The Truth About Paula Deen Finally Revealed

The Truth About Paula Deen Finally Revealed


While you may be familiar with the allegations
and admissions that caused the Paula Deen empire to crumble, you may not know everything
about what it took to build that empire, who helped along the way, and exactly how many
crumbs are left over. Born Paula Ann Hiers in Albany, Georgia, Paula
Deen did not officially become a Deen until 1965, when the 18-year-old future celebrity
chef married her high school sweetheart. Marriage to Jimmy Deen — and no, that’s
not the same guy that makes the sausage — would quickly prove to be no picnic. His rampant alcoholism challenged the marriage’s
foundation, while Deen was kept busy raising their two young sons, Bobby and Jamie. Even though she left him much earlier, the
official legal split of the couple only came in 1992. In an excerpt from her book, Paula Deen: It
Ain’t All About The Cookin, she explained just what it was that ultimately led to the
end of the union: “He drank, and he drank way too much to suit
me.” Deen’s hard times were further expounded by
the deaths of both her parents — her father passed away when she was 19, and her mother
when she was 23. She was plunged into a state of depression
and deep anxiety, and also suffered from agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder that causes sufferers
to avoid stressful situations, often avoiding leaving the home entirely. On Oprah’s Next Chapter in 2012, Paula explained
how her agoraphobia stemmed from her deep religious beliefs, and her feeling that her
own father’s death meant that she was destined to die soon. “So at 19, I woke up every day waiting to
die. That’s heavy!” In 2008, Deen told Good Housekeeping that
she hadn’t spent much time in the kitchen as a youngster. She confessed that a very busy social life
meant it wasn’t until she was in high school that she asked her mother for cooking lessons,
but was quickly asked to leave the kitchen. It was her maternal grandmother, Irene Paul,
who had the biggest influence on her kitchen education, and who also helped her to climb
out of her lingering depression and crippling anxiety. The two spent time making Southern classics
like fried chicken and collard greens, until Deen had summoned the courage and the spare
cash to get away from her alcoholic husband and retreat with her boys and younger brother,
Bubba, to Savannah, Georgia. There, she did whatever she could do to make
ends meet, taking on jobs like selling insurance and hanging wallpaper. Her eureka moment came in 1989 when she decided
to sell “lunch-and-love-in-a-bag” to busy Savannah workers. That first company, The Bag Lady, fed the
local community Southern favorites like ham salad sandwiches and banana pudding, and paved
the way for a Deen family empire to begin to grow. The fast success of The Bag Lady saw the company
move out of the Deen house and into the small restaurant of a Savannah Best Western. Eventually, a larger space called The Lady
and Sons opened in downtown Savannah. A cookbook followed in 1998, Deen appeared
on QVC, and USA Today awarded the restaurant with its coveted “International Meal of the
Year” title in 1999. Things were looking up. Deen’s talents and down-home Southern charm
caught the eye of famed television host and producer, Gordon Elliott, who, along with
power agent Barry Weiner, campaigned for her to join the ranks of Food Network’s cadre
of chefs and home cooks. Deen was a guest on a couple of Elliott’s
shows for the network before shooting her first pilot, Afternoon Tea. She got the thumbs up for her first series,
2002’s Paula’s Home Cooking, followed by Paula’s Party in 2006. Bobby and Jamie’s own show, Road Tasted, followed
later that same year. The next few years saw no end of accomplishments. Deen launched a self-titled magazine, published
more cookbooks and a memoir, released multiple product lines, won a 2007 daytime Emmy award
for Paula’s Home Cooking, and began filming her third Food Network series, Paula’s Best
Dishes, in 2008. When Paula Deen first met her former agent,
Barry Weiner, she told him that she wanted to be the “Martha Stewart of the South.” Weiner told her that she would be even bigger. And according to the book, From Scratch: Inside
the Food Network, Weiner credits 9/11 with helping him make that ascent begin to happen. Wiener had his work cut out for him with Paula
Deen, as the Food Network did not initially jump at the chance to showcase a middle-aged,
overweight woman with a Southern drawl, especially with their programming leaning more to coastal,
high-end fare. And then 9/11 happened. Weiner pointed out to the network that the
nation was looking for comfort, at a time when, he said, “One thing that we’ve all learned because
of 9/11 is we’re all going to die, whether we eat fried chicken, or we don’t eat fried
chicken.” In her 2007 memoir, Deen credited Weiner with
being, quote, “the closest thing I’ve had to a father since my real father died.” This relationship was not nearly as enduring;
in 2013, in the midst of scandal, they parted ways. Paula Deen and company got their first nibble
of what a backlash could taste like when Deen announced her Type 2 diabetes diagnosis in
early 2012. Though many fans appreciated her candor and
her promise to shift the focus of her shows to healthier cooking methods, many others
were quick to point out that she knew about this diagnosis for some time, but had continued
to shoot her programs filled with fat- and sugar-laden recipes. Most troubling for some was the fact that
Deen announced her diagnosis at the same time that she, along with her two sons, began endorsing
the Danish diabetes medication, Victoza. Even fellow celebrities took aim at her, and
Anthony Bourdain summed up the controversy with this tweet: “Thinking of getting into the leg-breaking
business, so I can profitably sell crutches later.” Though Food Network had just started airing
Bobby Deen’s health-minded cooking show, Not My Mama’s Meals, the network claimed to have
had no prior knowledge of Deen’s diabetes diagnosis. Deen forged on with her transformation to
promote a healthier lifestyle, but public sentiment seemed to be turning for many who
criticized her many endorsement deals for everything from mattresses to coffee to controversial
Smithfield Foods. Troubles really started in 2013, when a former
employee of Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House sued the Deens, accusing them of racism, discrimination,
and sexual harassment at the workplace. The restaurant was run by Deen’s younger brother,
and while under oath for a deposition, she was asked if she had ever freely used racial
slurs. Deen replied, quote “Yes, of course.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, she also admitted
to suggesting an antebellum-themed party where all the servers would all be middle-aged African
American men, dressed as slaves. The backlash was swift as the news of Deen’s
comments went public. Deen’s camp was quick to issue a statement
claiming that Deen was merely a product of a different generation, and didn’t actually
condone racism, but the damage was largely done. Deen released a teary-eyed apology, saying,
in part, “Your color of your skin, your religion, your
sexual preference does not matter to me, but it’s […] what’s in the heart. And my family and I try to live by that. And I am here to say I am so sorry. I was wrong, yes, I’ve worked hard and I’ve
made mistakes. But that is no excuse. And I offer my sincere apology to those I
have hurt, and I hope that you forgive me, because this comes from the deepest part of
my heart.” Deen saw her contract with Food Network terminated,
and then watched as the retailers and companies she had lucrative deals with quickly severed
ties with the disgraced star. Pop culture also made it clear she was not
going to be forgiven easily. “Which N-word is she talking about, there’s
a whole bunch of N-words.” “Well, the bad one.” “Like nutrition…” “No.” Dora Charles worked for Paula Deen for 22
years, coming to her as a cook when Deen was still operating out of the Savannah Best Western. Charles quickly became an integral part of
the Deen kitchen, helping to open The Lady and Sons, then taking on major responsibilities
like training staff and developing recipes. Deen referred to Charles as her, quote, “soul-sister.” But Charles was still making $10 an hour long
after Deen and family were featured prominently on Food Network. Though Charles did enjoy perks, like jobs
for friends and family, stints on celebrity cruises where she worked without pay, but
with expenses covered, and occasional swag and goodies, it was not until the major lawsuit
hit that Charles received a salary and bonus. With mixed feelings, Charles spoke out about
the racism and ill-treatment she witnessed within the company. By 2015, Charles had left the Deens’ employ,
and published her own cookbook, A Real Southern Cook: In Her Savannah Kitchen. In the acknowledgements she wrote, quote,
“Without Paula, this book wouldn’t exist.” Anyone who has enjoyed Paula Deen’s programs
is no doubt familiar with her husband, Michael Groover. The two tied the knot in 2004, and their wedding
reception at The Lady and Sons — complete with a spread of Southern food classics like
shrimp and grits and pickled okra sandwiches — was filmed for Food Network. Groover was featured prominently in Deen’s
programs, and he even penned his own memoir which testified to the couple’s “soul mate”
bond. Divorce rumors sparked in 2013 when a tabloid
published a story claiming that Groover was having a long-time affair. Shortly after that story ran, Deen filed paperwork
to transfer the deed on the couple’s $1.3 million home over to Groover as a gift, a
move that caused many to speculate that the “gift” was actually a quiet divorce settlement. But in 2015, Deen announced that the deed
transfer had been a misunderstanding, and filed to return the house to both their names. In a 2016 blog post on Deen’s website, Deen
celebrates the couple’s 12th anniversary by reminiscing about their wedding day, saying
that she and her soul mate are still in the “honeymoon phase” of their marriage. Back in 2012, Deen was getting some serious
hate for continuing to promote her fat- and butter-heavy cooking style, making around
$10 million a year, and concealing the fact that she had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Fast forward a few years, and it appeared
that she had taken the criticism to heart. When Deen released a new cookbook in 2015,
she talked to the Huffington Post about it. Paula Deen Cuts the Fat included not just
a whole bunch of new recipes, but 50 old favorites remastered to include healthier ingredients. She said that her tastes had changed, noting: “Habits form very quickly, and once you start
modifying the way you eat, you end up forming a new, healthier habit.” And it seemed she had taken her own advice. By that same year, she had shed an impressive
40 pounds, and had told Doctor Oz that even though she hadn’t accepted her diagnosis at
first, she finally kicked it into high gear. “I went home to my kitchen and I threw out
everything that was white. White bread, white rice, white potatoes, and
white pasta. […] The thing that I’m trying to really
focus on, y’all, is moderation, moderation, moderation.” Watch her on television or in an interview,
and most of the time, you get the impression that Paula Deen is just a sweet, grandmotherly
southern lady. But some of the things she says and does are
shockingly R-rated. In 2012, The NY Post got ahold of a blooper
reel with a weird story. According to them, the video was originally
given to a group called Celebrity Chefs Tour, with instructions it was to be played before
her live cooking demonstrations. But it was filled with so much profanity that
they refused to show it, and it became the topic of a lawsuit and the reason for Deen
backing out of a 10-city tour. And it’s bad. When CNN played it, they bleeped almost everything,
and didn’t even show the part where she made some decidedly indecent gestures with an eclair. Many of the words she’s been overheard using
can’t be repeated in polite company, and she apparently has a tendency to share way too
much on her celebrity cruises, including the strangest places she’d gotten intimate with
her husband. TMI. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Mashed videos about your favorite
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