In a twist of irony, girlfriends Paula Deen and Oprah Winfrey (with a hand from Winfrey's BFF, Gayle King) are helping each other regroup.
The three got together for a pajama party at Deen’s Savannah, Georgia home, donned rubber boots to check on the hens in the chicken coop and talk about life and loss, as show in Sunday night’s episode of Oprah’s Next Chapter on Winfrey's OWN channel, in a pitch for forgiveness and rebranding.
While Winfrey's OWN is in need of a ratings boost, Deen's in need of an image makeover following a startling revelation from the Queen of Southern cooking in January that she’s had Type 2 Diabetes for three years, an announcement that came in tandem with the news that she was being paid by Novo Nordisk to promote its diabetes drug.
The Food Network star's legions of fans and her fellow celebrity chefs were angered that Deen hadn't 'fessed up earlier, or owned up to the potential health risks posed by her butter-laden recipes. The New York Times’ Frank Bruni commented at the time, “Paula Deen copped. The woman whose best-known burger recipe uses glazed doughnuts in place of a bun announced that she has diabetes. It would have been refreshing if the circumstances hadn’t been so self-serving: she was plugging her son Bobby’s new Cooking Channel show, Not My Mama’s Meals, which is devoted to lower-calorie recipes.”
Next Deen announced she had signed on as the face (and user) of Novo Nordisk’s Victoza, a non-insulin medication taken by injection, and pledged a portion of her earnings from the reported $6 million endorsement over two years to the American Diabetes Association. Her sons Bobby and Jamie are also paid spokesmen for Deen's Diabetes in a New Light campaign for Novo Nordisk.
Undeterred, Deen recently reemerged at her 2012 South Beach Wine and Food Festival thinner. "I've dropped two pant sizes and I feel great! We don't own a scale in our house," she told People. "Every six months I go for a physical and find out. Now it's time to see the doctor. She'll be so happy if I've lost weight."
Her appearance on Winfrey's struggling OWN channel was an orchestrated attempt at contrition with her fans, including confessions of agoraphobia, overcoming difficult childhood circumstances, a prolonged affair with a married man, and ultimately her deep embrace of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer (“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”)
Comments on Deen's Facebook page have been primarily positive following the OWN appearance. Forget promoting books — Oprah's next chapter may be rehabbing other celebs' tarnished brands. (Update: it's going to take more than Winfrey to rehab Deen's latest PR crisis.)