Paula Deen is gunning for a comeback: the beleaguered ex-Food Network star had a rough year after 2013's racist testimony scandal, and she saw much of her gravy-based empire ripped out from under her. But after raising a ton of money and launching her own digital network, America's Butter Queen is hoping you're ready for the next round. Here's her strategy, in 13 steps:
1. She Raised Piles of Money
When life handed Deen lemons, she got to squeezing. Not the lemons of course, but the investors. She raised somewhere between $75 and $100 million dollars from the Phoenix-based private equity company Najafi Cos., owned by Jahm Najafi of BMG Music Service and the Book-of-the-Month Club. Money attracts money.
2. She Launched Her Own Damn Network
Who cares that the Food Network dropped her? Deen knew that the best way to get her face back on the screen fast was to just build her own online network. Away from television networks, away from other television personalities. And with stacks of investment money hanging out of her pockets, that's just what Deen did. Paula Deen Network launched on September 24. Viewers get two weeks free, after which point a subscription costs $9.99 a month or $7.99 month with a year-long subscription. All Paula, all the time.
3. She Bought Her Old Food Network Shows
$75 million buys a lot of butter, folks, and Paula Deen had to figure out somewhere to spend all that money. Step one: buying back 440 episodes of her Food Network shows, including unaired episodes of Home Cooking. These episodes are currently available to view on her digital network.
4. She Made Her Own Shows
In addition to showing the old Food Network shows, the Paula Deen Network will air original programming. This includes cooking shows, yes, but also reality shows, and, oddly, game shows. (What Did Paula Deen Just Put in My Mouth, anyone?) There are a grand total of three reality shows on the network: Let's Get Cooking, which is a behind-the-scenes show about the network. Paula's World, a sort of Kardashian-esque show about Paula's various (staged) adventures; the first has her go to a cheerleading-themed exercise class. And Savannah Stories, in which Deen takes the viewer on a tour of Savannah.
5. She Made Her Own Documentary
Not content to let an SVU episode and an E! True Hollywood Story recount her trials of 2013, Deen made her very own documentary. Made by Paula about Paula, she tells the AP that she "hope[s] to have it out the first of the year and tell everybody the true story of what really happened." Will the documentary show how Deen was misunderstood, and how she's learned the power of bad words, and how racist isn't as racist does? Probably.
6. She Organized a Press Blitz
Deen is seemingly on every television show that will have her these days. In the past week, she made cheeseballs on Fox and Friends, talked about deep-fried bacon with Mario Lopez on Extra, and fried jalapeno poppers on The Chew, where Mario Batali wished her: "Welcome home to The Chew."
7. She Apologized A Lot
Part and parcel with the above press blitz is a steady stream of apologies, so America really understands that she deeply regrets her mistakes and understands the power of words (if not the power of ingrained societal imbalances and institutional racism). Deen may have botched her initial apology attempts back in the height of PaulaDeenGate, but she's gotten better. Deen believes in forgive then forget, and is betting you do too.
8. She Used Her Sons to Bolster Her Brand
From the beginnings of PaulaDeenGate to her network launch, Deen's two sons have been brand ambassadors, ostensibly spreading goodwill and Southern charm on their mother's behalf. Shortly after the scandal erupted last summer, Bobby Deen announced he was filming an episode of Food Network's Iron Chef America. The brothers also did most of the heavy lifting in the "revisionist propaganda" that was the E! True Hollywood Story episode about Deen, appearing on camera when their mother did not. Most recently, the brothers are big part of promoting Paula Deen Network, accompanying their mother to her many, many press appearances (see above) and keeping her interviews on track and on message.
9. She Kept On Cruising
Paula Deen's partnership with Alice Travel is one of her few endorsement deals that didn't fall apart in the wake of last year's scandal. After Gawker's Caity Weaver filed an epic 7,000+ word story on what it was like to take the Paula Deen Cruise, it has become a bit of a media trend to cruise with Deen and live to write about. Hey, all press is good press?
10. She Announced a New Restaurant Opening
After her restaurant Uncle Bubba's closed abruptly and after Lady and Sons experienced empty dining rooms, Deen decided to start fresh... in Tennessee. In February, she announced that she would be opening Paula Deen's Family Kitchens in a real estate and retail development right next to Dollywood. Paula Deen's Family Kitchens servers will wear shirts that say "HEY Y'ALL."
11. She Opened a New Retail Store
With the restaurant still under construction, Deen opened a new cookware store in Tennessee. Inside the creatively named Paula Deen Store are cookbooks, salsas, and the stove Deen cooked with on her very first cooking show. Forget the millions in lost sponsorships, sister is selling herself for herself.
12. She Booked Lots of Live Appearances
Any good politician will tell you the best way to get over a scandal is to shake some hands and kiss some babies, and so Paula Deen is touring the country live and in-person. In addition to her 20-city Paula Deen Live! tour, Deen shows up at food festivals including February's South Beach Wine & Food Festival and the upcoming New York City Wine & Food Festival.
13. She Launched a Mentorship Program .... For Black Children
What do you do, though, to prove to a disappointed nation that you are not, in fact, a racist? In Paula Deen's case, she took her sons and went on Steve Harvey's show. Once there, she announced to the world her bold plan to mentor black youth. Deen will be teaching the children vital life skills like deep-frying butter and bacon in partnership with Harvey's mentoring camp for young men.
She cares, y'all.