Culture

Junk Explained: What The Hell Is Going On Between Chrissy Teigen and Alison Roman?

After Alison Roman's insensitive comments about Chrissy Teigen (and Marie Kondo), people started trying to cancel the both of them.

Chrissy Teigen and Alison Roman

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Over the last few days, Twitter has been abuzz following the unlikely feud between Alison Roman and Chrissy Teigen (and to a lesser extent, Marie Kondo too).

Yep, two months into quarantine and the food influencers are duking it out. The lukewarm drama between Roman And Teigen started late last week, and has already resulted in locked Twitter accounts, public apologies, resurfaced posts, claims of racism, and cancelled celebrities. So strap in and let’s unpack exactly what’s going on.

First, Who Are Chrissy Teigen And Alison Roman?

If you’re reading this, you likely already know who Chrissy Teigen is — a Thai-American model, who is most known for being married to John Legend and absolutely clowning him online. In recent years, Chrissy has become a social media sensation for her “I’m a celebrity, but I’m relatable”-style posts online.

Beyond just being a generally well-loved celebrity figure, Chrissy is also co-host of shows like Lip Sync Battle, and most recently has shifted her focus onto food. Being very close to her Thai mother, Chrissy has been able to carve a niche in the food industry as a reliable source for authentic Asian-inspired and big flavour recipes through her two best-selling cookbooks, Cravings and Cravings: Hungry For More. 

Along with her cookbooks, Chrissy’s foray into the food world was accompanied by a very popular Instagram page, YouTube tutorials and a website full of blog posts and recipes. To complete her cooking empire, Chrissy also partnered with Target to release a Cravings by Chrissy Teigen cookware and kitchen line with items like cast iron pans, spoons, chopping boards and serving bowls.

On the other side of the feud is another big player in the food world, Alison Roman. Just like Chrissy Teigen, Alison is also a food personality, best-selling cookbook author (Dining In and Nothing Fancy), and a columnist in the New York Times. Alison started her career in the food industry as a sous chef at Momofuku Milk Bar before transitioning into writing by working at popular food magazine, Bon Appétit, followed by a short stint in BuzzFeed’s food vertical.

In recent years, Alison has gained a cult following for her ~millenial-friendly~ online recipes that are often easy, cheap and tasty. You may have stumbled across your friends recreating her famed viral dishes — that are often known by simple names like ‘The Stew‘ or ‘The Pasta‘ — on your social media, especially during quarantine.

Chrissy Teigen and Alison Roman, while existing in the same food influencer industry, appear to have never actually met in person. However, the pair are linked through Alison Roman’s currently unnamed new television cooking show, which Chrissy Teigen recently signed on to executive produce.  Despite this, Alison still had some choice words to say about Chrissy joining the (very white-washed) industry that Alison found her fame in.

So, What’s The Beef?

The drama started on May 7 when Alison Roman did an interview with The New Consumer reflecting on the brand she’s crafted, and what her plans for the future are. Using the interview to announce her new “capsule collection” with Material and upcoming cooking show, Alison took the moment to criticise both Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo for the capitalising on, and expanding their brands — the exact thing that Alison, herself, was doing.

Despite announcing her own consumer goods within the same interview, Alison noted that she dislikes when celebrities use their popularity to sell product. Taking example from Chrissy Teigen’s super successful Cravings empire, Alison said: “That horrifies me, and it’s not something that I ever want to do. I don’t aspire to that.”

“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.”

Trying to justify that her own collection is somehow different to Chrissy Teigen’s, Alison explained that her items are limited-edition and are just “a few tools that I designed that are based on tools that I use that aren’t in production anywhere.”

The interview also targeted Marie Kondo, another Asian woman who was able to expand her brand off the back of Netflix’s Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. After her series blew up, Marie Kondo opened KonMari, an online store full of useful items that she felt sparked joy. This didn’t sit well with Alison who called the move “antithetical” and “greedy”.

“The idea that when Marie Kondo decided to capitalise 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!” Alison shared in the interview.

Following the interview, Chrissy Teigen stumbled upon Alison Roman’s comments about her and tweeted her disappointment in someone who she looked up to.

Addressing the comments that Alison made, Chrissy explained that Cravings isn’t a sell-out to make money, but rather a passion project in follow-up tweets.

“I started Cravings because I wanted something for myself. I wanted something John didn’t buy, I wanted something to do that calmed me, made me happy and made others happy, too. Cravings isn’t a ‘machine’ or “farmed content” — it’s me and two other women,” Chrissy wrote.

“I didn’t ‘sell out’ by making my dreams come true. To have a cookware line, to get to be a part of that process start to finish, to see something go from sketch to in my hands, I love that,” she continued. “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.”

“There are many days I cry very hard because Cravings, the site, is our baby [that] we love to pump content onto,” Chrissy concluded. “We do this work ourselves, and there is NO monetary gain yet. It is just work, work, work and the reward is you liking it. So to be called a sellout ….hooooo it hurts.”

The Backlash On Both Sides

Soon after the beef hit the timeline, Alison Roman tweeted that that she had emailed over an apology to Chrissy, and called her criticisms “flippant and careless”. But the damage had already been done.

Online, people were quick to notice that the two women, who Alison called out in her interview, happened to be people of colour — specifically, two Asian women. Despite many white women capitalising on similar lifestyle industries, like Gwyneth Paltrow with Goop, Alison failed to mention these people while criticising women of colour as sellouts.

These comments were particularly harmful because many of Alison Roman’s popular recipes are simply gentrified versions of Asian and Middle Eastern dishes — like her Pork Noodle Soup or infamous ‘Spiced Chickpea Stew’.

While that isn’t to say that white people aren’t allowed to cook curries or soups, it’s merely a sign that the food industry is dominated by white women adapting cultural dishes. So to tear down Chrissy Teigen, a woman of colour, for cooking her traditional recipes and turning her passion into a career is a pretty low blow.

Beyond Alison’s comments being hypocritical, considering she was pushing her own products in the same interview she criticised Marie and Chrissy in, the idea that she isn’t a sell-out herself was also called out. In particular, Twitter user @notfolu shared that back in 2018, Alison Roman offered a food tour of Vietnam to make some extra cash.

It’s especially questionable when you read the description of the trip, which reveals that “this is [Alison’s] first trip to Vietnam and she wants to share it with YOU”. Despite never having been to Vietnam and being a white woman with no cultural ties to the food or country, this was a very obvious attempt of Alison trying cashing in on her brand — something she criticised Marie Kondo and Chrissy Teigen for doing.

A more recent example is also the cooking show that both Teigen and Roman were set to work on together, which will likely earn Alison a pretty penny for her time. But by Alison’s definition of selling out, doesn’t this also make her a sell out for capitalising on her brand and success too?

But it wasn’t only Alison Roman who felt the force of a public feud. After the fight went viral, people started uncovering Chrissy Tiegen’s own skeletons, too, including comments from 2013 regarding then nine-year-old Academy Award nominee, Quvenzhané Wallis.

As a result of this information being uncovered, Chrissy was bombarded with hate messages. Particularly, by people calling her children — who were born via IVF — “petri dish babies” and crafting fake flight manifests to “Epstein Island” with her name on it.

Dealing with it the only way she knew how, Chrissy decided to “take a break” from Twitter and put her account on private. “This is what always happens,” she tweeted before leaving. “The first day, a ton of support, then the next a million reasons as to why you deserved this. It never fails.”

The Official Apology And The Next Steps

This morning, approximately five days after the initial interview went live, Alison Roman published her formal apology onto her social media accounts.

In the apology, Alison called her actions “stupid, careless and insensitive” and explained that her “tone deaf” comments came from her “own insecurity”.

Addressing the criticism over being a white person coming for women of colour, Alison shared that she wants to “lift up and support women of colour [even though her] actions indicated the opposite.”

“I’m a white woman who has, and will continue to, benefit from white privilege and I recognise that makes what I said even more inexcusable and hurtful,” she wrote. “The fact that it didn’t occur to me that I had singled out two Asian women is one hundred percent a function of my privilege.”

Attaching her email address in the apology, Alison invited anyone, who wanted to share their knowledge, guidance or opinions on the wider conversation of cultural appropriation in the food world, to reach out to her.

“It is no one’s obligation to accept my apology or help me improve. That said, I want to be a better listener about these and many other issues,” she wrote. “I know some will use this as an opportunity to express their anger. I hope many will share advice. I will read it all.”

In response, Chrissy put her Twitter account back on public and accepted the apology like nothing had happened. Saying that she didn’t expect Alison to apologise for the opinion she held, Chrissy expressed that she was only hurt because the comments came from someone she looked up to — swiftly diminishing the wider, underlying issues of Alison’s comments.

In some follow up tweets, Chrissy said she “doesn’t agree with the pile-on” that Alison Roman recieved and noted that the two of them “are alike in so many ways.”

“I remember the exact time I realised I wasn’t allowed to say whatever popped in my head — that I couldn’t just say things in the way that so many of my friends were saying,” Chrissy shared. “Eventually, I realised that once the relatable ‘snarky girl who didn’t care’ became a pretty successful cookbook author and had more power in the industry, I couldn’t just say whatever the fuck I wanted. The more we grow, the more we get those wakeup calls.”

In the end, Chrissy Teigen said that she appreciated the apology and hoped that they could all learn from “the dumb shit we have all said and done”.

However, while Chrissy and Alison may have hashed out their differences, they have both started a wider conversation and critique of the food industry as a whole. For Alison Roman, she has now decided to start the journey to be more educated in regards to her privelege within the white-dominated food industry.