Paula Deen: Out Of The Lard And Into The Fire

Portly Paula Deen, the doyenne of sumptuous Southern cooking served in heaps, went on the “Today” show yesterday morning and revealed that she’d waited three years to reveal that she has Type 2 diabetes because she wanted to have a plan of action in place before she did. Within a minute of admitting to Al Roker that long-circulating rumors about her health are true, she was referring viewers to Novo Nordisk’s “Diabetes in a New Light” website.

Novo Nordisk markets diabetes drugs such as NovoLog and Victoza, which Deen is promoting directly as a paid spokeswomen for a new marketing campaign that will “help you manage every day of your life,” she says.

Tellingly, the “Bites on Today” story on MSNBC carries the headline “Paula Deen: Diabetes diagnosis won't change how I cook.” When asked whether her show, “Paula’s Best Dishes,” was going to offer different fare, Deen “didn't give a direct answer, instead encouraging viewers to practice moderation,” writes Vidya Rao.



“Here’s the thing, you know, I’ve always encouraged moderation,” Deen tells Roker. “On my show, you know, I share with you all these yummy, fattening recipes, but I tell people 'in moderation... You can have that little piece of pie ...'"

Roker brought in Roshini Raj, M.D. to the discussion, who agreed that there was no simple answer to what causes diabetes but she said that environmental factors such as diet and lack of exercise trump genetics and age. “Being overweight, in particular, is probably the most defined risk factor,” she says.

Claws were out even before yesterday’s revelation, but Deen immediately came under renewed attack. Her “decision to become a pitchwoman for a diabetes drug is leaving a bad taste in the mouths of Madison Avenue branding experts,” Suzanne Vranica reports in the Wall Street Journal atop a hed that claims “Paula Deen Pitch Hard to Swallow.”

Sources tell Vranica that Deen is sending a confusing message. “Her brand is all about ‘rich, tasty and decadent eating’ but now she is supposed to be about ‘eating healthy and low fat,’ said Allen Adamson, managing director of Landor New York, a branding firm owned by WPP PLC. ‘It's a big change to expect consumers to buy into.’”

But there is also a backlash of support for Deen. I first learned of Deen’s “Today” appearance through a Facebook post that pointed out that she has been cooking with butter since forever and “everyone loved it.” Now that she’s told the world she has diabetes, “she's the bad girl, evil, the villain. Nobody has to eat her cooking if they don't want to. Nor do they have to buy her books,” my friend writes.

In USA Today, Nanci Hellmich writes that Deen is spreading “the word about diabetes in a down-home manner” and that she’s ready for any criticism or barbs that come her way.

"I don't care what the haters and naysayers say,” Deen says. “If they make jokes about me, I'll laugh because they'll probably be funny."

"By telling her story, Paula is showing that diabetes can affect people from all walks of life," Geralyn Spollett, president of health care and education for the American Diabetes Association, tells Hellmich. That may “give people hope and perhaps motivate them to take care of themselves.”

Other sources around the net echo the sentiment that Deen is not holding a rolling pin over anyone’s head and forcing them to eat her fare.

“If Deen’s become rich showing Americans how to consume as much butterfat as possible, is that Deen’s fault?” John Birdsall blogs on “Last time I checked, cooking shows were entertainment -- what social critics call “aspirational” -- not the mandatory curriculum for home ec class.”

Julia Moskin writes in the New York Times that Deen’s announcement, was “delivered with the liveliness of the head cheerleader she was” and “testified to her savvy as an up-from-the-roots businesswoman, turning a setback into a fresh opportunity with a series of news media appearances that played out through the day.”

Andrew Essex, head of the New York marketing agency Droga5, tells Moskin that “Deen’s bid for transformation” is “ambitious.”

“There’s no question that she was the face of a certain kind of egregious indulgence,” Andrew Essex, head of Droga5, tells Moskin. “If she can now become the face of healthy living, it will be a Gatsby-esque turnaround.”

Now this is where I’d usually turn to Wikipedia to check on the use of Gatsby-esque because, as I remember the story, it doesn’t turn out all that well for Gatsby. Wikipedia is dark today, however -- another story in the headlines that’s worth a few minutes of your time.

9 comments about " Paula Deen: Out Of The Lard And Into The Fire".
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  1. Casey Quinlan from Mighty Casey Media LLC, January 18, 2012 at 8:23 a.m.

    There won't be any Gatsby-esque turnaround here. Paula Deen's exhortation to practice moderation flies in the face of her brand's message: more butter, more sugar, NOW.

    Focusing a brand on images of huge heaps of high fat and high sugar foods, with that brand tightly tied to the image of one person, will either result in that person being outed as not living their brand (chowing on salads while shoving mac and cheese down other's throats), or they'll wind up chunky and maybe diabetic, too.

    Would be terrific if she'd abandon the lard and start focusing on roasted fennel and polenta. But that's already a crowded segment. The upside would be that she has the Q factor to really make a difference in a big sector of the market. I don't think she has the stuff to do it, tho, since she's still shilling for over-doing.

    And now for Novartis diabetes meds, too.

    I think we'll see #fail.

  2. Syndicated News from www.SyndicatedNews.NET, January 18, 2012 at 9:06 a.m.

    It's hypocrisy at its finest. She's at the least, about 80 to 90 lbs overweight for her height from promoting butter and sugar for about 10 or 15 years now. Who didn't expect her to have diabetes? Now she's become the paid spokeswoman for a diabetes medication?

    She's learning how to market from Chris Jenner. They'll sell you the bible on Sunday morning and a sex tape at sun down.

  3. Miles Rose from, January 18, 2012 at 9:22 a.m.

    Im sure the class action attorneys are circling the wagons as Ms Deans irresponsibility in not disclosing her medical condition until she could associate with a $500 per month sponsored drug! Reminds me of the class warfare showing up on this item where Anthony Bordain got slammed for his $58 french steaks, lest they not know that a. Mr Bordain doesnt eat this everyday and b. he exercises portion control. and god forbid, if we ate the french way, god forbid, small portions, you can eat anything. Well blame Nixon for subsidizing corn and making big portions too cheap not to eat.

  4. Timothy Mcmahon from McMahon Marketing LLC, January 18, 2012 at 10:14 a.m.

    I am a Type 2 diabetic. It took several years for me to come to terms with my disease. I lost weight, exercised, ate differently, and eventually rid myself of my dependence on insulin. I am keenly aware that all my efforts could change in short order if I fail to practice these behaviors every day for the rest of my life.

    Paula Deen is a gregarious and fun-loving individual. She reminds me of my mother as does her wonderful food. And, she is in a position to speak as an evangelistic convert and guru to food-lovers suffering from diabetes, but I do not sense she has fully accepted the burden of her responsibility or the challenge of her disease. (I hope I am wrong). I have never met her. I am sure her heart is in the right place, but I am not certain her head and will is committed.

    As part of my conversion, I gave up a high paying job in one of the largest food companies in the world as a direct result of my diabetes. It was a personal epiphany years in the making that I could not advocate for greater consumption and know that for many it was a death sentence. I made this choice willingly and it has been its own reward.

    So, I was offended by the manner in which Paula Deen claims to have come to terms with her diabetes. It seems nothing will change in her dialogue, or her TV show, and in reality I simply don't believe she fully embraces the call for change that newly-diagnosed diabetics must embrace.

    She chose to reveal the truth of her situation in a form that seems to trivialize the hard work that diabetics must accept if they choose to manage their condition. Its not fun, Paula, but it is rewarding and I have had to totally forgo the kind of cooking you celebrate much to my regret.

    Novo Nordisk is a company for which I have had great respect and would love to have had an opportunity to work for. Further, I believe they may need someone with more marketing and PR savvy as this launch has fizzled. But, they have strong values and seem to have recognized the error of their ways and will guide this to a good outcome.

    To all diabetics who face the day-to-day challenge: keep it up, this is a disease that can be managed. Catch it early, treat it seriously, and enjoy the rewards of diligent self care! And, to Novo Nordisk, get back on your mission, we need your research and help for the part of this disease we cannot battle alone.

    Tim McMahon

  5. Henry Harteveldt from Atmosphere Research Group, January 18, 2012 at 11:38 a.m.

    A question I have is why did Ms. Deen wait three years to publicly disclose that she has diabetes? Of course, there's no law requiring her to do so. It's her private information, and if she wanted to keep it private, that is her choice. But she's chosen to publicly disclose this, which I think is admirable. However, the cynic in me wonders if part of her wait to disclose her diabetes is related to her finding an endorsement deal. I hope I am wrong.

  6. Suzanne Sanders from S2 Advertising, January 18, 2012 at 5:40 p.m.

    I'm not overweight and am on the small size. Just like Mary Tyler Moore who also has diabetes. I eat well, watch my sugars and starches too. I am border line diabetic type 2. I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant which makes me higher risk for type 2 diabetes after the age of 50. When I was pregnant I exercised like a mad woman but I could not control the diabetes. I had to go on insulin. Sometimes you never have any signs of Diabetes and then you get older and boom It hits you out of nowhere. Sure, you could say she had it coming but trust me it could happen to anyone. Sometimes you just got a bum pancreas! Take care of yourself and be nice!

  7. Marla Goldstein from Around The Bend Media, January 18, 2012 at 7:12 p.m.

    @Suzanne. MTM has Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 is an auto-immune disease and =/= Type 2. There is absolutely no basis for comparison. Paula Deen is overweight and promotes the consumption of a fat-laden, carbo-rich diet (donut sandwiches, anyone?).

    IMO, she is deserving of all the opprobrium coming her way.

    No, she's not under any obligation to disclose her personal health information to the public. But...she waited until she could bring a paying sponsor on-board to do it. For that, she deserves to be pilloried.

  8. Robert Rosenthal from Rosenthal Heavy Industries, January 19, 2012 at 12:45 p.m.

    The fact is that she chose not to speak for 3 years WHILE CONTINUING to push her product and myth... UNTIL a drug company paid her to speak out. At minimum, that's distasteful and disingenuous. Worse is the possibility that others were adversely affected by her choice not to come clean.
    What's her legacy now? That one can overindulge consistently and then simply take a drug to make it all go away.

  9. Shelly Kramer from V3 Integrated Marketing, January 19, 2012 at 5:35 p.m.

    Wow. Such vitriol. I'm a cook (and a good one) with many fine dining chefs as friends. Most of them advocate cooking with "real" ingredients -- things like butter, cream, etc., as do I. Just as Paula did/does. I'm not even a huge fan (but neither am I hater), but I sure don't remember ever seeing or hearing PD force eating huge amounts of rich food down anyone's gullet. Her recipes are wonderful - and last I checked, they don't come with any prerequisite that you eat in abundance.

    The French have it right. Eat real food, made with real ingredients. But do it in moderation.

    But most importantly -- isn't it Paula's right to keep her personal life to herself? For as long as she may want. And so what if she makes a deal with a diabetes drug maker. If it means that more people become aware of diabetes and/or can eat better and healthier as a result of Paula's involvement is that really such a bad thing?

    Does she really need to be "pilloried" .... ???people take themselves entirely too seriously. And it's alarming to hear the hatred in people's voices when discussing something like this. I just lost my father-in-law to Alzheimer's two days ago - let's maybe save hating for diseases and sh*t that really matters.


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