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In a new People cover story, Paula Deen says she learned a lot from last year’s scandal, and empathizes with others caught up in similar ordeals.

At the same time, she can’t help but wonder if she got a raw deal.

In 2013, the Food Network dropped the celebrity chef after she admitted in a lawsuit deposition that she used a racial slur a “very long time ago.”

The TV star subsequently lost a number of endorsement deals. Though Paula Deen apologized on Today, the backlash made it difficult for her.

In general. To do anything.

“When I woke up each morning, it was like my world was crashing down again,” the Georgia native, 67, recalls. “Some people said I never apologized.”


“If anyone did not hear me, I want to apologize,” an apologetic Deen repeats emphatically now. “I would never ever hurt anyone intentionally. Never!”

The restaurateur said she soon became “obsessed with the person America had confused me with … after I had live my life so clean and open.”

Fortunately, fan support from those who stood by her helped: “I could not get off the computer except to go to the bathroom and eat. It was so reassuring.”

So was she treated unfairly by the media? Especially given that Lisa Jackson’s lawsuit against Deen, alleging racial discrimination, was eventually dismissed?

Paula Deen Comeback: It's ON!

Other TV stars like Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson and The Taste’s Nigella Lawson endured high-profile scandals and came out seemingly unscathed.

“It’s amazing that some people are given passes and some people are crucified,” Paula Deen says. “I have new empathy for these situations, though.”

“My dad always told me, ‘Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.'”

Deen is back in the spotlight after signing a $75 million to $100 million deal with private investment firm Najafi Companies. “I’m fighting to get my name back,” she says.

Not that it’ll be easy. “I feel like ’embattled’ or ‘disgraced’ will always follow my name,” she admits. “It’s like that black football player who recently came out.”

That would be former Missouri star and current NFL prospect Michael Sam.

“He said, ‘I just want to be known as a football player. I don’t want to be known as a gay football player.’ I know exactly what he’s talking about.”

Paula Deen, everyone. The Michael Sam of celebrity cookin’.