Paula Deen Compares Her Struggle to ‘That Black’ Gay Football Player
By Albert Lin
Paula Deen is back … and comparing herself to “that Black football player who recently came out,” Michael Sam.
In a cover-story interview with People magazine, Deen somehow likened the struggles with her public image to Sam, who hopes to get drafted in May and become the first openly gay active NFL player.
“I feel like ‘embattled’ or ‘disgraced’ will always follow my name. It’s like that Black football player who recently came out,” she said, according to TheWrap.com. “He said, ‘I just want to be known as a football player. I don’t want to be known as a gay football player.’ I know exactly what he’s saying.”
Deen’s massive empire—ranging from her own line of kitchenware to a regular TV show on the Food Network—fell apart last year when she admitted during a court deposition to having used the N-word. Her response, including tearful apologies, only made her situation worse.
“When I woke up each morning, it was like my world was crashing down again,” she told People. “I’m fighting to get my name back.”
Food Network cancelled Deen’s contract in light of her revelations, and Caesar’s Entertainment shut down her Paula Deen’s Kitchen restaurants, which had operated in four casinos. Walmart, Target and Kmart stopped selling her line of cookware, and Smithfield Foods ended its endorsement deal with Deen, who reportedly earned $18 million in 2012.
The lawsuit for which Deen was giving a deposition was ultimately settled out of court.
But the cash train to Deen’s pocketbook appears to be back on track. Private equity firm Najafi Companies—which has invested in the Phoenix Suns of the NBA, the Book of the Month Club and airline catalog SkyMall in the past—has committed $75 million to $100 million to get Paula Deen Ventures up and running. The new company is reportedly in talks with a TV network—not Food Network—to get Deen on the air once again.
“We know that the enterprise will be successful and valuable, as Paula and her team continue to bring quality products and experiences to her loyal fan base,” Jahm Najafi, CEO of Najafi Companies, said in a statement.
Steven Nanula, who worked with Deen through her old enterprise’s collapse, will run the new Paula Deen Ventures.