Paula Deen went through a period not so long ago when it seemed like she was in the crosshairs most of the time. If she wasn’t being criticized for her liberal usage of butter, she was being excoriated for racial language she used 25 years ago.
At the height of her battle, Paula Deen was sued by a former employee claiming racial discrimination. The courts dropped the charge of racism like a hot potato — one with lots of butter, y’all — but the louder elements of the court of public opinion cried foul and arguably caused Deen more headache and harm than settling or losing the lawsuit could have. The fallout eventually led to the Food Network dropping Paula Deen from their stable of celebrity cooks after many of her sponsors dropped her.
The battle got bizarre as people started to question her personal life, including rumors about infidelities within her marriage. One porn company, seeking to capitalize on the scandal — or maybe just to draw attention to itself — even offered Paula a six figure sum to participate in one of its productions.
Deen was not without her supporters. Oprah Winfrey expressed understanding towards Paula Deen, who had already apologized for using racist language when she was in her 20s. Even rival cooking host Anthony Bourdain put aside his differences to express support for Paula. Bill Maher spoke up for her.
Deen’s biggest support, however, came from her fans, who continued to buy her books — in fact, her books sales went through the roof in the wake of the scandal. Many of them even protested retailers who discontinued Paula Deen-related products by mailing them butter wrappers.
Finding herself with a large fan base but networks hesitant to take on the baggage that came in the wake of the racism allegations, Paula Deen decided to reinvent herself instead of packing it in and calling it a career. As a result, she is launching The Paula Deen Network, a digital network that is slated to bring fans unscripted cooking shows, recipes, product reviews, and guest appearances, according to a report in Forbes that goes so far as to suggest Paula Deen’s stratagem may be the future of television.
Speaking at the opening of her retail store in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Paula Deen said of her new direction:
“At my age you think, ‘Oh gosh, can I do this? I’m kind of tired.’ But when I get around these people, I have an energy you would not believe.”
What do you think? Will you be watching The Paula Deen Network when it launches this fall?