The Fall of Famous Foodies

Posted by on July 3rd, 2013

Nobody is perfect. We are all flawed.  We can see that as we watch the public whipping of Paula Deen. As a fan of hers  (and a food blogger – insert shameless plug here), of course I’m disappointed and saddened by her recent admission to using racial slurs and her “apology” tour – because that’s what we make our fallen celebrities do these days. One by one, nearly all of her business ventures and partnerships have fallen through and her brand has been irreparably harmed.

And poor Nigella Lawson. I say that not only because her husband is a class-A (word-my-company-won’t-allow-in-our-blog), but because I now know first-hand the abuse she suffered after seeing the photos that were plastered all over the Internet. One can argue that it’s good that those photos were leaked because it got her out (or at least on the way out) of an abusive situation. At the same time, I can’t help but think, did she leave her husband because her brand was now damaged? If she stayed with him, would her “brand” as the beacon of domestic bliss be seen as inauthentic because we now know that she was going home to a guy who slapped her around?  Instead of the sassy, sultry TV cook, she is now deemed a victim, someone to be pitied.

“People as Brands” with decades of good work and success can be turned on so quickly by the public and personally, professionally and financially leveled. And we as a society thrive on it. Social media and 24-hour “news” makes it so easy for us to be the judge, juror and executioner. Brands couldn’t drop Ms. Deen fast enough and the press is having a field day watching Ms. Lawson move out of her house while everyone speculates on the reason her husband decided to choke her in public (as if it matters).

It feels icky.  It feels icky that I was a fan of Paula Deen and now that’s a bad thing. It feels icky that Nigella Lawson was outwardly the domestic goddess while her home life was in shambles.  Should things like this even matter to brands?  Paula Deen is hocking her brand as “a simple Southern Cook,” not as an expert in race relations. Nigella Lawson was dubbed “The Domestic Goddess” not the poster girl for dealing with domestic violence.

My point is these “People as Brands” get complicated because the “people” are more than their brand. They are spouses, employers, family members, etc.  The pressure to be perfect must be overwhelming. I’m not saying the brands that severed ties with Ms. Deen are wrong, but I think it says something about our culture when we tear people to shreds once we realize they are not perfect.  Because obviously – we all are!