Friday, July 5, 2013

Still under fire, Paula Deen axes longtime agent

Apparently feeling her agent could have done better in terms of protecting her image, assets, and endorsements, celebrity chef Paula Deen has severed ties to her longtime agent, New York City's Barry Weiner, she announced on Thursday. Deen has been in the crosshairs since admitting she has used a racial slur -- the n-word -- in the past.

Deen picked a somewhat ironic day -- or perhaps representative of her feelings -- to make the announcement. It was, of course, Independence Day, and Deen was expressing her independence from Weiner, who had represented her for more than a decade.

Although the obvious assumption would be that the firing has something to do with her recent issues, Deen gave no reason for parting with Weiner in a prepared statement:

Deen's spokeswoman, Elana Weiss, said:
Paula Deen has separated from her agent. She and her family thank him for the tireless effort and dedication over the many years.
Deen has previously said that Weiner was instrumental in getting her show "Paula's Home Cooking" on the Food Network in 2002. However, the channel recently passed on renewing her contract after revelations of her past n-word use became known.

A number of other companies associated with Deen have dropped her, including Smithfield Foods, Walmart, and Target. The publisher Ballantine dropped plans for an upcoming cookbook even though it was the No. one seller on in pre-sale mode. Novo Nordisk, the diabetes drug company -- Deen has type 2 diabetes -- that had hired Deen as a paid spokeswoman dumped her, as well.

Deen's fortunes began sinking after testimony she made as part of a civil lawsuit became known. That suit was filed last year by Lisa Jackson, a former manager of Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House, which Deen co-owns with her brother, Bubba Hiers. Jackson says she was both sexually harassed and worked in an environment filled with racial slurs and innuendo.

It was Deen's own testimony, not the lawsuit, which proved most damaging. When asked as part of her deposition if she had ever used the n-word, she replied: "Yes, of course," though she also insisted "it's been a very long time."

In a later apology issued by her company, Deen said she was a victim of the times, her upbringing, and the area she was brought up in -- the South.
[Paula] was born 60 years ago when America's South had schools that were segregated, different bathrooms, different restaurants and Americans rode in different parts of the bus. This is not today.
None of these apologies have taken with consumers or sponsors, to this point, though somm smaller companies have vowed to stick by her.

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