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Nigella Lawson: A brand blemished but unbowed

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Updated: Sat, 07 Dec 2013 09:16:04 EST

Just how big a deal is brand in the world of celebrity chefs? Messy public eruptions around two of the food world's most powerful women show that staying true to your messaging matters.

Paula Deen's admission this summer to using racial slurs in the past was so contrary to her homespun brand of amiable Southern charm, she found her empire quickly unraveling. But recent allegations and admissions of drug use by Nigella Lawson are playing out differently, thanks to a persona built around in-your-face sensuality.

Simply put: When misdeeds get exposed, the more out of sync they are with your brand, the worse you fare. Crisis-management expert Eric Dezenhall says Lawson's troubles aren't inconsistent with how she presents herself. But racial epithets from a Southern grandmother are a different story.

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