trial of housekeepers Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo, mum-of-two Nigella confessed she had snorted cocaine seven times on two occasions.
She said: “I’ve never been a drug addict, I’ve never been a habitual user. There are two occasions in my life when I used cocaine.”
Nigella went on to explain how she took the drug with her late husband, John Diamond, adding: “One time was when my husband knew his cancer was terminal and he was introduced to it. We both thought it would help.”
Hard times: Nigella admitted in court to using cocaine
However, Nigella did stress to the jury at Isleworth Crown Court, London, that she was living drug-free, telling them: “I did not and do not have a drug problem. I had a life problem. I decided to address that.”
She was never arrested and Scotland Yard confirmed in January she would not face police action over her admissions.
Nigella’s good news comes one year after the Sunday People published pictures of her apparently being throttled by art dealer Saatchi, 71, as they dined outside the exclusive Scott’s restaurant in London’s Mayfair.
A day later he accepted a police caution but Nigella told him that their 10-year marriage was over. She left their marital home in central London and began divorce proceedings.
On July 31, the couple were granted their decree nisi at the High Court in London.
But Mr Saatchi, furious that Nigella didn’t stand up for him when the photos were published, claimed the Italian Grillo sisters would not be convicted because his ex-wife along with her daughter Mimi, 19, were too “off their heads” to comprehend what he alleged was going on.
Sunday People Nigella Lawson front page
In the email read in court from October 10, Saatchi wrote: “Of course the Grillos will now get off on the basis that you and Mimi where (sic) so off your heads on drugs you allowed the sisters to spend whatever they liked.
“And yes, I believe every word the Grillos have said, who, after all, only stole money.
“You, Higella, on the other hand, poisoned your child with drugs and trashed her life. Classy!”
After a two-week trial, Elisabetta, 42, and Francesca, 36, were cleared of spending £685,000 with the wealthy couple’s credit cards.
But it is not just her entry to the States that has boosted Nigella. Finally she has beaten what has become known as “the curse of Saatchi”.
She has re-released four of her books, including bestsellers How To Be A Domestic Goddess and Nigella Express which publishing sources say have been “very well received”.
And Nigella has started work on a new book commissioned by top publisher Chatto & Windus.
She is in the early stages of crafting it and it is expected to be released in autumn 2015.
The Taste: Ngella with Ludo Lefebvre and Anthony Bourdain
Meanwhile Channel 4 has yet to make a decision over whether to recommission the The Taste in the UK.
The network’s executives were disappointed with viewing figures which slumped from 1.8 million to just one million within three weeks of the series being aired.
A source at the station said: “Channel 4 and Nigella are talking a lot and looking at what they think is the best thing to do.
“Channel 4 are aware that Nigella is a big name and they have enjoyed working with her.
“But the show didn’t perform as well as expected. The ratings were a real disappointment.
“There was an expectation that it was going to be huge but the viewers just left in their droves. Time will tell what happens.”