Positively Paula


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I'm a very blessed girl,” said Southern chef and television personality Paula Deen, recounting her rags to riches fairytale. (And, yes, she calls herself a “girl.”) During her 70 years, she’s endured multiple peaks and valleys, most recently the challenges that she faced in 2013. “How did it feel to take time off a few years ago?” I asked. “I never left!” Paula replied.

She lost her parents early on. Raised two sons and a younger brother while suffering from agoraphobia.

“I was so fearful of something happening to somebody else I loved that I couldn’t live my life,” she explained during a recent interview at her Wilmington Island home. “I let it cripple me for 20 years.” She recalls the precise moment, however, when everything changed.   

 

“I’VE ALWAYS BEEN ONE TO LAUGH AT MYSELF, BUT I REALIZE NOT EVERYBODY IS LIKE THAT.”

“I got up one morning and it was like I flicked on a light switch. The Serenity Prayer went through my head. And it was like I’d heard it for the very first time, God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage the change the things that I can, and please God, give me the wisdom to know the difference. I started getting better. And I asked myself, ‘Paula, honey, what are you good at? You can’t sing or dance.”’ Paula cackles when I remind her she survived five rounds on Dancing With the Stars in 2015.

But she considered herself a good cook. So she took her last $200, bought a business license, a cooler, $50 worth of groceries, and sold sandwiches.

“In the South that’s how we always showed our love for each other,” Paula said. “You might not be able to afford the number-one toy, but you do have the ability to feed your family a delicious meal.”

Two and a half decades later, Deen oversaw an empire focused on Southern cooking and hospitality. And then, the unexpected happened. An employee (who happens to be Caucasian) added Paula to a lawsuit. Deen admitted she’d once used a racially charged ethnic term decades ago, though not to demean. The lawsuit was dismissed, but the damage was done. And Paula’s honesty cost her some opportunities.

But cookbook sales soared. Her furniture and pots and pans continued selling. Former President Carter vouched for the girl he knows. Four years later, it’s as if Paula never left the spotlight. She’s opened four new restaurants, launched two television shows, and her 18th book, At the Southern Table with Paula Deen, debuted in September.   

“Positively Paula was started to fulfill a need,” she said, describing her syndicated TV series. “I’ve got millions of people on Facebook saying, ‘Do a show, we miss you.’ What you see is actually in real time. It’s very simple. This is what I’ve cooked, here it is, and we’re eating it. People are enjoying it because they’re just getting me in the kitchen with them. You never know who you’re touching out there, how a simple smile or little joke can lift their spirits.”

No matter how fast-paced our lives have become, Paula remains a big advocate of family mealtime. “We’re all time deprived,” she pointed out. “But I’ve found you get your children in a relaxed situation, they have a tendency to talk to you.”

Shop-at-home network Evine carries Paula’s other show, Sweet Home Savannah, where Paula sells various product lines, including clothing, jewelry, and appliances. She especially loves her air fryer, which she demonstrates for me. “No oil whatsoever,” she said. “I’ve always been the kind that if I had something people would like, I want them to have it, too. It’s real important to me that I bring value to my audience. I can’t stand the idea of gouging somebody.”

Her shows are unscripted. But Paula’s more comfortable laughing and interacting with people in the moment. Besides she can’t remember lines. “I’ve always been one to laugh at myself,” she says.

To read more, subscribe now or pick up the October/November issue of South magazine.  

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Events Calendar

  • Savannah Music Festival

    Mar 26, 2020
    12:30 PM - 10:00 PM @ Various Locations

    From March 26 through April 11, the Savannah Music Festival hosts musical visionaries and creative artists from across the United States, as well...

  • 2020 Red Shoes Run

    Apr 11, 2020
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    Our annual Red Shoes Run is a morning full of fun for the whole family.  There will be food, drinks, games, music and more for...

  • Forsyth Farmer's Market

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    9:00 AM - 1:00 PM @ South end of Forsyth Park

    The Forsyth Farmers’ Market vendors offer a variety of local goods including seasonal produce, eggs, honey, pastured meat, bread, cheese,...

  • Power Yoga Principles

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    10:30 AM - 11:45 AM @ Savannah Power Yoga

    This class is intended for students who are new to Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga, as well as those hoping to learn more about finding their best...

  • Publick Day

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    9:00 AM - 4:00 PM @ Beaufort Historic Site

    An old-fashioned flea market on the Beaufort Historic Site with vendors selling antiques and collectibles, art, crafts, handmade jewelry, books,...

  • Cars & 'Q for the Cause

    Apr 18, 2020
    4:00 PM - 7:00 PM @ Choate Construction

    Join Choate Construction for the 11th annual Cars & ‘Q for the Cause, featuring 120-plus stellar cars; tasty BBQ, craft brews and wine; silent...

  • Trail to Ale 5K

    Apr 23, 2020
    6:00 PM @ Buckwalter Place Commerce Park

    One-of-a-kind 5K happy hour event for runners, walkers, young professionals, all professionals, companies, community and more! Run through the...

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    Join us on Tybee Island and run to support our nesting sea turtle monitoring program. Starting and finishing at the Tybee pier and pavilion, the...

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    The PRC Eco Initiative presents the 2020 Earth Day 5K at Palmetto Bluff on April, 26th. This will be our first Sustainable running event of the...

  • Cornerstone 5K Race

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  • Wooden Boat Show

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    Whether you’re a boating enthusiast or prefer to keep your feet on dry land, the 46th Annual Wooden Boat Show has activities for all ages. The...

  • ELLA Foundation’s Charity Lee to Host Book Signing at E. Shaver, Bookseller on May 2

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Scenes of the South

FACES OF THE SOUTH-THE TRILOGY GALLERY 5

This is not a celebration. It is not a salute. This, readers, is a manifesto. It is a bold declaration of the richness of the South, of the majestic talents, relentless ambition and singular vision that reside just behind each face you pass in your travels. These are the faces of the people who are creating the new South through the sweat of their brow and the depth of their passions. But if you never look closer you may never know how deep that passion goes, and what it has accomplished.

FACES OF THE SOUTH-THE TRILOGY GALLERY 4

This is not a celebration. It is not a salute. This, readers, is a manifesto. It is a bold declaration of the richness of the South, of the majestic talents, relentless ambition and singular vision that reside just behind each face you pass in your travels. These are the faces of the people who are creating the new South through the sweat of their brow and the depth of their passions. But if you never look closer you may never know how deep that passion goes, and what it has accomplished.

FACES OF THE SOUTH-THE TRILOGY GALLERY 2

This is not a celebration. It is not a salute. This, readers, is a manifesto. It is a bold declaration of the richness of the South, of the majestic talents, relentless ambition and singular vision that reside just behind each face you pass in your travels. These are the faces of the people who are creating the new South through the sweat of their brow and the depth of their passions. But if you never look closer you may never know how deep that passion goes, and what it has accomplished.

FACES OF THE SOUTH-THE TRILOGY GALLERY 3

This is not a celebration. It is not a salute. This, readers, is a manifesto. It is a bold declaration of the richness of the South, of the majestic talents, relentless ambition and singular vision that reside just behind each face you pass in your travels. These are the faces of the people who are creating the new South through the sweat of their brow and the depth of their passions. But if you never look closer you may never know how deep that passion goes, and what it has accomplished.

FACES OF THE SOUTH-THE TRILOGY GALLERY 1

This is not a celebration. It is not a salute. This, readers, is a manifesto. It is a bold declaration of the richness of the South, of the majestic talents, relentless ambition and singular vision that reside just behind each face you pass in your travels. These are the faces of the people who are creating the new South through the sweat of their brow and the depth of their passions. But if you never look closer you may never know how deep that passion goes, and what it has accomplished.

February Brews for a Cause

February's Brews for a Cause was held at the Drayton Hotel on Thursday, February 27th. South Magazine and Southern Eagle teamed up to raise money through a large silent auction for the Savannah Ambucs organization. Craft Beer samplings from Wild Leap Brewing, alongside appetizers from the Drayton Hotel were offered to guests.

2020 Southern Coast Heart Ball

The American Heart Association held its annual Southern Coast Heart Ball on Saturday, February 8th at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort and Spa. Guests enjoyed a cocktail reception with a silent auction, dinner and program, and dancing to end the evening. All proceeds went to the Open Your Heart campaign.

4th Annual Hearts for Healing Gala

Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center held its Fourth Annual Hearts for Healing Gala on Friday, February 7th at the Tybee Island Wedding Chapel. Guests enjoyed gourmet dining, dancing, and a silent auction. All proceeds from the auction benefitted the Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center's program for individuals with disabilities.

IDC Benefits the 200 Club of the Coastal Empire

The LeClerc Family owners of IDC (International Diamond Center) in Savannah 349 Mall Blvd held a benefit to support the 200 Club of the Coastal Empire on Thursday, February 6th from 5:30pm to 8:00pm. Guests enjoyed light food and drinks, while bidding on several silent auction items, including autographed footballs and helmets donated by Anthony Lanier II.

Royce Learning Center Annual Low Country Boil & Oyster Roast

The Royce Learning Center held their annual low country boil and oyster roast on Saturday, February 1st. Guests enjoyed mingling over the seafood selection. Royce Learning Center meets the needs of children and adults with learning differences and literacy needs through its unique programs.