Alison Roman is a typical Karen. And that's a shame
By Buhle Mbonambi May 13, 2020
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As a food writer and editor, a big chunk of my work is me reading what other food writers have written about food, the recipes they have come up with, interviews they have done with chefs, restaurateurs, sommeliers and cook book authors. Alison Roman was one of those whose work I have consumed over the years. And I liked her.
She is young, edgy and has fun with food. She's not as serious as other food writers I have come across and whenever I read her work, I'm always left inspired because I think the food journalism industry is in good hands. When she joined the New York Times's Cooking department, I was excited.
Not that I don't like Sam Sifton, Melissa Clark and David Tanis, but I felt like she was the young writer who would bring about that millennial excitement. This was evident in the food she chose to write about, which ranges from anchovies and sardines, cauliflower pasta, to dinner toast, Brussels sprouts and sassy chicken soup.
Even the headlines of her articles on NYTimes Cooking, make you literally want to click and read. And then when you have run out of free articles to read, gnash your teeth and wait for the next month when the free quota returns.
So I was shocked when this past weekend she was the source of the food world's latest controversy.
When I saw her name trending, I thought she had written another interesting story. Alas. It turns out she had made some really unfortunate comments about Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo during an interview.
"Like, what Chrissy Teigen has done is so crazy to me. She had a successful cookbook. And then it was like: Boom, line at Target. Boom, now she has an Instagram page that has over a million followers where it’s just, like, people running a content farm for her. That horrifies me and it’s not something that I ever want to do. I don’t aspire to that. But like, who’s laughing now? Because she’s making a ton of f*cking money."
This is what she said in an interview with The New Consumer, which is website which publishes stories about 'how and why people spend their time and money.'
This was in response to the interviewer, Dan Frommer, asking her if she had plans to monetize her fame and create products. Answering the same question, she also mentioned Kondo, who many will know from the hit Netflix docu-series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.
"Like the idea that when Marie Kondo decided to capitalize on her fame and make stuff that you can buy, that is completely antithetical to everything she’s ever taught you… I’m like, damn, bitch, you fucking just sold out immediately! Someone’s like “you should make stuff,” and she’s like, “okay, slap my name on it, I don’t give a shit!”
I was taken aback because I didn't think she would have such negative feelings about both women, especially women who have worked hard in the very competitive lifestyle and quackery industry. It is rare for women of colour to be successful in this industry and that both Kondo and Teigen are successful, has been inspirational to many women of Asian descent.
While many initially followed Teigen because she was a swimwear model and John Legend's witty wife, those of us who have been following her for a while, know about her love for food. She shares most of her cooking exploits on social media and even asks for input from her followers on how to make certain things. She judged MTV's food show, Snack Off and in a 2014 profile, the New York Times called Teigen one of the funniest and unlikeliest voices about food on Twitter. She has been entrenched in the food scene for a very long time.
So that Roman thinks Teigen now has a content farm, with people doing work for her, only for Teigen to basically approve it, is downright ridiculous and honestly, pure jealousy.
And what was the big deal about Kondo slapping her name on a few products? I would buy them because they would probably force me to keep my apartment cleaner than it usually is and stop hoarding unnecessarily.
I winced while reading just how invidious she actually sounded to both these women. What was so wrong about their success to her? That brands deemed them worthy to collaborate with?
And worse, she singled out two Asian women who happen to live in Donald Trump's America, which sees more intolerance levelled at them by the right-leaning citizens of the country?
It was also disappointing to see two NYTimes writers I follow, Caity Weaver and Taffy Brodesser-Akner coming to her defence. It once again just to light just how important intersectional feminism is. Had they, in their haste to show support to one of their own, just missed an opportunity to disprove the belief that many have that White women only care about issues that affect them?
Had they, in the midst of everything, just become Karens (Urban Dictionary describes Karens as: "a kind of person who is unhappy when little things don't go their way. They are a, “Can I speak to your manager?” kind of gal)?
Teigen responded to the article with a Twitter thread showing just how hurt she was over the whole debacle.
"I genuinely loved everything about Alison. Was jealous she got to have a book with food on the cover instead of a face!! I've made countless NYT recipes she's created, posting along the way. I don't think I've ever been so bummed out by the words of a fellow food-lover. I just had no idea I was perceived that way, by her especially. And Marie, too. Marie is awesome."
this is a huge bummer and hit me hard. I have made her recipes for years now, bought the cookbooks, supported her on social and praised her in interviews. I even signed on to executive produce the very show she talks about doing in this article. https://t.co/9xrvQBInAp
On Monday, Roman released a long apology on Twitter, where she apologised to both women, saying: “Why couldn’t I express myself without tearing someone down? I definitely could have, and I’m embarrassed I didn’t. Among the many uncomfortable things I’ve begun processing is the knowledge that my comments were rooted in my own insecurity... The fact that it didn’t occur to me that I had singled out to two Asian women is one hundred percent a function of my privilege (being blind to racial insensitivities is a discriminatory luxury).”
I’ve thought a lot this weekend about my interview and the things I said. I know this is a lengthy note (succinctness has never been my strong suit). I appreciate you taking the time to read. pic.twitter.com/3iGAyN3c9d
It's just so disappointing that in an era where being woke is not only important, but it is now how many of us choose to support people.
Her choosing to be obtuse and literally attack low hanging fruit instead of, I don't know, Gwyneth Paltrow's quackery, really bugs me. She even labelled Kondo a sellout and casually described the Japanese author as a “b—-.”
How tone deaf.
But the irony of this whole thing is, few people outside of the food world even knew who she is. That's the one question a lot of people were asking- "Who is this Alison Roman."
So instead of talented food writer, recipe developer and cook book author she is, she will now be reduced to 'that NYTimes writer who shaded Chrissy and Marie'.
What's even sadder is that Teigen had actually signed on to executive produce a food show that Roman has signed on to do.
Unfortunately for Roman, she has lost a lot of respect from many of us who admired her work. When you choose to be so blind to your privilege and say the most hurtful things about women of colour and their economic success, tells me everything I need to know about you. And it's not pretty.