I spoke to Southern cooking queen Paula Deen this morning about the blood drives at The Lady & Sons, Uncle Bubba's Oyster House and the Inn at Ellis Square on Friday. This is the fourth time she's worked with the American Red Cross for these blood drives, recently expanding it to the three locations to accommodate the interest. (Click here for details.)
Deen has had a bit of a rough year so far, most of the controversy surrounding her announcement that she had Type 2 diabetes. She knew about it for three years before finally revealing it to the public. This rubbed a few people the wrong way, especially TV host Anthony Bourdain, who felt she deceived her fans by continuing to promote her high-calorie dishes while keeping her diagnosis a secret. On top of that, she signed a deal with diabetes drug manufacturer Novo Nordisk, leading some to believe she was waiting all along to gain financially.
Looking back on it, Deen said she was blindsided by the backlash.
"I had no idea I'd get criticism like that," she said. "I knew I would share (the diagnosis) eventually. But I wanted to wait until I could also bring something to the table instead of just saying, 'Hey, I'm a type 2 diabetic.' ... They say I didn't tell until the money showed up. I am doing a job and simulating recipes (for a diabetic-friendly cookbook) and I am getting paid for that. But diabetes has become an epidemic. If I can bring some awareness to this epidemic through this deal, I won't regret a thing."
The diagnoses hasn't slowed her down any. She's preparing to film the next season of show, market new cooking products and has yet-another cookbook in the works.
"I had terrible bout with (anxiety disorder) agoraphobia, so I didn't get started working until my 40s. I say that I retired young, so now I've got to work until I drop," she said.