Paula Deen is ready to tell her side of the story behind the racist remark that decimated her career, but you'll need to pay to hear it.
The former Food Network star has been working on a documentary about herself and her downfall – triggered in 2013 by her acknowledgment that she’d used a racial slur in the past – but it will only be available to subscribers of her new website, the Paula Deen Network. Recipe content on the site will be free, but viewers will need to pay $9.99 a month to view videos.
“We hope to have it out the first of the year and tell everybody the true story of what really happened,” Deen said of the documentary during a recent telephone interview. “It was a painful year for me. It was a hurtful year when I found myself being labeled for something I was not.”
The website, which launches Wednesday, will feature an ambitious array of original video content, including traditional cooking shows as well as lifestyle and game show segments, all starring Deen and her sons. The site, which will include no outside advertising or sponsors, also includes thousands of Deen’s recipes, as well as menu planning tools.
The site and documentary are part of a larger effort by the star and her backers to resuscitate her career after a one-two punch of public relations disasters cost her nearly all her book, TV and endorsement deals.
In 2012, she was criticized for announcing she had both diabetes and a lucrative endorsement deal for a drug to treat the condition she’d until then hidden. A year later, during a legal dispute with a former employee who accused her of racial discrimination and sexual harassment, she acknowledged having used racial slurs in the past.
The experience was painful, but valuable, Deen told the AP. “I learned the power of words, how they have the ability to hurt and once you say certain words you can’t un-ring it, not even 30 years later.”
Deen – whose comeback effort began earlier this year, when private investment firm Najafi Companies put up $75 million to $100 million to rebuild her – said she had opportunities to return to traditional television, but both she and her fans preferred the flexibility and social elements of the digital world.
The new site, which is being overseen by longtime Deen producer Gordon Elliot, also will feature all of the content Deen produced during her more than 10 years at the Food Network. The network parted ways with her following the revelations about her comments. Deen wouldn’t say how much it cost to acquire the videos, only that it was “very valuable to us.” That content will be slowly rolled out for subscribers.
AP Food Editor J.M. Hirsch can be reached at jhirsch(at)ap.org and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM–Hirsch