Apology Always Accepted

Why Paula Deen's mea culpa was the perfect celebrity apology.

Apologetic Paula Deen. Image courtesy of Michele Eve Sandberg/Zumapress.com. Apologetic Paula Deen. Image courtesy of Michele Eve Sandberg/Zumapress.com.

Paula Deen is sorry, y’all. In an interview on “The Today Show,” the 66-year-old celebrity chef sobbed and explained that everyone had her wrong. That includes Lisa Jackson, the fired employee who filed a lawsuit claiming Deen committed acts of violence, racism, and discrimination against her. It includes those who heard Deen say that she used the “n-word” and then explain that she didn’t know if that word was offensive to black people or not.

Deen came off as more than slightly off her rocker during that appearance, but she did what she had to do: apologize—no matter how disingenuous it seemed—and move on. The celebrity apology is often awkward, but always necessary.

A fairly typical celebrity life cycle goes something like this: Rise to fame, do something stupid, see fame plummet, apologize for stupidity, wait a bit, rise back to fame. There are some that somehow avoid controversy—like Tom Hanks, whose only mistakes are “Bosom Buddies” and not publicly condemning his son for referring to himself as Chet Haze—but they’re few and far between. Celebrities are people, and people aren’t perfect.

Katie Falcone, project manager for the Ivy Group, a local marketing firm, explained that Deen, like many celebrities, had to announce her regret. “Apologies are certainly expected of celebrities,” she told me via e-mail. “And if a celebrity wants to maintain an ounce of control over their brand, they must quickly issue a solid, honest, sincere apology.” Falcone’s assessment of Deen’s mea culpa? “Halfway there” because she “continued to worm around questions and paint herself as a victim.”

Even though Deen’s apology was merely a confused performance—she actually said the phrase “I is what I is,”—it will likely work. One day, she’ll be back. Former US Representative Anthony Weiner sent lewd pictures of himself to women and when he was caught, denied it. Of course everyone knew the sexts contained Weiner’s weiner, and eventually he issued an apology. He’s now the frontrunner in New York City’s mayoral race.

I don’t believe Deen is sorry for using racial slurs. Her appearance on “Today” merely exposed her for being exactly who she is: A gregarious woman who cooks high-calorie food and isn’t very bright. But like all celebrity apologies, it was needed. And now? We wait until the next time a public figure says something offensive. Which is probably happening right this second.

Endorsement Deals Paula Deen Lost Because of the Lawsuit and Her Comments (Update below)

Smithfield Foods: Anyone who misses eating Paula Deen hams should pour salt on an end table and chew on it. Same experience.

Target: Someone just put a Paula Deen skillet on eBay for $2,500.

The Food Network: Bobby Flay is likely happy about this.

Caesars Entertainment Corporation: America is a better place with four less buffet-style restaurants.

Home Depot: “Paula Deen basting brush” doesn’t sound right anyway.

Novo Nordisk: Deen, a Type 2 diabetic who made a career out of pushing fatty food, will no longer profit from helping people become unhealthy enough that they have to use Nordisk’s products.

Walmart: When Walmart drops you, you know you’ve done something bad.

Update: Since I submitted this piece, Deen has also lost deals with QVC, Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney and Random House. Her cookbook, which was set to debut in October but will no longer be published, currently ranks number one on Amazon.com’s Best Sellers list. America!