Celebrity chef Paula Deen’s recent racist slurs have made serious impacts on her image and career. The wounds are still fresh for many, so it probably won’t be changing any time soon, despite her begging for forgiveness on national television.
It all started last May, when a former manager Lisa Jackson at her Georgia restaurant, Lady and Sons, filed a $1.2 million lawsuit against Paula Deen and her brother Earl, claiming that she had used derogatory racial slurs. Jackson also commented that she felt the pattern of discrimination was mostly due to Earl’s method of management in the restaurant, as he and other male authorities including Karl Schumacher would repeatedly call Ms. Jackson as “almost Jewish” among a number of Jewish-related slurs. Although Jackson had offered to settle the case with Deen for $1.25 million, she refused.
Another allegation was that Paula was vocal about her plans to hold a civil-war themed wedding for her brother, where the reception would have black men dressed to emulate slaves. The lawsuit wasn’t publicized until June 19 when an American tabloid published the transcript of her deposition. When Paula’s representatives were contacted to comment on the issue and validate the tabloid’s reports, they confirmed that indeed, the deposition had happened.
On June 20, a statement was released from Paula Deen Enterprises which was intended to explain her side, but which seemed to make things worse. It seemed that it started the domino effect, which caused a crumble on the Paula Deen empire. The following day, June 21, she was scheduled to appear in an interview on The Today Show, but cancelled at the last minute, adding to the speculations.
The damage has been done
As soon as Paula’s partner endorsements learned of the news, one by one they started canceling contracts with her. It’s estimated that she could lose up to $17 million in cancelled contracts.
The Food Network, where Paula stars in cooking shows, was one of the first to back out, saying that they would not renew the contract when it’s set to expire at the end of July 2013. It is reported that she was making up to $20,000 per episode from The Food Network alone. Despite Paula’s public apology, The Food Network abruptly ended their 14 years of business relationship with Paula. Another food company, Smithfields Foods where Paula was a spokeswoman for and which carried her name brand hams, also dropped her like a hot potato following the news.
Paula also has endorsements with Sears, who quickly followed suit. They came out with a statement saying that they would phase out all Paula’s brand products in the department store, although claiming that they will continue to evaluate the situation.
Another major chunk of Paula’s enterprise lies in her Wal-Mart endorsements, which cut ties with her. The retail giant had been selling a number of various household products under her name, which included food and health items. These were distributed to the 3,000 Wal-Mart branches around the country. They further said that while they will honor existing orders, they will no longer renew inventory and instead work with other suppliers.
On top of that, one of the latest casualties was the partnership with Caesars Casinos. The company issued an official statement where they said they had no intentions of renewing the relationship, although they appreciate her apology. The company also expressed that the move was for the best interest of both parties involved. The Caesar partnership cancelled the operation of four Paula Deen Buffets in four casinos, which will be undergoing a rebranding strategy in the upcoming months.
Adding insult to injury
Some are speculating that the “N”word scandal may just be the icing on the cake, as she hasn’t had the cleanest reputation in the past few years either. Food Network viewers were angry for her promotion of fatty, sugary, and buttery foods, knowing full well the side effects and repercussions of each. Audiences found it hypocritical as it was a known fact that Paula is a diabetic, and therefore could not even eat what she was cooking on her shows.
What added more insult to injury was her partnership with Novo Nordisk, a diabetes pharmaceutical company. While the exact terms of the contract are unknown, viewers find it difficult to believe in the sincerity of the partnership with the company knowing full well the kinds of meals she endorses in her shows. Although some speculated that her illness may contribute to decreasing her earnings; the opposite is true: She’s actually earning a cool $6 million more for a three year deal with the drug company.
What’s more, is that instead of turning around her style of cooking, she used diabetes as a way to earn more publicity. She appeared on the covers of magazines, where she claims to have lost thirty pounds from portion control.
Some of the popular dishes she was promoting on her show included deep fried lasagna, chocolate cheese fudge, Krispy Kreme bread pudding, and many other dishes that made additional use of sugar and butter.
Not everyone is setting sail
While most other companies are outraged at Paula’s move and cancelling business relationships, she still has a strong fan base. In fact, it’s been noted that the interest in the annual Paula Deen cruise has spiked significantly with the recent scandal. There have been even more interested passengers that the organizers had to add new departure dates for 2014’s cruises.
Each year, around 500 participants attend the Paula Deen cruise, which is seen to increase significantly for 2014. Travel organizers Alice Travel stated that as long as Paula goes, the cruise will be pushing through. The 2014 cruise will be an 8-day trip on the Celebrity Reflection, which is the newest Celebrity Cruises ship. A summer cruise will follow to meet the heightened demand, onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, for which a number of families have already made bookings for.
It is also noticed that the attendees of Paula’s cruise are a diverse group of people, coming from all racial backgrounds, sexual preferences, and ages.
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