Paula Deen Talks ‘Dancing With The Stars’ Debut

Paula Deen may be best known for cooking rich recipes with a whole lot of butter, but the former Food Network chef is going to give it her all on the new season of Dancing With the Stars. Deen told Entertainment Tonight she has her eyes on bringing home the show’s ultimate prize, the Mirror Ball trophy.

“I have gotten so many thousands upon thousands of well-wishers contacting me. It’s so important that I not let them down. I want to dance to the moon and make them proud and just bring hope.”

At age 68, Deen is the show’s oldest female contestant. She wants to inspire other women in her age group.

“I just want to bring hope, especially to older women in the middle part of their life. You can have a lot of obstacles come your way that are unexpected. I just want to help women realize that they can overcome.”

Deen is part of a cast of many lesser-known stars, leading TV Line to question ABC’s choices.

“Is this the best the show’s casting department can do?”

The website notes DWTS is a ratings draw, with last season’s finale bringing in 13.3 million viewers.

In addition to Deen, the cast includes recognizable stars such as Gary Busey, Chaka Khan, Nick Carter, and Tamar Braxton. Fans might not know jockey Victor Espinoza, but probably know his horse, American Pharoah.

Deen is paired with pro Louis van Amstel, over whom she gushed to ET.

“I feed people’s bellies, and he has fed me with movements and words — words of wisdom. He’s fed me — just not the way I’ve fed him!”

Van Amstel’s past partners include Priscilla Presley and Kelly Osbourne.

The Daily Mail reported that van Amstel was spotted eating some of Deen’s deep-fried food during a promotional event for DWTS. Deen chose to change some of her eating and cooking habits after a diabetes diagnosis in 2009.

Deen denied to TMZ that her turn on Dancing With the Stars is an attempt to restore her reputation, which was damaged in 2013 when she was sued by an employee who accused her of making racially derogatory remarks. The lawsuit was dismissed.

Paula Deen and Louis van Amstel will dance one of five styles — the cha cha, foxtrot, salsa, quickstep, or jive — to “Hey Good Lookin’,” by Carol Welsman. No one will be eliminated the first week.

Dancing With the Stars Season 21 debuts Monday, September 14, on ABC.

[Photo by Aaron Davidson / Getty Images Entertainment]