Monday, August 8, 2022

What Happened to Paula Deen- News & Updates

Paula Deen’s television career started in 1999, but it wasn’t until her career abruptly ended in 2013 that she became a household name. A celebrity chef with a series of books and three different shows on the Food Network, Deen had a reputation as a traditional Southern chef and represented a cooking style the Food Network didn’t really have (until Guy Fieri.)

But in 2013, during a lawsuit accusing Deen of sexual and racial discrimination, she admitted to having used a specific racial slur, though many years before the incident the lawsuit covered. The admission still led to criticism from the media, and Paula Deen released apology videos on social media. Food Network (and many other partners) canceled their contracts with her.

Since then, Paula Deen has slowly been working her way back into the spotlight. So what’s she doing these days?

Paula Deen’s Early Life

Paula Ann Hiers was born in Albany, Georgia, in 1947. She married Jimmy Deen when she was 18, and together they had two sons, Jamie and Bobby. When her children were young, Deen’s own parents passed away, and the combined stress led to Paula Deen developing agoraphobia and anxiety.

This led to her spending a lot of time in the kitchen since she could cook for her family without leaving the house. In the mid-80s the family relocated to Savannah, Georgia. A couple years later she left Jimmy Deen, taking their children with her. Paula worked past her anxieties, taking numerous small jobs to provide for her family.

In 1990 she decided to apply what she’d learned in her kitchen, and started a catering service, which she called The Bag Lady. She prepared meals and lunches, which her sons delivered.

Paula Deen’s cooking was popular enough that within a year, she opened her first restaurant, which she called The Lady. By 1996, she opened a second restaurant in downtown Savannah, The Lady & Sons. That restaurant moved to a bigger building within a couple years and began to gain national notoriety. Paula Deen released two cookbooks to take advantage of the attention her restaurant was receiving: The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cooking.

USA Today picked The Lady & Sons buffet as the “International Meal of the Year” in 1999, and later that year, Paula Deen made her first appearance on Food Network.

Paul Deen on Television

Paula Deen’s first appearance on Food Network was in Doorknock Dinners, where she was taken into the home of a busy family and tried to make the best meal she could out of what they had. Later that year she competed in Ready… Set… Cook!, an early cooking game show where chefs were paired with members of the audience.

Paula Deen during the first season of Paula's Home Kitchen
Paula Deen during the first season of Paula’s Home Kitchen

In 2001, Paula Deen shot a pilot for the network, which they enjoyed. She began filming for Paula’s Home Cooking later that year. Fun bit of trivia, the first few seasons of the show were actually filmed in the executive producer’s home in upstate New York.

Paula’s Home Cooking was immensely popular, and one of the last formulaic meal prep shows Food Network produced. It led to Paula’s Party, in 2006, a show focused on preparing meals for large gatherings, and Paula’s Best Dishes, a reworking of Paula’s personal favorites from her restaurants and personal recipes. In 2008 and 2009, Paula Deen had three different shows airing on Food Network.

While working with Food Network, Paula Deen continued to release more cookbooks and even released a memoir in 2007. She also released her own lifestyle magazine, Cooking with Paula Deen, which continues to release new issues.

Paula Deen’s Controversy

In 2013, Paula Deen was accused of making inappropriate racial remarks while discussing plans for her brother’s wedding. A lawsuit was filed, but the judge dismissed it in August.

The deposition for the case led to Paula Deen admitting that she had used a specific racial slur in the past. One incident she remembered was when she was a bank teller in 1989 and her bank was robbed, and she said that at other points in the past she had also likely said the word.

The admission led to multiple partners canceling their contracts with Paula Deen. Walmart, Target, QVC, Sears, K-Mart, and her publisher all canceled their deals.

The controversy was lampooned in late-night television, and referenced in many pieces of pop culture. Earlier this year, Orange Is The New Black had a character who was a celebrity Southern chef and the cause of her own racist controversy.

Discussion of Paula Deen even led to former President Jimmy Carter urging the nation to forgive Deen, saying she had been punished “perhaps overly severely” for simply being honest about her past.

Regardless, the controversy has severely limited Paula Deen’s career. But not completely ended it.

What’s Paula Deen Doing Now in 2018 – Recent Updates

After the 2013 controversy, Deen took a more hands-on role with her restaurants, opening the flagship of a new series in 2015 with Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. (A second location is coming to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in 2017.)

Paula Deen's Family Kitchen, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

And although she left Food Network, she didn’t leave television entirely. She had her own channel through Roku for a while and was a contestant on the 21st season of Dancing with the Stars.

Most recently, Paula Deen announced Positively Paula, which will be syndicated on 40 different broadcast networks starting on October 15th. The show was filmed in her home, like later seasons of her Food Network presence, and even has a few celebrity guest appearances.

Paula Deen might never get back to where she was in the 2000s – in part due to the 2013 lawsuit, but also because Food Network has changed what sort of shows they run. I don’t know if she’d have a place on the network today, even if her reputation hadn’t taken a hit.

But she clearly isn’t finished showing up on television, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a second memoir in stores within a couple years.

Morgan Sennhauser
Morgan Sennhauser is a thoroughbred millennial, who has focused on working against censorship and surveillance in Africa and the Middle East. Now living in North Carolina, Morgan spends his time advocating for minority groups in impoverished regions, and writing about related topics.
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